There is nearly always a “sweet spot” for everything. Not too little, but not too much. That perfect blend of everything. In the car world, having a sweet spot is something we’ve been chasing since Carl Benz back in ’86, 1886, made a little 3-wheel buggy that changed the world forever as we know it. From that point forward, it’s almost always been something that doesn’t make it perfect. It has to be reliable, safe, durable, make good power, look good, return good MPGs, be comfortable, and not cost a million bucks to fix. Well, good luck finding a car to do all that. Unless, of course…
The 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300SE. The last of the W126. For some, the pinnacle of all cars. Enough power to get out of its own way, won’t kill you in a crash, gets over 20 MPG with ease, and built to last literally a million miles. Nothing on this car will bankrupt you if something fails, none of the parts are too expensive, and basically anyone can work on this car if you are capable enough to actually work on cars. This example up for bid in Arizona is one of the better 300SEs I’ve seen come up for sale in a long time. It has just over 75,000 miles and is clean like you wouldn’t believe. I’m not just talking about the interior, either.
Last week I went on and on about a beautiful 1970 Mercedes-Benz 280SE and how it was quintessential classic Mercedes styling and durability. Timeless is a word that maybe comes to mind, but no car person will ever look at that the W108 and not be able to tell it was the late 1960s or early 1970s. Maybe that is a part of the aura around it. It’s a car old enough to have grand children but still water skied on weekends when the knees were feeling good. The W108 and W109 didn’t wither away, they felt every bit as good as they did forty years ago if you kept up on them. Today, I wanted to look at another car that came just before that 1970 280SE and still has that classic Mercedes feel, the W111 220SEb Coupe.
The 220SEb was the top of the range W111 Coupe that featured Bosch fuel injection as opposed to twin Solex carburetors found on the 220Sb. As you might have guessed, everything improved when fuel injection was added to the 2.2 liter M127. More horsepower, better acceleration, and the ability to gobble up miles. This 1962 220SEb up for sale in Chicago looks like it did exactly that. This W111 Coupe isn’t a pickled show car or museum piece. It was enjoyed thoroughly.
It seems that with every progressive generation of BMW 5-series, the gap between the outgoing M5 and the top of the line non-M 5 series narrows considerably. While there wasn’t much of a contest between the E28 M5 and E34 535i, by the end of the E34 run the 540i M Sport was – for all intents and purposes – a M5 without the S38. BMW upped the ante to 400 horsepower in the new E39 M5, once again widening the gap to the 540i model. But the successor E60 545i offered 330 horsepower with matching torque in 2003 alongside the outgoing E39 and once again the gap in performance became much smaller. That gap was made almost imperceptible in 2005, when BMW revised the E60 with the increased displacement in the N62 motor.
Now sporting 4.8 liters from the N62B48, the new “550i” now had 360 horsepower and 361 lb.ft of torque – a near match for the S62. What was perhaps more amazing was that the new N62 also nearly matched the torque of the new E60 M5’s S85 V10. But while that screaming V10 produced far more horsepower, the peak torque was reached only at 6,100 revolutions – hardly practical in your daily commute. In comparison, peak twist on the N62 came at a much more realistic 3,400 r.p.m.s, and on the fly these 550is were – and still are – seriously quick sedans. They also introduced the next generation of design language and computer technology into the 5-series. Some love the look while others lambaste the design. While it’s certainly not my favorite 5, at least it’s distinctive and different in a world full of cookie-cutter designs and dare I say I think it may look better today than it did new – perhaps a testament to its avant-garde lines. While the lust-worthy V10 captures the imagination of enthusiasts, day-to-day the 550i is likely as fast 95% of the time and much cheaper to get into and run. Couple that with a host of Dinan upgrades and you’ll easily surprise M owners for half the price of the V10:
1999 was the first year of the new 911, and it’s been a debate ever since. But Porsche had to move forward from the air-cooled design ultimately, and the new 911 Carrera was happy to pick up the pieces. The smoothed out styling made the 911 more aerodynamic yet was instantly recognizable as being from Porsche. So, too, was the exhaust note; a flat-6 still powered the best from Stuttgart, but now it was water-cooled instead of air-cooled.
The Carrera 2 and Carrera 4 shared a 3.4 liter variant of the flat-6, the M96. Out of the box, these cars had 300 horsepower – a number that a Turbo would have been happy with only a decade earlier. VarioCam assisted the motor in both being smooth in its power delivery and, unlike the Turbos of yore, that power was available in most of the tachometer. 0-60 was gone in 5 seconds and flat-out, even the drop-tops could do 165 mph. They were comfortable, fast sports cars that were capable in the tradition of the company. And today, they are without doubt the most affordable way to get into the 911 range.
Those first 1999 911s came in Carrera 2 form meaning rear-drive only as Carrera 4s rolled out a bit later, but you could opt for either a Coupe or this car, a convertible Cabriolet. The Cabriolet stickered at $74,460, but in typical Porsche fashion as you added in options the price went up quickly. But today, these cars offer a great entré into Porsche 911 ownership:
Porsche has never been one to shy away from offering a special edition of any of their cars, and that goes double for the 911. It seems as though virtually every few months some new, ultra-limited variant of the GT3, GT2 or Turbo comes splashing into the news feeds and headlines of every German car enthusiast. But occasionally, Porsche does have something important to commemorate, and when it came to 2014 they had a particularly impressive opportunity.
2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Porsche 911, a car so entrenched in the ethos of sporting automobiles that it’s the mechanical equivalent of the Queen of England. Sure, the 911 hasn’t always been the best, brightest or fastest – but, it’s seemingly always been there and often it has been the superlative. So to celebrate 50 years of production, Porsche introduced a very beautiful and pure example of the 911, devoid of the flash and spoilers that often catch headlines.
Subtle was the key to the 911 50th. It was rear-drive, yet had the wide body from the Carrera 4S. It was lowered 10mm like the GTS, and had different black/chrome accents both front and rear. It wore a variation on the theme of the 2010 Sport Classic’s Fuchs-inspired wheels, here with a machined with black accent finish. Inside a choice of special houndstooth or tartan on the seats, with original 901-inspired gauges and the choice between the excellent PDK dual-clutch 7-speed or a 7-speed manual. Porsche’s Powerkit bumped power up to 430 for good measure, and the outside was draped in Graphite Gray Metallic or the even more gorgeous Geyser Grey Metallic seen here. It made for one stunning package: