News:

The Org - Serving W116 Enthusiasts for over 20 years!

Main Menu

a year with the W140

Started by powerglide, 12 May 2012, 08:12 AM

powerglide

The W140 is not a W116, but here is an uncanny parallelism about the two models.  You don't get the same 'feel' with a W140, but I now realise that it is about the most competent sedan I have ever driven.  Someone described it's 'bank vault' solidity and quietness, and I agree.  Mine is a 1994 S420, falling between the bug-ridden early model and the rather superb last model with all the good stuff like the 5 speed tranny and the parking sensors.  As I said elsewhere, I bought the S420 because I couldn't find a good W126, so I was prepared to be disappointed, and initially I was.  Not now.  The W140 could actually be the best car ever built in some regard.  It does not impress initially, but after a while you start to appreciate its amazing qualities. First the down side: it is big and it weighs two tons, so it is fairly thirsty (but nothing like a 450SE, thank the Deity).  The second thing that may be an issue for some folk is that it doesn't look particularly elegant or outstanding in any way - at a glance it does not look much different than a C180. The S420 also is not very fast 'out of the blocks', although it winds up very rapidly. But read on. 

It's really about the car's quality and qualities.  It is the quietest car I have ever been in - including the fabled RR - well, about the same, actually. And while it doesn't handle like a sports car, its balance between ride, handling and comportment is unequaled in any car I have driven (my example has no air bags, and no self-leveling). I could do without some of the sillier accessory systems like the pneumatic auto close door system that never works properly (I CAN close a car door without help, thank you), and the flip-down lighted vanity mirrors in every seat, but I love the detailed instrument panel, the WONDERFUL Eurovox/Bose sound system (W116 owners: eat your heart out!), the burr walnut, the leather seats (electric seats with memory are a must when wifey is radically different in statue), the way it does not notice speed humps, the 2-way sun roof, the double glazing, and I could go on.  All this comes at a cost of course, but it sure isn't the purchase price: you can buy the best S500 on the planet today for 20 big ones, and get a quite reasonable S320 for half that. The cost comes when the complicated systems go down.  And some of them being so pointless is irritating.  No news here.  Just be grateful it isn't a W220 or worse, a 221.

MB lovers, if you find a perfect W126 just buy it as the good ones just aren't there any more.  If like me you can't find one, don't be scared off by the W140 as it is a superb car, but different.  The W126 is a worthy successor the the incomparable W116, but the W140 does not follow that succession.  In many ways it is better than the W126, and of course anything earlier, but that is not to say that it will deliver the same driving pleasure.  I'm thinking that the W140 is actually a kind of modern classic that no-one realises.  After the W140 comes the awful micro-chip tsunami that is so deadly. 

A late model S500 might be the last really good MB ever built.  I'm thinking that a perfect late 1990-something couldn't cost more than 20  grand, and where would you get something better?  There are caveats about the V12, but without having driven one yet, I am thinking that the S600 might be the true descendent of the M100.  A friend related that the top gear bogans tested a W140 against a new S class (W221?) and couldn't see any improvement.  I can accept that.

What do you think?
Powerglide

TJ 450

Considering how much the W140 cost to develop, it's no surprise that it may well be one of the best cars ever built overall, a vast improvement over previous models in many respects.

It's interesting to hear of your experiences.

Tim
1976 450SEL 6.9 1432
1969 300SEL 6.3 1394
2003 ML500

adamb

Hey, Powerglide dude, thanks for the nice write-up. I enjoyed reading that. I have a confession that I secretly fancy owning a W140. One day, perhaps. But W116 still trumps it for me.

powerglide

#3
A few more downsides with the W140.  Replacement aircon hot/cold valve was AUD 600, and I got it cheap.  Radio antenna embedded - along with the traditional demister element - in the rear screen pulls in a poor FM signal.  Can't IMAGINE what a replacement costs. The vacuum door closer - WHY, WHY, WHY?  The rather flimsy accelerator pedal that has a bit of bent plastic for the floor hinge is insensitive.  As with all modern cars, the A pillar obscures too much of the visible field (HQ-HZ Holden had the best ever A pillar design - pity about the rest of the car). The boot (trunk for US readers) has this little tab that pops out when you press the lid release because there is no graspable feature on it; to my way of thinking this is a little weird, being an unbelievably over engineered solution, but evidently not so to a German's way of thinking.  I would have stripped out a lot of these silly overkill features and systems: what were they trying to do, out-Jap the Japanese?  Another issue for some is the tall overall height.  It doesn't bother me, but a long looks better than a standard S, and this is probably because of the height.  I think it should have been a few inches lower in the roof.  The height of the turret is because you need to sit fairly high to see all round well enough.  When you lower the seat all the way, you can't see all around well enough.  This is, if you like, a flaw in the overall design.  The tranny does not seem to change down as readily as in a W116, and this is in Sport mode (Economy mode is awful and completely unresponsive, leaving you the only option of flooring the mushy accelerator, then you take off like a Saturn V rocket).  Just leave it in S - someone wrote this elsewhere.  Maybe the later model with the (ugh!) electronic control works better.  The headlights: when will MB do something about the headlights?  There is not even any place you can mount Super Oscars or even some lesser form of driving lights.  Driving is Oz at night in the country you need the lights to reach a long way; a kangaroo weight a lot and people have been killed by one coming through the windscreen.  Good headlights help, and it is a pity that they didn't fix that with the W140.  Paint colour. Black white and grey (silver=grey). Why no COLOURS? What has gone wrong with the world? What about orange, indigo, violet, yellow, red, blue and green? Sigh!  Trim fasteners: they used to be screws and now they use one-time plastic fasteners, so that every time you take out some trim for maintenance, you have to get new trim fasteners.

