The Mercedes W124 is making a comeback to the Malaysian used motoring scene and the most popular model is none other than the final batch of the 6-cylinder powered W124 series Mercedes-Benz. The 1994 W124 model on sale here at RM12,000 seems good value considering its condition and features. Yes, many will be deterred by the 2.8-liter engine for its fuel consumption and yearly road tax fee (which is payable once a year). First you should note that the E280 carries a 6-cylinder engine which drives beautifully against the lumpy 4-cylinder even if the engine is not very powerful off the lights.
This 1994 Mercedes will feel more sporting to drive than some modern sedan as it tackles corners with enthusiasm in stock form and in older narrow Petaling Jaya streets you will have little problems making ‘U’ turns as it has a tight turning circle, nicely weighted power steering and firm brakes. Along pot-holed roads and badly maintained small town roads, this W124 will absorb the imperfections with ease as long as your used unit has a good suspension system, bump stops and all rubber mounts are still in good condition.
This is best tested in the test drive to ensure that your used purchase is in good condition without any nasty surprises that will have you visiting a mechanic soon after purchase. Squeaks and rattles are not common in a 21-year old Benz unless it has been in an accident or has been abused and or not maintained. The W124 comes with a combination of brick house build quality and its superb ride and handling is what really sets it apart from its contemporaries and makes it such a desirable purchase even after 21 years on the road and with the odometer nearing above 238,000km. At this mileage you are looking at possible overhaul in the near future unless the previous owner has taken care of this.
The suspension is generally bulletproof like I mentioned earlier. Knocking from the shock absorbers mounts when cold is common but nothing to worry about. Drive over some speed bumps and the suspension should travel smoothly over them. The six-cylinder Mercedes engine uses a timing chain rather than the toothed rubber belt common to many other makes, which means replacements are less often and you are able to hear it rattling when it is worn instead of it just snapping when worn like with a rubber belt. On your test drive the engine should be quiet however the a/c fan and the radiator second fan can be noisy which might hide a worn engine. Make sure you start the car when the engine is cold and leave the a/c off to hear the engine note. Try and find a car that still has its original paint (this might be difficult with its age). This way you can tell that it is accident free. Check for rust in the spare wheel housing in the boot. Make sure the rear boot hinges are working when they open and they stay up. If the carpet in the boot is stained then this is probably a flooded car. Check also under the carpets in the car especially under the seats.
While servicing by a Mercedes Benz dealer is a bonus, there are plenty of independent workshops that can take very good care of these cars. The beauty of the W124 is that it has minimal electronics allowing for specialists to be ignored. That means you do not need to pay a premium for servicing and maintenance. Most general workshops will be able to service the car and parts are never a problem as parts can be found almost in every town. Finally, have fun with your W124 knowing that you would probably lose nothing more than RM2,000-3,000 in depreciation over the coming 4 to 5-years.