Out of a total of over two million units in the W124 family, the 500Es were built just over 10,000 units (including the E 500 and the derivative E 60 AMG). For the time, the performance was excellent: the 500E hit 100 km / h in just 5.9 seconds. The actual maximum speed was not disclosed, but was electronically limited to 250 km / h. It was probably enough to outcast several other high-end sports cars, however without putting in much efforts, The 500 E was immediately considered an instant classic and is still a very coveted collector’s model today. Its bonnet contains the 32-valve V8 engine of the Mercedes-Benz 500 SL (R129) presented a year earlier to this. If referred to as “M 119”, the unit kept the displacement and power unchanged, respectively 4,973cc and 326 hp. It differed from the SL in the Bosch LH-Jetronic electronically controlled petrol injection system and featured a heated wire airflow sensor. This similar solution was controlled by Mercedes-Benz for the first time on a production model. As for the transmission, the 500 E provided exclusively for the 4-speed automatic transmission.
When the awesome Mercedes-Benz 500 E (silver) was presented on a turntable at the Paris Motor Show from 4 to 14 October 1990, the 124 model series had been on the market for six years already. It was so far the best known on the ground, whose appearance did not initially arouse much interest – until a closer look revealed the details which were intriguing to every buyer:
The wings were flared outwards slightly at both the front and rear to make room for the size 225/55 R 16 tyres. The body, which had been lowered by 23 millimeters, and a modified front spoiler with integrated fog lamps were also discreet characteristics of the top model. The published performance figures were even more exciting for visitors to the motor show: With the standard automatic transmission, it achieved the 100 km/h mark in just 5.9 seconds. The actual top speed that could be reached was kept a secret, but the engine was electronically limited to 250 km/h.
In the 1980s, Mercedes-Benz resources were largely absorbed by two important projects: the SL R129 series and the future flagship S-Class (W 140), which had disproportionate costs. For this reason, in December 1987, Porsche was awarded the development contract for a high-performance sedan based on W 124. The future 500 E was to be Mercedes’ answer to the M5, which had quickly established itself in that particular market slot. . The same eight-cylinder M 119 unit used in the Sauber-Mercedes C9 was used for the Stuttgart super sedan. The race car, however, was also equipped with two turbochargers and in 1989 won the World Sports Prototype Championship and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Porsche, after starting the trials, also took charge of the assembly of the 500 E.
Production involved a series of (expensive) steps unthinkable nowadays: the bodies were supplied by the Mercedes plant in Sindelfingen and were assembled at the Porsche plant. They then returned to Sindelfingen for painting and returned to the Porsche plant in Zuffenhausen for final assembly. The assembly of the mechanics, supplied entirely by Mercedes-Benz, also took place along the same lines as the Porsche 959. Finally, the delivery to customers which was handled by the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen.
In 1991, the W 124 family was expanded with another eight-cylinder model: the Mercedes-Benz 400 E. Its 4.2-liter V8 engine still belonged to the M119 family, but in this case it delivered “only” 279 CV. It was a version designed mainly for the American market and traveled on a framework almost unchanged compared to the less powerful models. For this reason the model did not arouse the media hype of the 500E, more peculiar from a technical point of view. In terms of production, the 400 E (E 420 from 1993) was built in 22,802 units, more than double the sister “500”. In any case, it remained a opening model, which received the favor of a small circle of connoisseurs who did not want to flaunt their status. Among the owners of the E420 model, also The Voice: singer Frank Sinatra. The 500 E had a base price of 134,510 Marks, with the same amount you could buy two 300Es with a catalytic converter, with a respectable power of 180 HP.
By April 1995, 10,479 units of the high-powered saloon had been built up to its core. In the production statistics, the 500 E is included together with the E 500, as the top model in the 124 model series was called, designated from June 1993 as the E-Class, and the E 60 AMG, which was launched in 1993. In the latter model, which was built until 1994, the 6-litre version of the M 119 engine even generated 280 kW (381 hp). In 1991, yet another eight-cylinder model joined the W 124 family – the 400 E, whose engine produced 205 kW (279 hp). This model did not attract anything like as much media attention as the 500 E but, in terms of sales figures, the 400 E/E 420 sold 22,802 units, which put them ahead of the more powerful cars in the model series.
For those who wanted more, elaborate variants were available such as the 381 HP E 60 AMG (latest evolution of the “Hammer) and the Brabuses with the V12 of the S-Class (W140). Both with stratospheric powers, performances and costs. The tradition of super saloons continued with the E50 and E55 AMG of the new W210 family, models developed in partnership with AMG. It was the beginning of a brand new era for the AMG.
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