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Engine recommendations - WavyDavy999
Hi, can anyone help with a personal recommendation. I'm looking at the W124 estates and need an economical runner (not bothered about performance) - what's the best engine choice? It would appear that the diesel estates seem limited to the 300 (I think some 250 diesels were built but these seem to be extremely rare) which seems a bit chunky for what I'm after. How good (reliable) are the petrol versions - I've seen a few 200TE's and 230TE's available at reasonable prices? Will these engines rack up a high mileage with few problems? Thanks for any advice.

Edited by Pugugly on 02/01/2009 at 14:17

Mercedes Benz W124 Estate - engine recommendations - Number_Cruncher
and need an economical runner

How do you plan to use the car? What sort of annual mileage?

I ask because there's only a fairly narrow mileage range where it makes sense to ask your question.

If you do a large annual mileage, then no W124 will be cheap to run - a more modern diesel estate will be far cheaper to run.

If you do a small annual mileage, then, it doesn't really matter which engine you have, because the other costs of running the car will dominate.

It's only in this middle ground where it makes any difference at all.

I run an E300D, and typically get fuel consumption of about 35 mpg.

The newest W124 is now 12 years old or so, and whatever car you buy will need some work doing on it. There are only 2 types of people who can run older MBs, the rich, and the resourceful. Are you handy with the spaners?
Mercedes Benz W124 Estate - engine recommendations - Rustyw
I would agree with this entirely. I ran a 230TE for several years, taking it from 80k to 150k miles. I loved it but it cost a fortune to run. The second time it started pumping engine oil out through the hydraulic reservoir at £450 for a new pump I decided it was time to let it go. I was getting mid-20s mpg, doing about 18 000 miles per year. I bought a brand new diesel Touran and found that the saving on fuel costs virtually covered the HP payments. By the time I added in maintenance costs my monthly outlay was less for the brand new VW than for the 10 year old Merc. Still wish I had the Merc though! Just don't expect it to be economical.
Mercedes Benz W124 Estate - engine recommendations - WavyDavy999
Thanks for the advice - I'm neither rich nor particularly resourceful but I do have access to getting the car worked on at a MB garage which should keep the maintenance side of things cheaper than for most people - obviously if the car becomes a money pit I'll get rid of! I will be doing about 6-8k a year, and was wondering if any particular engine was to be avoided? Looking at these cars it would appear that they have just about hit nil depreciation as long as they are kept going - another reason to consider buying.
Mercedes Benz W124 Estate - engine recommendations - gordonbennet
He, NC is right, and good 124 diesel estates still fetch very high prices.

I've had a 320 petrol estate with every extra, i bought used, obviously but with the complete history for the car, the one thing i learned from that history is that almost every one of those desirable goodies failed at least once during the first 8 years and cost hundreds and thousands to fix. The bills were eye watering.
Thousands to fix the aircon which failed again and thousands to fix the self levelling suspension. 20 to 25 normal mpg, but it went like a scalded cat.

The 200 is a bit underpowered, i've had a 230E saloon, that was surprisingly fast if you thrashed it, expect 25 to 28, maybe 30 on a run.

Best bet for fuel is the later E220, but nearly all petrol MB's sem to have headgasket probs around the 100 to 120K time, and possible engine wiring loom disintegration leading to ECU failure.

As said by NC, you have to be pretty good with the spanners, whipping the head off is not a simple task.

I don't know if NC would agree, but having had both i would say the pre facelift cars (pre 93 ish) were of higher quality.

I still love em though..:)
Mercedes Benz W124 Estate - engine recommendations - gordonbennet
Have a nosey on our very own HJ's C by C breakdown, its a very complete list of almost every thing that can go wrong with these.
Mercedes Benz W124 Estate - engine recommendations - Peter S
Worth noting (if I'm allowed to mention them...) that Autocar bought one earlier in the year as an experiment; there's a Final Report on their time with it in the current edition. Their car (a '93 E280) suffered a number of electrical issues and a coolant leak...they liked it though, and it averaged 25mpg over around 5k miles


Mercedes Benz W124 Estate - engine recommendations - Number_Cruncher
I will be doing about 6-8k a year

So, you fuel costs will be in the region of £1000 to £1500 per year (assuming anywhere between 20 and 35 mpg), and so, I would say that this wouldn't justify paying the significant extra for a diesel.

