While the M5 may have the notoriety of being the first serious super performance sedan, it’s easy to forget that Mercedes-Benz really started the trend. As early as the 1930s, Mercedes-Benz was building some of the fastest large cars in the marketplace. They were expensive, complicated, and beautiful works of engineering. It took a while post-war for both the marketplace and the company to come back to full strength, but two cars created in the midst of an international oil crisis I really think point towards the character of their respective companies. First was BMW’s hard-edged, barely disguised racer for the road, the 3.0CSL – which we sort of just looked at. It was expensive, relatively lightweight, stunning to look at and pretty quick to boot – a sporting nature that would carry through to the current generation of BMWs, still considered the benchmark in sporting sedans. On the other side of the fence was the 450SEL 6.9; who else but Mercedes-Benz would put the largest production V8 into a sedan when there was a gas crisis? If the 3.0 shouted about it’s racing prowess, the Mercedes was subtle and understated. Indeed, option number 261 even removed the displacement badge on the rear, and outside of that you’d only see hints of the car’s performance by the bulging tires and slightly more showy exhaust. But stomp on the loud pedal and the best part of 290 horsepower was on tap for you – and this was 1975. Remember 1975? It was when the base Corvette had 165 horsepower and if you wanted to just break 200, the L-82 was your only option at 205 horsepower. A full 40% more powerful, the Benz was the match for sports cars of the day in a straight line but offered extreme luxury at the same time:
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