Author Topic: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?  (Read 12056 times)

carl888

  • Vintage
  • ***
  • Posts: 715
  • Location: Melbourne
W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« on: 19 August 2007, 05:40 AM »
I drove the W116 and W126 280 SE today back to back.  I haven't had a chance to do so since the W116 arrived.  This is my first impression of the W116 on the freeway and it's not a fair comparison as the 126 has new Michelin XWX's and the 116 is shod with 16 year old Michelin XAS which are not that grippy as you can imagine!  However here are my thoughts so far: 

The 116 has slightly firmer spring and damper rates, but quite a bit more roll stiffness.  You really notice this when exiting a round-a-about, you can throw it around in a manner that completely belies its size, it's quite fun!  The 126 is softer and rolls more but the steering is more positive, maybe that's the tyres.  The 116 steering is heavier but it doesn't transmit as much information as the 126, again, maybe that's the tyres.  The 116 rides a bit choppy at low speeds, corrugations and road irregularities are felt and heard whereas in the 126, it just floats over them, quite amazing really, even by modern standards.  On the freeway, the 116 seems to soften a little, the 126 stays the same, it's a very fluid and relaxing ride, more so than the 116 but you feel more removed from the action.  I can't comment on the grip levels for the tyre issues mentioned above.

One area where the 126 absolutely destroys the 116 is refinement.  Not just road noise but engine and wind noise as well.  On the freeway the 116 transmits everything to the driver, from the noisy expansion slots on bridges to the cam chain noise and induction roar from the engine.  Not to mention the poor suppression of wind noise.  The 126 is serene by comparison, better isolated from the outside, the engine hums instead of roars and wind noise is almost non existent by comparison.  For an interstate trip, I'd rather be in a 126 for sure.

Performance wise, the 116 feels it has the edge on the 126 up to about 120 km/h where the superior aerodynamics of the 126 pay off.  I'm very surprised how quick the 116 is off the line in normal driving given that it starts in second gear.  I didn't put the stop watch on them but I guess the D-Jet 185 BHP 116 against the slightly tweaked K-Jet 126 low compression engine (Maybe around 170 BHP) seemed to have more poke.  The 3.69 back end on the 116 compares to the 3.45 on the 126 would help at lower speeds too.  One thing, the D-Jet throttle response is just wonderful, it's immediate unlike the K-Jet car that feels it needs about half a second to sort itself out. 

Behind the wheel, I prefer the 116 instrumentation and the view down the bonnet with the crease on the top, just lovely.  The driving position is more upright too, a most commanding view.  The three instrument binnacles in the 116 just shout the 1970's and they are very stylish.  The 126 is more efficient, it seems to do more with less, but it's jut that little bit less special.  Maybe in another 10 years we'll look back at the 1980's and realise that Don Johnson had good taste after all, who knows....  The trim quality seems to be similar but I am certain the 126 is better screwed together.  Some of the plastic parts on the 116, like the lose switchgear for the demister and rear interior light is just plain flimsy.  Same with the cheap plastic trim in the drivers side footwell.  The carpet in the 116 confirms my opinion that the Europeans couldn't make carpet in the 1970's.  It looks like it belongs in the boot of a Datsun 120Y, the 126 is much, much nicer.  The 126 is a step above the 116 in this respect.  Having said that, the 116 is still streets ahead of anything else from the 1970's in build quality except for maybe a Porsche 911.

I don't know which is the better looking car, but I really like the brightwork on the 116, it's lovely.  The 126 seems to be caught in between a classic and a modern with it's suppression of chrome....better give it a few more years yet I think.  The 126 looks more modern with it's pointy nose and higher boot. 

So...which one is better?  Depends what you like, the 126 is a better everyday proposition, it's safer with ABS, more efficient, more refined and better protected against the dreaded corrosion but that all sounds pretty boring.  The 116 is more fun and has more character, simple as that!  It's noisier and feels like you really are connected with the road.  As a classic sedan, I really don't think the W116 has any peer at any price.  Which one do I prefer?  I can't decide at all.  The rawness of the 116 makes me appreciate the refinement of the 126 and vice versa.  I can't wait to get the fresh tyres on the 116 and drive it again.

Regards,

Carl.










