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The Mercedes-Benz W124 - in many motoring circles was and still is considered the most advanced vehicle of its time and is renowned for its quality build as well as its superb ride and handling. At the end of the 1980s, even the Chairman of Mercedes said it was “overengineered”.
The history of the W124
Launched in 1984, the W124 was the chassis-designation for the 1984/85 to 1995/96 Mercedes, and they were the first generation of cars to be officially referred to as the E-Class. At a time when midsized sedans flooded the market, and there was strong competition from the BMW 5 series, it was important for Mercedes to make the E-Class a cut above the rest.
The cost of German engineering and build quality was high at that time, and as a consequence, the W124 was designed to be durable and to be able to clock up the miles with ease.
In fact, British motoring television show Fifth Gear did a four-part series about the W124’s durability and proved just how indestructible they really are:
Advanced automotive technology
At the time of its build, much of the W124's engineering and a number of its features included advanced automotive technology. Many of its innovations were gradually adopted by other vehicle manufacturers and are still used in road cars today.
W124 technology and features
With so much technology and innovation crammed into one car the list of included features is long.
- The W124 was built with an aerodynamic body that included plastic moulding for the undercarriage to streamline airflow beneath the car and give it the lowest coefficient drag of any vehicle at that time. This meant is had reduced fuel consumption and better stability at autobahn speeds.
- The W124 featured a single windscreen wiper, and thanks to an eccentric mechanism at its base, extended the wiper reached to the top corners of the windscreen.[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHtEAMwcWI4[/embed]
- Leave it to Mercedes to develop new clever innovations such as the button that remotely folded the optional rear headrests down to improve rear visibility.
- Mercedes were pioneers in vehicle safety was at the forefront of the W124 design. Before the W124 was developed, vehicle crash testing did no recognise the importance of a vehicle being able to withstand an offset collision (this is where the full force of the crash is taken on only part of the car’s structure). Mercedes did and designed the W124 with an angular body that could withstand an offset-crash into a concrete barrier at 56km/h. It was a major advance in occupant safety.
- Despite it not being available in Australia, the W124 was the first vehicle to have 4Matic, the AWD four-wheel drive system developed by Mercedes-Benz, included. It was designed to increase traction in slippery conditions and is now a popular feature across the Mercedes range.
The evidence to suggest the Mercedes W124 was the best car ever built is insurmountable, but if you’re still not convinced, read about our restoration of a 1987 model in our next blog.