1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6

When I got my first job out of grad school, I needed a cheap daily driver to commute to work. Everyone told me to just buy a Honda and be done with it. But I knew that wasn’t going to work. I wanted something unusual, safe, classy and preferably German. And that’s how I came to buy a W201. I didn’t really know much about them at the time. But a nice looking example popped up for sale near me, and as soon as I drove it I was hooked. The 190E rides like a shrunken S-class: luxurious, sturdy and solid. The straight six motor is creamy and robust. And the design of the car is really quite handsome, under-appreciated even, especially when seen from the rear three-quarter angle. True, the 190E is not fast, the KE-Jetronic fuel injection system is a real pain when it goes wrong and, owing to the gearing on the old school four-speed automatic, the 2.6 is not as fuel efficient as it should be (the 2.3 isn’t much better either). Still, a nicely kept W201 can be a neat and satisfying entry point into budget-friendly German motoring. Provided you pick a good one.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 190E 2.6 on Central NJ Craigslist

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1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE

I continue to keep an eye on the W126 market. Mint examples of the V8-powered 560SEL can sell for as much as $20k, though higher mileage examples that are rougher around the edges can be had for just a few grand. The W126 hasn’t yet achieved collector status – there are probably too many of them out there – but they remain an attractive proposition for those who want a luxurious, usable car for not too much money. This version of the S-class perhaps marked a watershed moment in Mercedes-Benz history, being among the last cars built to a standard rather than cost. I’ve written before about my love for the short wheelbase, six cylinder version, the 300SE. Though generally less desirable (and therefore cheaper) than the V8 420s and 560s, occasionally a really nice one pops up for sale with a higher price tag attached.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE on Raleigh, NC Craigslist

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1986 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL

4I have an itch to buy a W126. Yesterday I test drove a 420SEL that popped up for sale on my local Craigslist (not today’s car – we’ll get to that in a moment). The one I drove was offered at a fair price and when I noticed that it was parked only a few blocks away from my house, I felt obliged to take a look. I had never driven an SEL before. Here are my first impressions: 1. They really are huge. The hood alone seemed to stretch out for miles in front of me. I dreaded to think how far back the trunk extended. “What a nightmare this must be to park in the city,” I thought to myself, as I delicately threaded the car through DC morning traffic. 2. They look glorious in person, even when a bit dinged up, as this one was. 3. When you push down on the throttle you don’t so much surge forward, as waft gently toward the horizon on a magic carpet of dignified torque. Despite being smitten with the car I let it go in the end, concluding that, with snow and ice season just around the corner, I couldn’t justify picking up a RWD, nose-heavy V8 as a daily driver. But I did spend the afternoon gazing wistfully at other 420s for sale on the internet. That’s how I stumbled across this lovely, low mileage example for sale in Florida.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1986 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL on eBay

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1993 Mercedes-Benz 300SE

W1401

You spend a billion dollars on developing a car, it better be damn good. That’s what Mercedes-Benz was faced with when debuting the W140 S-Class. It had to every bit as good as the legendary W126 it was replacing and more. When it launched in 1991, opinions were mixed. Some say it was the last great over-engineered Mercedes that was built without cost in mind. Others say it wasn’t attractive with it’s body panels that look like slabs. Either way, 25 years later these cars still have me amazed at what it took to get this car — along with all of it’s advancements — into the hands of buyers who were willing to pay over 25% more than the W126 it replaced.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1993 Mercedes-Benz 300SE on eBay

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