Alas, because the MB diesel is deemed suitable by idiots to allow other idiots to use vegetable oil as fuel, the cars fitted with diesel engines command an unrealistic premium.

The cars built in the mid nineties were susceptible to engine wiring harness degradation, which could also take the ECU with it (as GB knows all too well!), in this respect, an earlier car is better.

The rear side windows on estates don't seal particularly well, and leaks in the rear of the car are quite common.

All estates have self levelloing suspension, which is simple, and usually cheap to fix - the problem with the system is that most mechanics don't understand it - the parts which look like suspension dampers *aren't*!, they are simple hydraulic pistons, and they fail only very rarely, but are frequently replaced in error.

If the car you get is worth saving, you'll spend more than the £1000 to £1500 fuel cost in parts alone during the first couple of years, getting the car back in order.

If the weather's fine tomorrow, I'll be under mine, pressing some new front ball joints in!
Mercedes Benz W124 Estate - engine recommendations - stunorthants26
I think at that age id be more inclined to go for a well-cared for Volvo 740/940 estate if Im honest but if it had to be a W124 Merc, id go for the 230. Neither will be very cheap to run, but the Volvo might have the edge.
Mercedes Benz W124 Estate - engine recommendations - oldnotbold
"because the MB diesel is deemed suitable by idiots to allow other idiots to use vegetable oil as fuel"

What is your issue with using a waste product to run a car? Do you feel better for giving greedy Gordon 70p per litre of your money to hand out to feckless banks/people?
Mercedes Benz W124 Estate - engine recommendations - Number_Cruncher
>>What is your issue with using a waste product to run a car?

I would have no issues if the cars were designed, engineered, and developed to run on waste oil. The injector pumps in W124s were/are designated for diesel fuel only by Bosch.

Its now one of the extra hazards in W124 diesel ownership - has the previous owner junked the fuel system by their misguided running of variable quality gunk and slime.

Edited by Number_Cruncher on 02/01/2009 at 19:29

Engine recommendations - barney100
I've had 3 Mercs, two 2.2 diesels and the present 3.2 petrol. The diesels will go on and on but the horror service bills scares are a bit over the reality. If your car is of a certain age then main dealers will knock around 40% off labour and 10% off parts. If your service history is oM then corrosion rectification is free to a decent age. I have found the Mercs reliable and no more expensive to run than the Volvos I used to run. The petrol 3.2 does mid thirties with a light right foot and the diesels were nearer 45mpg.
Engine recommendations - ForumNeedsModerating
Having had a 124 series (and now, a more modern c-class) I'd strongly advise against buying into the myth of longevity & build quality. You'll end up buying bits & pieces all the time - think suspension parts, catalytic converters, wiring looms, head gaskets (with v6 petrols) - you'll certainly cement your relationship with ther MB garage - probably give you your own mug for the 'free' coffee after a while.

Also, as mentioned by others, the youngest will be 12+ years old - this is not so much a utility item anymore, but a full-time car restoration project. W124s were old, even in 1995, being based on a fundamental design from the mid-80s.

Consider a less glamourous Mondeo mk111 estate: much more (& better) car for the money - a petrol 2litre will be very cheap & suit your mileage.
Engine recommendations - oldnotbold
I hanker after a W124 from time to time. Reading the Ebay listing of one recently was illustrative - the previous owner had spent £2,000 on the car in the previous two years. Now he'd have spent something on almost any car, but £1,000 a year put me off.
Engine recommendations - boxsterboy
I would have thought that rather than get too choosy about a particular engine, you would be best to find the best car you can, regardless of engine.
Engine recommendations - Honestjohn
Tom Ford bought one, so expect to see it on 5th Gear.

cbcb entry has a link to the acknowledges specialist through whom I believed Autocar bought its W124.

Good point earlier that though basically solid you can be in for a lot of replacement parts with these cars.