More on the upside.  It is inconspicuous, which I like (a downside for those who like to be noticed); usually mistaken for a C180.  The wheel brace folds out to double length - great for cracking the lugs on an alloy wheel! The boot is nice and deep - it really does take an Esky (W116/126 owners eat your heart out). Why are they all silver? - I'm lucky, mine is blue.  16 inch Michelins on the 8 inch rims do a great job (2 tons, remember). It's quiet, so much so that I sometimes need to blip it to make sure it's still alight when idling.  The 'smart' cruise control, a license saver many times over, and so easy my 3 yo could work it; never seen a better one.  W116 owners: the rear seat cushion is about the only part lighter in the W140, and you can get it out by yourself without wrecking your back.  Did I mention the sound system? - you get an AM/FM radio, plus a cassette drive, plus a 10 CD stacker in the boot, and 11 (eleven) Bose speakers (almost as good as Pioneers).  The battery is also in the boot on the opposite side. Good thinking.  Did I mention the dinky little pop-up rods that indicate where the arse of the car is?  I like this (missing from the later model with the more sensible radar park aid), but you don't actually need this with a W116 (or a W126) because you can actually see where the end of the car is from the driver's seat - which you could not do in the W140 without this quaint system (yet another over-engineered 'solution' to a problem that wouldn't exist, had the design been better).  More later on when I think of it.

Don't get me wrong: I'm glad it is not a Jap gimmick box or an Italian rolling biodegradable mass. Or a Korean recycled bean can (they don't make cars any more in Britland, thank the Deity, so we can forget all about that particular source of breakdowns 100 miles from anywhere).

Most of us want a roomy 4 door sedan with the motor in the front driving the wheels at the back, just as God intended, air con, cruise control, and a good sound system.  The W140 delivers all this, and then some.  Go away FWD fads, micro-chip fascism, run-flat tyres and 'space-saver' spare wheels (!!??).  This car has 5 (five) wheels and tyres all the same so that when one goes flat, you just put on the spare: what is so hard about that that they want to change it?  A 16 inch Michelin costs about AUD 270, but a run-flat (yes, they do go flat, and badly so) costs about AUD 850.  Plus the cost of trucking your car from 100 miles west of Hay to Sydney or Melbourne to get it fitted.  Arghh!  We don't need all this.  More later when I calm down.  Bottom line: the W140 is a good car, and cheap to buy, if not to own.
Powerglide

Martin 280s

#4
I bought a 'one-owner to 2010' 1993/4 S320 at the beginning of the the year. In Brazil, as I have said before in other threads, all MBs command big money and the W140 is no different! I saw 8 other cars before settling on the one I did. I too felt the first driving impression to be unimpressive. In fact, a bit like the first time I rode a BMW motorbike, I thought "What'sthe fuss about?". I thought the W140 just to be a big car, I do like the 'funky' two-tone and and slab-sided looks of the first series and one of the reasons for buying this particular example. Yes, there are a lot of silly toys available in the W140 range and my car came with quite a few, which are good fun to show-off to uninitiated friends! In my search for a car I did see both V8s and Sixes and the full price range spectrum. I just missed out on a mint 1993 500SEL which had only 44K kms on it and a FMBSH, fortunately though as it was at the stratospheric end of the price range! During my driving experiences I found the sixes to be more spirited despite the smaller engines, they are more vocal than the V8s which are almost inaudible but, I was frightened by future maintenance costs, not that the Six will be a cheap car to keep. On the motorway the W140 really is another beast, the noise levels are surreal, can't I think of any other vehicle I have travelled in which is as quiet. Plus the Six is more than enough for legal speeds, especially with the cruise control turned on. I don't find it too heavy on fuel either considering the total weight. Handling is also a very pleasant surprise although it's a bit like trying to park the Queen Mary in the supermarket bays!
I've now had the car for a couple of months and have also attended a couple of MB meetings. I stepped away for the MB classics world for a couple of years due to boredom. However, this year I vowed to be more active in the carworld. As time goes by I'm beginning to see the virtues of the W140 and can easily understand why it is not revered like the W108 or W126 or even the W220. I feel it is like the W116 in many ways, a car which has hidden virtues, unloved by the masses and not seen as it should be.

