Why is the Mercedes Benz W124 500e called the perfect sedan?

This blog will review the Mercedes Benz W124 500e and answer the following questions: why is it called the perfect sedan? How fast did the W124 500?

Why is the Mercedes Benz W124 500e called the perfect sedan?

The Mercedes Benz W 124 is called the perfect sedan because of the following reasons:

  • Design
  • Innovative features
  • Performance
  • Safety
  • Handling

Lets take a closer look at each of the reasons: 

  • Design 

The Mercedes Benz W124 500e is based on the W201 and W124 compact car platforms. Mercedes Benz introduced the compact sedans in the 1970s with 4,5 and 6-cylinder engine options. The W124 was an instant success in the global market as the design was very modern and elegant. It had 4 doors and a passenger capacity of 5 adults. The car was designed by an Italian designer Bruno Sacco who was also head of styling at Mercedes Benz from 1975 to 1999.

Due to the fuel crises in America, Mercedes Benz engineers wanted to build an aerodynamic design along with the highest safety standards. The W124 has flushed headlights and a tapered rear end which is not visible to the naked eye. The coefficient of drag of the W124 is only 0.26 making it the most aerodynamic sedan of its time. Even by today’s standards, it is a very efficient design. Structurally, the chassis is very rigid.

Mercedes Benz designed additional reinforcements in the front and sides of the vehicle so that the passenger cabin stays protected during an accident. The W 124 has a single wiper arm which covers almost 86 per cent of the windshield’s area without affecting the windshield’s airflow. The wiper arm can even remain stable at high speeds on autobahn highways.

The taillights are located in the body instead of the trunk lid. There are specially designed slots on the taillights so that lights can be visible even in snow. The trunk lids have a slight elevation in the back to increase the vehicle stability on the highways.

  • Innovative features

The W124 500e had many innovative features like comfort opening and closing of all windows and sunroof. The rear headrest could be lowered at a press of a button in order to increase visibility when reversing the vehicle. All the door locks were pneumatically actuated in the W124 but the power windows and sunroof were electric. Individual switches were located on the centre panel for each window. The outside rear view mirrors were also electronically adjustable on the W124 500e.

  • Performance

The W124 500e is powered by an M119 V8 engine, it was one of the most powerful sedans available on sale. The size of the W124 was really compact and with a curb weight of just 1700 kg meant the acceleration was very fast. It was faster than its rival, the BMW M5. The engine used in the 500e M119 was based on the engine used in the bigger SL model and the M119 was also modified for the race car. Mercedes Benz race cars won the Lemans race with an M119 engine and the fact that people could buy the same race-winning engine in a family-sized compact sedan made the 500e really popular.

In the American market due to the fuel crisis Mercedes Benz introduced the W124 400 e model. It is a slightly less powerful but more fuel economical model in W124. The direct competitor of the 400 e was the Lexus ls 400 in the American market.

  • Safety

As the 500e was built on the W124 platform, it was the safest compact sold by Mercedes Benz. Mercedes Benz used high tensile steel in door panels, the front end had a crumple zone with two rigid crash structures to absorb the impact. The engine was mounted on the front axle carrier so that it would drop down instead of sliding back into the passenger compartment. Despite being a lightweight sedan the W124 still weighed more than a tonne therefore during the collision the W124 remained planted and absorbed the impact before it reached the passenger compartment. 

  • Handling

The W124 500e not only accelerated faster, but it was also a better handling car. The steering system on the 500e has a recirculating ball mechanism with a pitman’s arm. Feedback from the road is great, the driver can feel the traction of the front wheels. The steering is also hydraulically assisted, a mechanical driven hydraulic oil pump supplies the oil to the hydraulic gearbox, and steering efforts are reduced at lower speeds. At higher speeds, the steering becomes a little bit heavier so the steering inputs will be more stable. 

The suspension system on the W124 500e consists of a double-wishbone setup in the front, and an upper and lower control arm supports the steering knuckle. Springs and shock absorbers are mounted independently. The 500e has good mechanical grip, the rear end is very stable and the car does not show any signs of oversteer under hard acceleration.

The brakes on the 500e W124 are bigger and the car takes similar brake components from the much bigger Mercedes Benz SL. The 500e braking performance is very good, Mercedes Benz even gave an anti-lock braking system as standard, and drivers can brake with full force and the electronic stability program control unit will modulate the brake pressure so that the wheels don’t lock.

The W124 500e not only accelerated faster than any of its rivals but the car was able to shave off its speed and stay planted through a turn.

How fast does the W124 500e go?

The top speed of the W124 was limited to 155 miles per hour or 250 km/hr. There was an unspoken agreement between the car makers like BMW, Audi and Mercedes Benz not to manufacture production cars with top speeds above 250 km per hour. However, Mercedes Benz designed the final ratio in such a way that the 500e can accelerate from 0-100 in 6.1 seconds with plenty of torque remaining in the top gear. The 5.0 litre naturally aspirated V8 engine was coupled to a 4-speed transmission and the engine speed was limited to 6000rpm. 

Many car enthusiasts felt like the engine had more to offer but the M119 in the 500e already produced 322 brake horsepower with 480 Nm of torque. M119 had double overhead camshafts and 4 valves per cylinder. The stroke was designed to be less compared to the bore, making it an over-square engine. Therefore, many after-market tuners change the final gear ratio and increase the engine rev limit to 7500 rpm in order to increase the top speed. Only reprogramming the ESP control unit did not increase the top speed as Mechanically the gear ratio was optimised for quicker acceleration.

Other articles about Mercedes Benz you may be interested in

How is the Mercedes Benz C Class compared to the Mercedes Benz S Class?

Mercedes Benz E Class Vs Mercedes Benz S Class: the ultimate comparison

What are the best used Mercedes Benz models to buy?

Conclusion

The Mercedes Benz W124 500e was jointly developed with Porsche as the research and development team had their hands full with the launch of the S Class. Porsche had to modify the front end of the car in order to accommodate the massive V8 engine and also take care of production as the wider body no longer fit through the production line of the Mercedes Benz factory. Despite all the setbacks and producing the car at various locations, Mercedes Benz gave the world a perfect sedan in the form of the 500e.

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