Engine recommendations - MW
I ran a 230E auto salon for nearly 10 years. loved it.
Did 24 mpg around town and 30-31 on a run. I serviced it myself and it was like a big Morris Minor. Almost all the parts were logical and easy to get too. It's only moving to a transverse engine, you realise how much room a north-south layout has.
Anything at Mercedes is a fortune. They only seem to like corporate customers with big wallets.
Euro Car Parts are brilliant, and very good for almost all parts. I took it from 60 to 144k. In that time all that went wrong was 1/2 exhaust after 8 years. Water pump at 105k miles (easy job to do) and a radiator at 142k miles. Tyres, oil etc all normal. The gearbox torque convertor can easily be drained. Change auto oil every 18k miles and filter and oil at 36k miles. The gearbox was like new at the end.
If you can do DIY its easy. If not I would probabaly get a Camry, only because Mercedes here now charge well over £100+ an hour.
Engine recommendations - Number_Cruncher
>>Anything at Mercedes is a fortune.

I haven't found the prices for parts too bad - I was expecting far worse. As mentioned above, as it's an older car, you typically get 10% off.

As an example, the ball joint which I should have fitted today (too cold outside!!), was £13 from MB. Hardly bank breaking!

However, some of the larger / more complex parts are eye wateringly expensive, and sometimes are worth sourcing through GSF or Euro Car Parts.

One of the things about MB which I appreciate is the brilliant availability of genuine parts, and MBs practical approach, which makes available repair kits to enable larger parts to be overhauled rather than replaced.

This site is useful or finding parts and part numbers;


and once you know the part number,


(which is Inchcape) will allow you to check the price

Engine recommendations - gordonbennet
And funnily enough whilst we were passing today i popped in and had a chat with my honourable MB indy, whom i would be lost without.
I think his frowns of disapproval means i won't be getting an M5 after all..:)

As referred to by NC above, my engine wiring loom disintegrated taking the ECU with it, the ECU was repairable (luckily as a new one is 1200 to 1500 quid), but the wiring loom alone was £550 and takes a couple of hours or more to fit.

He took great delight in showing me the repair kit which MB now supply for the loom in question, obviously just replaces the normal parts that perish....cost..under £40.
Quite why i like him so much is possibly a question for a doctor..;)

NC's bottom ball joint at £13 is remarkable value, and i only wish mine was the same, the 24v petrol models have a wishbone in which the bottom ball joint is welded in.
From MB these are £225 + the dreaded a side, but they are available from the 2 oft mentioned places at £125+ a side.

The joys of owning cars.
Engine recommendations - Number_Cruncher
>>24v petrol models have a wishbone in which the bottom ball joint is welded in.

Yes, when I first read about those, I was fearful - but, thankfully, although my engine is a 24 valve, being a diesel, it has the replaceable type of ball joint.

The repair kit for the engine wiring loom on the 320s is well thought out - for many cars in cooler climes like the UK, it's only the hottest parts of the engine where the loom degrades, and for the 320s, this is the wiring to the coils which runs along the top of the engine.

For my E300D, it's the wiring to the coolant temperature sensor, towards the rear of the engine, under the inlet manifold** where the loom fails first. I could have repaired my loom, but, when I found the new loom was £300, I decided to fit one. Although the repair could have been carried out for less, I didn't view it as a good use of my time, especially as I would end up with a "bitza" loom without consistent wire colouring, splices and with the unrepaired part of the loom still gently rotting.

** On the diesels, virtually everything of any interest is to be found under the intake manifolds. There's quite a list of jobs which are worth doing "while you're there".
Engine recommendations - Bagpuss
To answer the OP, there is only one engine fitting the relaxed, effortless cruising nature of the W124. It's the 3.2 litre straight six. The 4 litre V8 was, sadly, never available in the estate.
Engine recommendations - madf
I had a W124 - 260E saloon from new as a company car.
It was great to drive if a little tail happy on high speed bends.

I did over 100k miles in 3 years.

I would NEVER own one: it cost a fortune to maintain. Even from new, things went wrong occasionally: key barrel, suspension bushes, radiator holed by stone etc.

All the stories are comparing 25 year old technology with 25 year old technology.
BIL has a 3 litre 124 estate. Done 100k miles. He bought a C180 estate to reduce the miles on the 300D estate as maintenance costs are so high.

And now with age, all the rubber/pastic pipes start going.

