The Mercedes-Benz 400E/E420 is lost in the world of W124s where 500Es and Cabriolets get all the attention with their astronomical asking prices and the lowly 300E/E320 limp along on their 8th owners begging to be put out of their misery. These cars were no slouch and still can hold their own 275 horsepower and 300 ft·lb of torque. They aren’t super sedans by any means, but feel significantly faster than their numbers on paper. Now, the 400E/E420 flys under the radar and is often unloved because if you are going to buy a M119-powered car, the W140 and R129 or maybe even W210 might be better choices in the long run if you are going to put some money into it. Today, we have a 1993 400E up for sale in Tampa, Florida that looks to be one of the best examples I’ve seen come up for sale in a long time. Even better, this one comes in with a price to match it.
Back to big Audis! The early 1990s were, as I’ve described in the past two posts, a period of change for the Ingolstadt firm as they closed down production on the Type 44 to introduce its new replacement, the C4. That led to a dizzying assortment of models from the one chassis. There was the aforementioned 100 and 100 quattro. You could move up to two turbocharged models, too – the 200 Turbo gave you 165 horsepower through the front wheels, and the new-and-only-for-91 in the U.S. was 200 20V quattro. Europe and the rest of the world got even more options; production lasted right up through 2006 in parts of China, where they even made a crazy long-wheel base 4-door convertible version of the Hongqi.
But the top of the heap for the U.S. market was a derivative of the Type 44, the D11 chassis. Of course, that was Audi’s foray into the top-tier luxury market with its new all-aluminum 32 valve double-overhead cam V8. Body revisions to the front and rear along with flared fenders made the V8 quattro seem like a completely different car to the slab-sided 100. V8s had, and have, serious presence. Big news, too, was that for the first time Audi was able to match its all-wheel drive quattro setup with a new 4-speed automatic transmission.
For die-hard Audi faithful, though, for a short while you could still opt to row-your-own with the 240 horsepower 3.6 liter V8 singing to your right foot. These manual V8 quattros are legendary because of their rarity and that they are the only car Audi brought to market with twin Torsen differentials. The combination of a more rearward weight bias, big and instant torque from the V8 and those clever diffs made for one of the best driving experiences in a big sedan from Audi:
The W126 and W140 Mercedes-Benz 420SEL/400SEL/S420 cars have always been lost in the crowd a little bit thanks to big brother 560SEL/500SEL/S500 and even bigger brother 600SEL/S600. There is nothing really wrong with these cars and in the W140s case, the S420 uses the same M119 engine as the five-liter S500. When new, you saved about $13,000 when you selected the S420 over the S500 and in exchange you gave up about 50 horsepower and gained a whopping one mile gallon in fuel economy on the highway. Today, none of this really matters because any car without 500 horsepower might as well not even show up and 22 miles per gallon is considered poor fuel economy. Such is life.
Today, I wanted to look at one of these forgotten S420s and this example in Virginia is one of the better ones I’ve seen over the years. This 1999 checks in with a little over 120,000 with no real issues or anything to be concerned about. The price? Actually pretty reasonable.
Last week I checked out a 2011 Mercedes-Benz E550 Coupe and broke down how even though Mercedes calls it an E-Class Coupe, it was about 80% W204 C-Class and 20% W212 E-Class. This isn’t a new thing as Mercedes has been doing this for a few generations now and today we have another example of this in a 2002 CLK55 AMG up for sale in South Carolina. This W208 looks like a W210 E-Class cosmetically, but under that metal is actually the chassis of the W202 C-Class. Inside, you have a small handful of parts from the W203 C-Class and many more parts unique just to the CLK55 and not from the brother of this car, the W210 E55 AMG. Once again, buyers of this car probably had no idea of all this and probably didn’t care all that much either. C’est la vie.
In my mind, Alpina’s mystique has dimmed slightly over the past decade. Still capable of producing monsterously powerful luxury machines, the proliferation of options that are also insanely fast and luxurious has meant that the company’s original niche has become substantially more commonplace. And while it’s been awesome that Alpinas started being imported through BMW dealerships in 2007 and now offer several models to U.S. fans who can stomach the serious price tags, it also made them much less exclusive.
While products have widened over the past few years to include the 6-series, most of what Alpina sent to the U.S. market was based on the 7. The supercharged B7 was quite potent, but didn’t solve the problem of the E65’s looks all that much. Arguably, no amount of anything could do that particularly well.
But the B7’s supercharged 4.4 V8 was also available to Europeans in a (slightly) smaller package – the B5. Based on the E60, what would have started as a 330 horsepower 545i was transformed into a 500 horsepower, 500 lb.ft torque weapon. In typical fashion, Alpina revised the wheels and suspension, exhaust and interior, and of course added body kits to the E60. With 133 lb feet more torque than the V10 M5 produced and at a more reasonable 4,000 rpm rather than 6,000, the B5 could actually out-accelerate the M product. 0-62 was tested to arrive in 4.6 seconds, and the fun didn’t run out until you were just 5 mph shy of 200. Best yet, you could have this speed in a wagon!