CraigS

  • W116 Addict
  • ****
  • Posts: 1,989
  • MMM100
  • Location: Sydney by Tatra here we come !
    • My eclectic collection
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #1 on: 19 August 2007, 08:54 AM »
Good report ! If you think a W116 is raw, wait 'till you drive a W109 6.3 !

mb280sel

  • Enthusiast
  • *
  • Posts: 39
  • Location: Sydney Australia
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #2 on: 19 August 2007, 04:19 PM »
Good comprehensive review... ;D

But the part you mentioned about the carpet - My 280 SEL has beautiful plush carpet which I know is totally the opposite of the course loop pile they were putting in the 280 SE. Even today, the 280 SEL has a great luxurious feel which is better than most modern carpets found in many high class cars.  ::)

Christian Fischer
1979 Mercedes Benz 280SEL
Grey Blue (906)
Parchment Trim

Audi 80 Sports Edition 1992

Mazda CX-7 2007

BC

  • W116 Addict
  • ****
  • Posts: 1,242
  • Location: Sydney Australia
    • Banjospitz German Spitz
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #3 on: 19 August 2007, 04:47 PM »
Carl - this is a great test. Thanks for sharing it.
I agree that the 116 feels the rawer of the two - and it certainly talks to the driver.
I enjoy driving my 450SE with the windows down so I can hear the burble that is lost with the windows up.
However, my 116 boot carpet is positively deluxe compared to the boot carpet of the CLK!!!
The cabin carpet in the 450SE is a rich moquette that compares favourably with that of the Rolls Royce.
Hopefully, we will hear more about future comparisons when you have the tyres sorted - thanks again.
when I get from the Silver Spirit into the 450SE it's like getting into a sports racer... ;D
Regards,
BC
1979 450SE. Silvergreen/Ivory leather. For sale.
2001 ML320. Titanite Red/Java leather.
2007 CLK350. Cubanite/Pebble Beige Leather.
1993 Silver Spirit II. Dark Oyster/Parchment Leather.

oscar

  • W116 Addict
  • ****
  • Posts: 4,043
  • Location: Riverina, NSW, AUSTRALIA
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #4 on: 19 August 2007, 05:52 PM »
Thanks Carl, well written

I don't think I could be so impartial.

But I like your last comment about "The rawness of the 116 makes me appreciate the refinement of the 126 and vice versa".  I can understand that, well said.  I suppose it's that rawness that appeals to me too and it's why I rarely have the radio turned on whilst driving.  I want to hear and feel the car.  The W126 sounds like the perfect car to do the long family hauls without having to pay too much attention to the car itself (although I would) ;D but I could see my wife being able to drive one with ease and without fuss.
1973 350SE, my first & fave

13B

  • Vintage
  • ***
  • Posts: 871
  • Location: Bonerland - I like big butts and I cannot lie!
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #5 on: 19 August 2007, 06:01 PM »
One of the best comparison articles came from Wheels magazine (I think its was) in 1978 when they put the 450SEL up against the Jag XJ 5.3, Holden Caprice, and Ford LTD Marquis.  Comparative details aside, even back then the reviewer was away of the higher mechanical V8 sound in the cabin than the other 3 cars (which seem to have made a more deliberate go at a silent drive).  They eluded to the fact that part of MBs thinking at the time was indeed to have a car which talks to the driver, and gives more feedback through the suspension and steering. 

IMHO the 116 was the last of this philosophy and with the W126 onward they've gone for an altogether more quiet and detatched feeling, placing overall smoothness and quietness above all else.
450SEL 6.9 #5440 = V MB 690 , 450SE # 43094 = 02010 H , 190E/turbo # 31548 = AOH 68K

s class

  • W116 Addict
  • ****
  • Posts: 4,171
  • I'll keep the 116's, the rest can go
  • Location: Squeezing 3 W116's into a double garage
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #6 on: 20 August 2007, 12:13 AM »
Hi Carl,

Thanks for that.  In line with your comparison of the development from the 116 to the 126, my W140 is even more so in that direction, for the most part.  For the rest it returns to being a driver's car with excellent throttle response, and chuckability.  Mine is the 500, and the M119 quadcam v8 is tremendously powerful adding greatly to the fun value of it.

Ryan

'76 6.9 Euro, '78 6.9 AMG, '80 280SE, '74 350SE, '82 500SEL euro full hydro, '83 500SEL euro full hydro , '81 500SL

Andrew280SEL

  • Vintage
  • ***
  • Posts: 954
  • I like white ;-)
  • Location: Tasmania, Australia
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #7 on: 20 August 2007, 01:28 AM »
Thanks indeed Carl, that was fantastic.  ;D

I know exactly what you mean about the rawness and roar of the motor coming right at you. I was only today pulling out of a road and I really gave it to my 280SEL. With the cams roaring I swear it sounded like a sports car, despite the body suggesting otherwise, and the power came on very nicely.