My neighbour had a AMG 500 W124 estate. Lovely car.But sold it to buy a VW 4x4 - Touran/Tourag? or summat like that.

A complex design not suited to cheap longevity.

Engine recommendations - Roger Jones
"Having had a 124 series (and now, a more modern c-class) I'd strongly advise against buying into the myth of longevity & build quality. You'll end up buying bits & pieces all the time - think suspension parts, catalytic converters, wiring looms, head gaskets (with v6 petrols) - you'll certainly cement your relationship with ther MB garage - probably give you your own mug for the 'free' coffee after a while."

No car is free of faults and weaknesses, especially as it ages. Comparatively speaking, the W124 "myth" seems to be fairly well founded. That said, the W124 M103 and M104 engines (straight sixes: the V6 arrived shortly after the W210 was introduced) do suffer from head-gasket failure; the thing to do is figure it into the the offer you make (£600+ at an indy, including skimming). The wiring harness problem affects not only the W124 but also other models from 1991 to 1996; I have a 1996 Coupé which has yet to show signs of this.

The keys to a satisfying experience with a W124 are:

* Get a prospective car properly inspected by an independent specialist. That's up to a couple of hundred quid well spent.

* Figure any defects into the offer you make. I had £1000 knocked off because of a head-gasket weakness and a radiator leak that the vendor had either not noticed or chose not to reveal.

* Find a good independent garage for servicing. There are plenty about. You will get better work for half the main-dealer rates. Few staff in main dealers know these old cars at all. You can also talk sensibly with an indy -- something I've never really experienced with a dealer over the service reception desk with mechanics hidden away somewhere.

* Don't imagine that all MB parts prices are eye watering, but keep checking them against Euro Car Parts and GSF. The lower-priced parts from Euro and GSF will usually be of inferior quality; their OEM parts will be closer to MB prices, and usually from the same manufacturers.

I'm hardly impartial: I've had an E320 Coupé for 8 years, with very few problems; I've had an E300 twin-turbo saloon for 2.5 years with no problems after fixing the stuff spotted in the pre-purchase inspection. I love 'em both and do not envisage selling them.
Engine recommendations - mattbod
If looking for a cheap older version and don't do much milieage go for a 300TE . Simple SOHC engine and plenty of shove (the 2.6 engine not available in estates in U.K). Later 2.8 and 3.2 o.k but can suffer gasket problems (althoug my dad's mark 1 C280 has been fine. Been in a 300TD estate and is smooth and quiet but even in the last 136 bhp guise, it just didn't go. I know there are a lot of horror stories out there about W210 but this last engine in that with a Turbo E 300 Turbodiesel is terrific and goes on and on. The same engine with a cylinder lopped off is also great in the C250 Turbodiesel mark 1 estate.

Edited by mattbod on 14/01/2009 at 13:12

Engine recommendations - Number_Cruncher
>>NC's bottom ball joint at £13 is remarkable value

At last, a day with good enough weather to work outside on the car, and freedom from SWMBO's household DIY, and Number_Nipper minding edicts.

I pressed the N/S front ball joint in this morning, and when I took the old one apart, I'm really glad I did. Instead of a nice machined ball, I saw a rust pitted and weakend blob of metal which was so corroded, it was shaped more like a golf ball!

The steering feel is much improved, and so far, the occaisonal creak while steering at low speed appears to be gone.

It's not a job which I would recommend for most DIYers though - the spring bears on the lower wishbone, and so, you either have to compress the spring with an appropriate special tool (over £400 for the Klann one), or, you have to arrange a suitable safe support for the wishbone, containing the spring force. The advantage of leaving the wishbone on the car and working in-situ is that a) you don't need to contend with the doubtlessly seized inner wishbone bolts, and b) the inner wishbone bolts are eccentric, and so, if you disturb them, you need to have the front suspension realigned (caster, camber, and tracking)

Now, I just need to open negotiations to allow me some time to do the O/S (which I'm fairly sure is in better nick than the N/S)!
Engine recommendations - barney100
Mercedes charge me 40% less than the standard labour rate and give 10% discount on parts as my car is over 8 yeras old. This labour rate is as good as most main dealers but you have to be prepared to take the odd large bill but which make doesn't? Mate of mine mine had to pay £90 to have a headlight bulb changed on a Renault.
Engine recommendations - Bagpuss
Took a taxi to a restaurant at the weekend, turned out to be a W124. The cooling grill on the right front wing identified it as a 300 Turbodiesel with the 147PS 3 litre 6 cylinder engine. It was showing 840,000km which, according to the driver, was genuine. She informed me she'd had the car since new and had no intention of selling it as she didn't like the quality of the newer Mercedes models. The engine was actually very smooth and quiet, subjectively more so than my BMW 530d.