oversize

From what I've heard about the W140 and particularly the V12, I think I'll pass (despite it's virtues).  And to think I came very close to ownership; whew!!!!  Bullet dodged!
1979 6.9 #5541 (Red Bull)
1978 6.9 #4248 (Skye)
1979 6.9 #3686 (Moby Dick)
1978 6.9 #1776 (Dora)
1977 450SEL #7010 white -P
1975 450SEL #8414 gold -P

Tony66_au

As mentioned elsewhere I have known 2 people who bought/leased them new (S600's)

One owned his for 3 years and then handed it back for a Lexus 4wd and he told me it was a great car apart from the service costs pointing specifically to a 90 thou service that cost 4k (No mention of an oil leak but thats where the cost points).

The other had his for 5 years but did less than 20'000 km as he was always overseas and I drove his car from the airport a few times after dropping him off and it was an incredible experience but his AMG E55 was a far better car to drive.

The oil leak "Thing" they seemed to suffer from was an engine out job and according to another forum in the US MBZ dealers were allocated 54 hours to repair the issue which is an INCREDIBLE amount of allotted time for a repair and at AU $200 an hour not a bill id want to pay.

The auto doors too seem to suffer with time and are also expensive to repair and having peeked under the bonnet/hood id guess at the under bonnet temps also taking their toll as it was very crowded in there.

I believe that the early 90's was a time of change for MBZ and that this particular S class had a design obsolescence factor that came up short on a few occasions, something they have learned from and not repeated but it makes the W140 an interesting proposition for second hand buyers and often what seems like a bargain too good to be true is too good to be true.

The old Maxim applies..... There is nothing so expensive as a Cheap Mercedes.

Hemersam

Can the auto-close door "thing" be disconnected so you can close the doors like everyone else in the world?
Hemersam

Martin 280s

If it stops working you can still close the doors normally.

powerglide

The show stopper is the sealed box of elecrtonics that controls the ignition.  The problem is where do I get another for my S420? Replaced it once with a second hand one, but I guess that was just as old as the one on the car, and that failed, too. Glad I kept a W116.  The S420 is indeed a great car - best car I have owned (or driven) bar none; problem is it won't go until I can find an ignition controller.  Please tell me it's not going to be like owning a Jaguar or a Saab.  How can they build such a truly wonderful car and put an unrepairable ingition controller in it?  No wonder they lost two world wars.

I'm tempted to by a 4-year old C-class ('blue efficiency diesel) and move on: do they have any problems, I wonder?
Powerglide

TJ 450

Things like the EZL ignition modules and so on and so forth are going to mean the dimise of these cars before their time. The W126 was the start of it (they use a similar sealed module).

However, it's nothing that can't be fixed with a bit of hunting (no guarantee with a used unit though).

The 116 is almost bullet proof in comparison, if a little unrefined.

Tim
1976 450SEL 6.9 1432
1969 300SEL 6.3 1394
2003 ML500

powerglide

Yeah, and what a pity; and why, oh why do they do it? That's why I'm glad to keep one a W116.  It looks like it'll be the 280SE, because it is so original and in wonderful condition with 120k kms. Manual windows, but it does have central locking (u/s, of course) and self-levelling RS (ditto), and lots of the systems need an overhaul.  Really agile for a big car (280 is less front-heavy), and I love being able to see all 4 corners (who needs beep-parking?), and being able to chuck EVERYTHING in the boot and just take off for wherever. No sunroof to leak no power windows to stop working.  It has 4 INTRA aftermarket alloys and the original steel spare (looks like the original tyre, also, hardly been on the road, so it's probably unsafe), so I'm looking for another INTRA as a spare so I won't have to carry around 5 lugs for the steelie.  Maybe I should post this under mechanicals.
Powerglide

motec6.9

Hi powerglide sorry to hear of your problems. I am doing this from my phone so cannot do links but here are some address that may help you.  http://www.k6jrf.com/MB_S500.html he has links to all your fault codes and how to fix them. Or all the forums for W140 and mbworld point to this guy.  http://stores.ebay.com/S-Class-Eddies i hope this helps last guy rebuilds ezl for W140.  Geoff :)
Euro 6.9 255.6hp at the wheels. Watch this space.

Martin 280s

I've already bought bits and pieces from Carl Burgess <carl@w140.co.uk>. He's a 140 specialist in the UK.

Tony66_au

Agreed, the W140 is a true luxo barge.

Twice the door "thunk", silent on the inside and a very very solid presence on the road.

I too nearly bought one a while ago in preference to a W126 but for one reason or another it didnt happen and im not sure im unhappy about it.