Very fun indeed!  ;)
'79 280SEL- 560,000 Kms
'73 350SE- getting an AMG facelift
'79 450SEL 6.9

BJ

  • Enthusiast
  • *
  • Posts: 67
  • Location: Bloemfontein, South Africa
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #8 on: 20 August 2007, 02:14 PM »
Wow!!

That is two amazing cars right there!

You wouldn't want to adopt a son would you?

1 x well behaved 23yr old up for adoption. Doesn't smoke or drink, cleans up after himself. Will make coffee and fetch slippers for inclusion in will...  ;D ;D :P
1977 Mercedes-Benz 350SE - The Panzer
1981 Mercedes-Benz 200 - Hilda

116Benz

  • Vintage
  • ***
  • Posts: 735
  • Location: Warwick, Queensland
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #9 on: 20 August 2007, 04:57 PM »
One of the best comparison articles came from Wheels magazine (I think its was) in 1978 when they put the 450SEL up against the Jag XJ 5.3, Holden Caprice, and Ford LTD Marquis.  Comparative details aside, even back then the reviewer was away of the higher mechanical V8 sound in the cabin than the other 3 cars (which seem to have made a more deliberate go at a silent drive).  They eluded to the fact that part of MBs thinking at the time was indeed to have a car which talks to the driver, and gives more feedback through the suspension and steering. 

IMHO the 116 was the last of this philosophy and with the W126 onward they've gone for an altogether more quiet and detatched feeling, placing overall smoothness and quietness above all else.
I've got that very magazine sitting in my book case at home, Robbo, had an interesting comment regarding the brake fluid elsewhere in the magazine too...Seems there was a problem with the brake fluid being contaminated whilst in transit. Cars loosing brake pressure etc etc...MB didnt want to know about it untill it happened to one of their own on a drive with another journo...
1995 Mazda MX-5
1975 280SE
1978 280SEL
1990 300SE

carl888

  • Vintage
  • ***
  • Posts: 715
  • Location: Melbourne
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #10 on: 21 August 2007, 05:58 AM »
Good report ! If you think a W116 is raw, wait 'till you drive a W109 6.3 !

Oh yes, I know about them!  Had a friend with one years back, a lot of good memories in that car.  If I can find one in the condition of the other two, I won't be able to help myself!

Regards,

Carl.


carl888

  • Vintage
  • ***
  • Posts: 715
  • Location: Melbourne
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #11 on: 21 August 2007, 06:03 AM »
Good comprehensive review... ;D

But the part you mentioned about the carpet - My 280 SEL has beautiful plush carpet which I know is totally the opposite of the course loop pile they were putting in the 280 SE. Even today, the 280 SEL has a great luxurious feel which is better than most modern carpets found in many high class cars.  ::)



For sure, but the earlier carpet is just tacky IMO.



carl888

  • Vintage
  • ***
  • Posts: 715
  • Location: Melbourne
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #12 on: 21 August 2007, 06:05 AM »
Carl - this is a great test. Thanks for sharing it.
I agree that the 116 feels the rawer of the two - and it certainly talks to the driver.
I enjoy driving my 450SE with the windows down so I can hear the burble that is lost with the windows up.
However, my 116 boot carpet is positively deluxe compared to the boot carpet of the CLK!!!
The cabin carpet in the 450SE is a rich moquette that compares favourably with that of the Rolls Royce.
Hopefully, we will hear more about future comparisons when you have the tyres sorted - thanks again.
when I get from the Silver Spirit into the 450SE it's like getting into a sports racer... ;D
Regards,
BC

Oh dear Brian, I don't want to see the carpet in the CLK then!

Regards,

Carl.


carl888

  • Vintage
  • ***
  • Posts: 715
  • Location: Melbourne
Re: W116 and W126 280 SE.....which is better?
« Reply #13 on: 21 August 2007, 06:08 AM »
Wow!!

That is two amazing cars right there!

You wouldn't want to adopt a son would you?

1 x well behaved 23yr old up for adoption. Doesn't smoke or drink, cleans up after himself. Will make coffee and fetch slippers for inclusion in will...  ;D ;D :P

Hey BJ, I'm not that OLD!

Brother maybe!

Regards,

Carl.