On the way back home I was in a W211 taxi with 530,000km on the clock which is actually more of an achievement as that amounts to around 100,000km per year!
Engine recommendations - w124bookman
I'm currently on my 3rd W124 estate - E220, E300D, now an E320. Performance was about the same with the 220 & 300D, but the Diesel was much more economical. I would agree with other contributors who praise the saloons - yes, if you don't particularly need an estate, don't buy one. If you do buy one, do make sure it's got the 7-seat option - everyone wants these and it will be much easier to sell when the time comes.

You'll get horror stories of big bills with pretty much any car. I lost about £1000 on the 220, but that was about 5 years ago when prices were generally higher. That said, the only item that I had to replace was a thermostat! The Diesel sold after my adding 30,000 miles for depreciation of £25 with only a couple of bits needing replacement.

Yes, they do get abused, but there are a lot of them around, so take your time, drive a few - perhaps even one of the specialists who seem to start selling at £5K as a benchmark!

You shouldn't really need to have to resort to a main dealer for servicing, there are plenty of very good independents around. The other difference with a modern car is that many parts can be repaired, they're not all sealed units which have to be replaced completely even if it's only a small piece that's gone wrong. Also, no horrible cheapo cam belts to worry about either! There are plenty of Merc breakers around and there aren't many bits you can't source from them.

I've tried a similar age 5-series Touring - much, much smaller boot, no 7-seat option and the seats don't fold flat!; Volvo 740s are very solid,but don't have anything like the feeling of luxury or smooth ride; Citroen XM - it's big, it's comfy, it goes wrong - a lot!

I really can't think of anything else that offers the quality for the money!
Engine recommendations - Roger Jones
Here's Autocar video:


The UK's specialist in W124 estates is interviewed at the end of it.
Engine recommendations - oldnotbold
Bookman - did you sell yr 300 estate very recently on Ebay for about £1500?
Engine recommendations - m19tts
Hi, I have run a 230TE and the later 220 estate....I had the 230 for about 8 years and in my opinion it drove better than the later 220...Also mercedes started to count the pennies after the K reg cars...I would go for anything registered J and under...If you can find one with a fully stamped up history (there are plenty about...be fussy) you won't go far wrong with a 230...I've not run a 280 or 320 so can't help with an opinion on those except to say again stick to J reg and under...Hope that helps some...Happy hunting...Regards Matt
Engine recommendations - mattbod
The 2.8 straight 6 is a nice engine with 192bhp. My dad has a 1995 C280 I have been using recently and it drives like a dream and no serious issues with it either,just sailed through its MOT.Not desperately thirsty either but don't know in a W124.
Engine recommendations - Pontoneer
An awful lot of scaremongering in this thread , to my mind .

I've run two W124 estates (my 430,000 mile 300TE-24 was a paragon of reliability)
and a W123 before them - ALL 3 suffered from corrosion of the SLS pipes in the vicinity of the rear suspension components - I've had the same with fuel and brake pipes on other older M-B's - this , I would say is the Achilles' heel of these cars . The parts are very cheap but a lot of labour to fix properly , unless you can DIY .

Yes , W124T's do suffer from corrosion issues : front wings ( inner and outer ) rear side panels below the load bay windows but such faults can be easily spotted if you know where to look , and they are nothing like as bad for corrosion as later models from the 1990's - I personally have never had CHG failure on an M-B ( have lived with 'slight' oil leaks on M110 , M103 and M104 3.0 models and have avoided the engines prone to wiring loom failure .

