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2022 Suzuki Alto vs 1978 Mercedes 280S

Started by seragheiba, 20 August 2023, 05:39 PM


Hello everyone, as you may tell from the title, I'm in a bit of a unique predicament.

I am buying my first car. I don't drive everyday and I don't have a 9-5 job. I live 30 km from the city center and basically every drive that isn't to the supermarket involves taking highways with 120kmh speed limit.

Car prices in my country have gone up quite crazily, and the cheapest new car I can afford is the Indian-made Suzuki Alto (specifications below). That would cost about 12.5k USD and two years of installments.

For about 5k USD, I can buy this 1978 Mercedes 280S cash. I checked it out today and it seems to be in great condition. I'll probably be spending another 1-2k USD on it right after I buy it to make sure it's in best shape possible. My logic is this: for less than half the price of an Alto, I could be driving a rather spectacular classic car that actually has more modern comforts than the Alto does (automatic transmission, electric windows, etc.). The Benz even has a working AC (much needed in my country).

Relevant info (Alto):

800cc 3 cylinder ; 3-5l/100km ; manual transmission ; manual windows ; dual airbags and ABS ; cheap maintenance and spare parts


2.8L 6 cylinder ; automatic transmission ; ABS (I think) but no airbags ; not sure about spare parts availability (my mission for tomorrow is to find that out in person).

Other relevant information: I'm 21 years old, regularly drive my dad's '79 Volvo, and while I did just graduate with a Bachelor's degree in engineering I'm much more interested in the hydrodynamics of a sailboat than the mechanics of an internal combustion engine or carburetor.
Here's the advert for the Mercedes:


The 280S will last longer (no engine plastics), will be worth more when you come sell it, wont stop suddenly and give you plenty of warning when you need to fix something.  I dont daily drive my car, but I still see then daily driven.  The 280 motor is easy to fix and there are still plenty of them used in lots of Mercedes models.  Yes parts are hard to find, but you will find a mechanic who works on them and parts are out there once you find a couple of reliable sources.  Most consumables are very obtainable.  Good Luck
Never stop loving
1980 280SEL


It appears th MB is in good shape. Id pick the mb. In your warmer climate check all the rubber items including fuel lines. Basic maintenance parts are available.
'68 250S
'77 6.9 Euro
'91 300SE,
'98 SL500
'14 CLS550,
'21 E450 Cabrio


The Suzuki would be far more economical.
However, not knowing the price of fuel in Egypt, if you can afford to run the Mercedes, there is no comparison!
(I did a quick online calculation and I think the mercedes would cost $55 Australian or €35 Euro for a full 96 litre tank.) If my calculation is correct then this is extremely cheap fuel.  Go with the Mercedes.


The Alto will give you 5 years of trouble free cheap motoring. Yes it's a plastic box of whotnot and won't be worth much at the end of its term.
The Merc on the other hand has been written down 4 times already and stands to give many more miles  BUT it will be a constant source of niggle. There are a 1000 moving parts in a car and when it is 45  years old, those parts are all coming to an end.
So you have the prospect of doing these repairs yourself?.   you will get your hands dirty!  OR paying for them to be done assuming you can find someone reliable.
As you are a self proclaimed non mechanic, either that will have to change.. OR you'd do better to get the Suzuki.


Would be interesting to read the recommendations, pros and cons of Suzuki Alto forum members, in case there are any.

There is one point that has not been touched yet: You named the Merc a spectacular car vs. the Suzuki ...,  well ...  8) . The Suzuki in all its minimalism represents more or less the opposite of what the W116 stood and still stands for. For that alone it is a very tough and unusual decision to make.

At the age of 21 you may ask yourself questions like: Would I want to have a car where I like to be seen in or do I give a damn on such things? Am I strong enough to show up in an Alto at the diner on saturday evening to meet my male and female friends who like and drive spectacular cars, or are there many Altos around?
I dare to assume that you are of the first kind otherwise you wouldn't consider these extremely different cars and have asked us W116 fans for advice.
If I were you in that situation, and provided I'd be able to afford that, I'd skip the Alto and get what I Iike more. Randy has described best what you are likely to face, very important for driving a W116 is a reliable workshop an parts supply. If it is not the Merc then another nice car  .... But not something which you can drive only in the middle of the night.

If you want a great car, get the Merc. If you want a rational vehicle to get you from A to B, go for the Suzuki.

  Good luck.

1976 Merc 6.9   Magnetit blue


The ad for the 280S has been taken down, so perhaps you have purchased it. Please let us know if you have bought it.
1979 6.9 #6475


Thank you all for the helpful and encouraging comments!

As Mick74 noted, the ad has been taken down... but it was not me who purchased it. I spent a day in the part of the city where everything to do with cars (and old cars) takes place and asked maybe a dozen Mercedes shops, and they all said there's no market for w116 spare parts in the country, and advised me to not purchase it.

Some suggested I go for later models such as the w124, while others questioned what a young guy such as myself was doing asking about cars twice my age. They don't know that I had went and looked at a '63 fintail before this...

I really like the 280S and it is such a beautiful car and drives like a boat (I love boats). But it was not meant to be.. I think I'll wait for the economic situation to hopefully improve a bit and then place a down payment on a new car that will live with me for the coming ten years.

Thanks again everyone! :)


Hi everyone,

I thought I'd just update you all and say that, although I did not buy the w116, I did end up buying a w123 :D

It is a 1979 230 automatic to be specific.


Excellent choice! Life is too short to drive anything less. I am finding w123 parts are much more plentiful than for the w116, hopefully the same is true where you live.


A W123 will make a much better daily than a W116 ever would. Excellent choice.
1993 "Pearl Blue" W124 280TE
1988 "Arctic White" W124 200T
1979 "Icon Gold" W116 450SE