If you want a reliable, low-key and classy way to ferry around a bunch of people and their stuff, there are few options out there better than the W124 estate. You get all the virtues of the W124 sedan – impeccable 80’s era Mercedes build quality, classic styling and an over-engineered chassis offering good levels of safety and comfort – with the extra cargo space and versatility of a longroof. And since these cars were often bought new by wealthy, practically minded people, who saw fit to invest in them rather than sell them on, it’s still possible to find mint condition examples that have been meticulously maintained by their former owners. This low-mileage 300TE appears to be such a car.
Growing up, I never really understood the appeal of wagons, or “estates” as we called them in England. The triumph of sensibleness and practicality over style, they didn’t seem particularly cool or desirable. Instead, they were for posh people in the countryside who owned big dogs. But as I’ve gotten older, and particularly since I moved to America, something has changed. Not only do I find myself needing to carry around a lot more stuff these days, but wagons have become, well, cool. No longer the staple of the staid upper classes, they’re for the person who needs the extra space of an SUV or a minivan but says “f-that, I’m not ready to give up on life just yet.” And there are some seriously cool wagons around these days. On a recent trip home to London, the first sight greeting me in the car park at Heathrow was that of an F11 530d M-Sport, B8 S4 Avant and an E63 AMG estate, all lined up next to each other. It’s as if somebody was trying to make a point.
The E39 Touring, already a fairly handsome car, looks especially good when specified with the M-sport package, as here. This particular 540i represents the top of the range and not only has it been blessed with M exterior styling and sport suspension, as an added bonus the current owner has gone to the trouble of retrofitting a 6-speed manual transmission from an M5, turning this into a quick, capable and seriously cool longroof.
The sight of a W123 wagon on the road never fails to bring a smile to my face. It’s a testament to the durability of these cars that they can still be seen today doing exactly what their designers intended forty years ago, chugging along faithfully and reliably, hauling stuff around. We’ve seen nice, well-kept examples fetch between $10K and $20k over the last few years. As a result, a lot of the nicer ones have been snapped up by rich hipsters (it’s not for nothing that many of them have ended up in Brooklyn). That’s a shame because these were always the workhorses of the Mercedes lineup and the hike in their value has put them out of the reach of those who just want a cheap, no-frills hauler.
That makes this particular car, suggested to us by our reader Don, all the more refreshing. While the mileage is low, the car is certainly not mint, and the somewhat tired but perfectly usable condition will help to keep the price of this one on the affordable side.
We knew the onslaught of E30 wagons was coming, but that doesn’t change the entertainment with which we watch these attractive but rarely seen (in the USA) longroofs. We’ve seen them imported through several channels, but this is the first Allrad, or four wheel drive, version I’ve seen. The 325ix seems like a great option to me for colder climes, as it would allow plenty of fun and stand out against the Audis and Subarus. The slushbox is a bummer and always seems like a silly choice on an E30, but the combination of rare wagon form, four wheel drive, and overall cleanliness with low miles makes it easier to overlook. It’s a little harder to overlook the price, which is dangerously close to E30 M3 territory, and would seem to open the door to find a good manual version across the Atlantic to bring over yourself. If you’re ready right now though, this is in great shape for an E30 of any iteration, let alone such a unique combo.