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Feature Listing: 1981 Mercedes-Benz 280E

I give a lot of love to the Mecedes-Benz W123 and rightfully so, some think it is the best car ever produced. A few even claim that in these Benz models will be the only survivors of in a post-apocalyptic world. I’m not one to argue as I own a 1983 240D and drive it on a regular basis. It is far from perfect and has it flaws, but when I’m driving down the road in it I can’t help but think how satisfied I am in it. When I really think about it, my most my complaints are from the powerplant in the 240D. Sure, it is as dead simple and reliable as the day is long. But on the other hand it is loud, not that smooth, is dangerously under powered at times and leaves a film of diesel residue from the exhaust on the interior when I drive with the windows down. (I’m sure that isn’t great for my lungs either.) The 5-cylinder OM617 solves some of the problems, but it is still unrefined at times. So what are the other options then? How about a silky smooth inline-6? Luckily, Mercedes-Benz offered that option in the W123 and while not nearly as common as the diesel cars, they are still out there.

This 1981 280E for sale in Maryland offers up that inline-6 option. It has everything great about the W123 but also a 2.8 liter that makes a very respectable 185 horsepower! This is a far cry from the 84 horsepower in the 240D and the 125 horsepower in the 300D. The M110 engine uses a Bosch K-Jetronic injection system that is reliable, not overly complicated and though it won’t return diesel-level gas mileage, it won’t break your wallet either.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1981 Mercedes-Benz 280E on Hemmings

Year: 1981
Model: 280E
Engine: 2.8 liter Inline-6
Transmission: 4-speed automatic
Mileage: 140,531 mi
Price: $9,900

Rare 1981 Mercedes-Benz 280E offered in Anthracite Grey Metallic with black interior. This iconic W123 series sedan is powered by a straight-six gasoline engine mated to an automatic transmission. This car is a joy to drive, offering the wonderful ride and handling of the W123 series sports sedan, which really awakens with the smooth-revving straight-six gasoline engine.

The M110 series engine displaces 2.8 liters and features fuel injection and double overhead cams, providing maximim torque at 4500 rpm, peak horsepower at 6000 rpm, on the way to a 6500 rpm redline. The engine starts instantly and idles, accelerates, and cruises effortlessly. This M110 series engine is legendary for its reliability and powered a wide range of Mercedes-Benz automobiles in the 1970s and 1980s including the 280SL convertible, the 280CE coupe, the 280GE Gelandewagen, in addition to providing power for the 280E sports sedan. The transmission is a 4-speed automatic that shifts flawlessly

The paint looks beautiful and is a classic understated Mercedes-Benz color called Anthracite Grey Metallic (color code 172). There are several scratches and minor paint blemishes. The exterior of this car has been well-cared for, and there are only minor rust spots apparent just to the aft of the left front fender and on the underside of each rear rocker panel just behind the rear wheels. These areas are disclosed in the photographs.

The interior is comfortable with seating for five passengers. The seats are upholstered in the original black MB Tex that looks like new. Both the driver’s and the front passenger’s seats are 10-way adjustable. Real wood accents adorn the dash. A period Blaupunkt AM/FM stereo receiver with cassette deck powers front and rear speakers. The power antenna raises and lowers automatically or via a manual switch on the console. Cruise control and power locks are installed but not functional. Power windows operate at all four corners, as does the power sunroof. Air conditioning is ice cold. The original first aid kit is still nestled in the parcel shelf.

This car rides on independent front and rear suspensions with anti-sway bars, coil springs and Sachs dampers. It rolls on 14-inch Bundt-style alloy wheels with new tires in the stock size of 195/70R14. A full-sized spare tire, mounted on a matching alloy wheel is secured in the truck floor, along with the original wheel jack and lug wrench.

This sale offers an opportunity to drive one of Mercedes-Benz’ best sport sedans, in a rare low-mileage original example.

For a contemporary review of this sedan when it first came out in 1977, follow the link below to the March 1977 issue of Motor Sport Magazine:

This 1981 has a great color combination of Anthracite Grey Metallic with rare black MB-Tex interior. The rest of the interior presents well with wood trim that looks to be in good condition and even more impressive, a crack-free dash. The seller goes over the majority of the strong points in their ad description and highlights a few bright spots like a functional and cold air conditioner, power windows and a power sunroof. The exterior of the car shines well with bright paint and extremely clean Bundt wheels, although it does have some typical W123 rust spots. Under the hood, the M110 looks tidy without anything out-of-place or strange going on. The car presents as a nicely sorted driver. The clean presentation highlights the elegant and reserved yet simple nature of the W123 well.

At the end of the day, you can’t really go wrong with a W123. But if you aren’t the kind of person who wants to the deal with the maintenance and inherent problems of owning an old diesel, this is a great option to get classic Mercedes kicks on an budget.

– Andrew


  1. GWG
    GWG October 27, 2017

    I love those cars and one day won’t be able to resist a 280CE or TE. I think the US models had less than 185hp though – I thought it was around 155. Very different to drive than the diesels, too, as these engines want revs to really sing and develop their full Hp and torque above 4000rpm.

  2. Brian Z
    Brian Z October 27, 2017

    I love these too, much harder to find than the diesel version. A manual transmission would make this fantastic.

  3. Eddie
    Eddie October 28, 2017

    If this is a US version, it made just 142 hp…

  4. BrianZ
    BrianZ November 7, 2017

    What do you all think about the asking price? Considering the rust issues I believe price is high by about $3,500-4,000.

  5. dharmendra jani
    dharmendra jani November 30, 2017

    i have a w140 and am planning to make it road worthy again any help and support will be appreciated
    thank you and greetings from mumbai india
    dharmendra jani

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