Unfortunately for U.S. fans, the B5 and even more powerful B5S weren’t imported to the U.S.. Production of the B5 was limited to only 428 sedans, and the quite believable claim is that this is the only one in the United States:
I don’t write about a lot of newer cars because honestly, I think outside of a few models, they are all pretty boring and soft. Today’s car, a 2011 Mercedes-Benz E550 Coupe, isn’t exactly the most exciting car in the world and it certainly isn’t all that rare. It is rather fast though with 382 horsepower that will get it to 60 mph in the high four second range. But that isn’t why I wanted to check out one of these. It isn’t necessarily what this E550 Coupe is, but rather what it isn’t.
Newer cars are, in general, not the subject of this page. I can walk down to any dealership just like anyone else, and provided I have a pulse, probably walk out with financing for most mid-range cars regardless of whether or not I could actually afford them. Indeed, easy credit has led to the proliferation of many of our favorite brands and cars to the point where most don’t feel all that special anymore. That $2,500 Jetta, for example, is much more rare to see today in that condition – or, at all, truthfully – compared to a new M car.
So all modern cars aren’t really all that exciting? That’s far from the truth, too, as there are many special examples that float by our feed. So while the F10 M5 isn’t a model often featured, it’s probably our loss for not doing so. It’s also easy to forget that even though it feels pretty new, the F10 has been out of production for 2 years and the earliest examples are now 7 years old. Plus, as most M5s do, the entry price point on the antiquated models has dropped considerably compared to their original MSRP, while their performance is still contemporaneous to today’s cars.
The S63B44T0 found under the hood of this particular example was good for 550 plus horsepower; not much more than the model it replaced with that wicked V10. But torque? That’s another matter. While the S85 cranked out an impressive 380 lb.ft at 6,100 rpms, the two turbos tacked onto the S63 V8 produced 500 lb.ft of torque with a curve as flat as the Salt Lake from 1,500 rpms through over 5,000. That massive power could be channeled through a manual gearbox, and it could also be outfit from BMW’s Individual arm. These are the most fun to see, albeit very rarely do they come up for sale:
The V8 quattro was notoriously innovative. It was also quite complicated (read: expensive) and therefore painfully slow selling. At a time when all European imports were suffering from the global recession, the range-topping V8 busted budgets. Introduced for the 1990 model year in the U.S., the launch year was really the only marginally successful one; just shy of 3,000 were sold between 1989 and 1990. However, even light revisions in 1991 and a major engine upgrade to 4.2 liters failed to bring buyers to dealerships. Audi sold 527 1991s, 270 1992s, 170 ’93s and a scant 78 ’94s. Statistically speaking, you’re about as likely to run across a 4.2 V8 quattro on the road as you are a BMW M1.
By 1994 there was no denying that the Type 44-derived D11 chassis was quite old. Audi admitted it themselves with the big splash of their new ASF concept in 1994 – a thoroughly modern large executive again full of innovation, this time with its extensive use of aluminum. Audi brought that design to market largely unchanged in the all new D2 A8 range. And to help keep costs in check, while the V8 quattro had only been available in one configuration each model year, Audi introduced options in the A8 range. The one that got the headlines was Audi’s signature all-aluminum 4.2 V8 mated to the all-wheel drive quattro drivetrain. But if you wanted range-topping looks and didn’t need the sure-footed nature of the quattro system, you could briefly opt out.
That’s because Audi launched a FronTrak (front-wheel drive) A8 model. Instead of the larger 4.2 model, motivation was provided by destroked 3.7 liter unit. Rated at 230 horsepower and matched only to the 5-speed automatic tiptronic and weighing the best part of 4,000 lbs., it was pretty underwhelming in just about every respect. 0-60 was a leisurely 8.3 seconds, and despite the decrease in power, the 3.7 was no less thirsty than the 4.2. While it did save you about $7,500 ($56,900 v. $64,500 base price for the 4.2) it was no surprise, then, that the bulk of Audi’s deep-pocketed fanbase chose to the 4.2 quattro model, and the base 3.7 was dropped in the 2000 model year in favor of the long wheel base model. Early A8s are hard to find – Audi sold only about 6,000 over three model years before the refresh. But 3.7 have become a bit of an oddity that are almost never seen:
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Some of my favorite cars to look at are special builds from manufactures to serve a specific purpose or person. One of those purposes is diplomat cars and all the crazy modifications they receive compared to the normal civilian version. Today, we have an already special 1978 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 that was modified for Juan Carlos I during his rule as King of Spain. This M100-powered S-Class is fully armored and a rear sunroof was added so he and his wife, Queen Sofía, could stand on the rear seats to wave at people during parades and events. This W116 was also equipped with the customary flag holders on the front fenders and a siren to alert all the mere normal citizens to get out-of-the-way. But now, Juan Carlos I is 80 years-old and while he still gets driven around in a S-Class, he also prefers some faster toys too.
After last week’s 22,000 miles Mercedes-Benz E500 that with the bidding ended at $79,800, I figured I’d check out another 90s Mercedes sedan with similar mileage that I happen to run across. This is a 1999 S420 with 24,601 miles located in Chicago. Unlike the E500, the presentation and documentation leave a lot to be desired. The mileage doesn’t lie, but when hit with a big price tag for a not-so-desirable W140, it is a tough sell to anymore who isn’t willing to dive headfirst into finding out what this car is really all about. But I’ll try to do my best with the little information and quick photos that I do have, but I make no promises.