I have replaced springs , dampers , brake components , ball joints , PAS/SLS pumps , propshaft do-nuts , water pumps , radiators and numerous other components over the years on various models but all has been easy DIY and none of it bankrupting .

None of my cars has cost me a fortune to run or to maintain and all have given a great deal of pleasure in ownership . I'm currently running a W126 500SEL as my 'daily driver' and , having covered approx 16,000 trouble free miles over the last year with it , have had little other than routine maintenance costs ( oil/filters/brakes/tyres ) and even with new rear springs at around £200 have still spent well under £1K looking after it . All 1980's M-B models offer cheap , trouble-free motoring in style and safety - costs only tend to start mounting up when you look at 1950's and 1960's models with which some chrome parts like bumpers can cots literally THOUSANDS . Pretty much everything still available though , even for 50 and 60 year old cars !

To answer the original question - for someone covering less than 10K per year , I'd go for a 300TE or 300TE-24 : both are silky-smooth straight sixes with plenty of power and reasonable fuel economy in the mid 20's ; neither suffer from engine wiring loom problems and the six cylinder cars usually come with a reasonable spec ( leather , alloys etc ) . Do ask yourself whether you REALLY need a 7 seater as the 5 seat versions have useful storage space under the boot floor

Edited by Pontoneer on 14/10/2009 at 10:28

Engine recommendations - pookie

I have a half face lift 93 E320 Estate with sport suspension and AMG 17 rims. it is one of the most incredible vehicles I have had. over 200 000km, and very little problems.

I often tow a horse float, often loaded near to the 2100kg towing limit (Horse float 800kg, two horses 450kg each plus gear). It tows better than a Diesel 4WD , no overheating and feels very safe and sturdy. Long hills no issue. I have had my tranny flushed and filled with fully synthetic transmission oil, just to be on the safe side

Very quick vehicle, often gives drivers (Here in New Zealand) of V8 Holden SS Commodores big frights.

Economy around town about 7/8km litre, and open road 10km/ litre (100km/h speed limit). Engine oil use minimal, about 500ml in 10 000km.

Car still looks neat and tidy and often draws comments (this from an 18 year old vehicle) Would I buy another one...you bet yah bottom $ I would.

Also had a 88 model 300TE with over 350 000km..still drove like a gem and only used about 2 pints of oil between services at this mileage. Great car and engine, but the M104 multivalve 3.2 liter in my E320 with more torque and towing power is my preference.

Great value for money ...dont hesitate buy one today

Engine recommendations - barney100

Best bet is to join the Mercedes owners club which is quite cheap and there are many knowledgeable people on there who will give you advice. I went to the last W123 day and was really impressed by the condition of the cars on show.

Engine recommendations - vmturbo

A friend bought a classic Mercedes W124 several years ago. The car had a 2.3 litre four cylinder petrol engine which looked quite basic. It had a mechanical distributor and a single downdraught carburettor (single barrel I seem to remember) Anyhow I was sweet-talked into fitting a tow-bar and the plan was to tow a small two-berth caravan to Dorset Steam Fair.

Now in the past I'd run a Vauxhall Victor 2300 and I expected the Mercedes to run equally well if not better than the General Motors product. Sadly this was not the case and after just one trip the Merc was retired from towing. Possibly the engine needed five-star fuel as I suspect that it was pinking (Pinging in the US) Of course there were no knock sensors or electronic gizmos to retard the timing. Possibly the engine needed a decoke. Anyway a little 1.6 litre diesel van (non turbo) turned out to be far superior at towing than the Mercedes was and much more economical. This was extremely puzzling because years ago I had a two litre Triumph GT6 that would pull like a train. With the benefit of hindsight I now suspect that the Mercedes had defective carbon string high tension leads. I ran a Rover 820i that developed this fault and at light loads there was enough voltage to jump the internal breaks in the HT leads AND fire the plugs. At large throttle openings the plugs wouldn't fire. It was an absolute disaster that involved limping home in the low gears. Once new HT leads were obtained the car went like a bat out of hell and I was never brave enough to find out its top speed.

Possibly that 2.3 litre W124 was just a bad one. The problem was never investigated as the car was simply sold on. As to carbon string HT leads, they ought to be replaced every 30,000 miles if not sooner.

Good luck!


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