Double anniversary for young classic legend dating back 25 years
The Mercedes-Benz E 500 high-performance saloon celebrates two special moments that took place 25 years ago: in March 1994, a special model limited to 500 units is presented at the Geneva Motor Show. In October 1994, the Stuttgart-based brand hands over the ten thousandth E 500 built since its premiere in 1990 to a customer. And not just any customer ─ former Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 racing driver Hans Herrmann! Today, ALL TIME STARS, the Mercedes-Benz Classic dealer, always includes cars of the legendary model type in its portfolio. The V8 saloon with sports car performance has long been a particularly coveted Mercedes-Benz young classic.
Stuttgart. This vehicle fits its first owner like a tailor-made suit: on 10 October 1994 ─ 25 years ago ─ Mercedes-Benz hands over the ten thousandth E 500 high-performance saloon to Hans Herrmann.
The E 500 also causes a stir at the Geneva Motor Show from 10 to 20 March 1994, where Mercedes-Benz showcases the E 500 Limited special model, which as the name suggests, is limited to 500 units. The special finish is available in either sapphire black or brilliant silver. Highlights include alloy wheels styled in the design of the 190 E 2.5-16 Evolution II wheel set and a customised interior colour scheme (grey, green or red leather, black bird’s-eye maple or burr walnut trim).
This exquisite package makes an already fascinating automobile even more desirable. And that’s exactly what the brochure says: “It’s just a good feeling to know that there are only 499 other aficionados who can call this car their own.” In addition to the performance and luxury equipment on board, the E 500 Limited also meets the highest of safety standards, with airbags for the driver and front passenger, an anti-slip control system (ASR) and an anti-lock braking system (ABS). “After all, although it is extremely sporty, it is a Mercedes through and through. Albeit quite an extraordinary one,” the brochure claims 25 years ago.
High-performance vehicle in a tailor-made suit
The success story of the E 500 begins at the Paris Motor Show from 4 to 14 October 1990. It is here that Mercedes-Benz presents its new top model of the 124 model series in the upper mid-range segment ─ which has been a success since 1984 ─ sporting a 5.0-litre V8 engine and marketed as the 500 E. On the outside, the240 kW (326 hp) car (as of October 1992, 235 kW / 320 hp) can only be distinguished from its sister models at second glance. The slightly more pronounced wing arches, a body that sits 23 millimetres lower and the modified front apron with recessed fog lights designate it as a top model. One could even say that the 500 E is a high-performance vehicle in a tailor-made suit.
Where the saloon car really sets itself apart from the other models in the series is, of course, its performance. Fitted with the four-speed automatic transmission as a standard feature, the 500 E accelerates to 100 km/h in just 5.9 seconds and hits a (limited) top speed of 250 km/h. The M 119 four-valve V8 engine with a displacement of 4,973 cubic centimetres differs from the 500 SL version in part by the electronically controlled Bosch LH-Jetronic injection system with hot-wire air mass measurement, which was used in this car for the very first time. The engine block has also been modified compared to the sports car to have the same deck height as the 4.2-litre V8 engine.
Automotive magazine “Road & Track” writes in its 5/1992 issue: „The 500 E is a magnificent high-performance sedan that’s heavy on the visceral. It looks right (low slung, intimidating, but not showy, like the AMG Hammer or Mercedes’ own 600 SEL”. It sounds great (nothing beats the thunder of a big V8). It goes sinfully fast for a family 4-door (155 mph, electronically limited). It has everything you’d expect in a Mercedes. And a few things you wouldn’t. Mostly, gobs of horsepower and an attitude that says … well, you know the word.”)
E-Class premiere and young classic legend
The Mercedes-Benz 500 E is made by Porsche in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen on behalf of Mercedes-Benz. The sports car manufacturer has already accompanied the project during its development. And in series production, where capacity is available at that time, Porsche takes over assembly of the vehicles. To this end, the Mercedes-Benz plant in Sindelfingen builds and paints the body-in-white and ships it with components from the Sindelfingen and Untertürkheim plants for final assembly in Zuffenhausen. The comparatively small unit quantity of the 500 E also fits in very well with Porsche’s production processes.
In 1993, the 500 E is the last model of the 124 model series to receive a facelift. It is also the premiere of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class ─ the brand with the star’s future entry in the upper mid-range segment. The E-Class name likewise brings with it a change in model designation, whereby the 500 E becomes the new E 500. At the same time, the facelift entails a revisited design, which includes an integrated radiator, colourless turn signal cover lenses at the front, two-tone covers for the rear lamps and modified lines at the rear.
When production of the E-Class 124 model series ends in 1995, the E 500 is phased out as well. Since then, the Mercedes-AMG top models in particular have continued the tradition of these sports saloon cars that embody the highest standards of performance and driving experience in the Mercedes-Benz product range. As early as 1995, however, many customers regret not having purchased their own high-performance saloon.
Today, the 500 E and E 500 are amongst the most coveted young classics of the brand with the star and really put on a show at classic automotive events. In September 2018, for example, at the eleventh Hamburg-Berlin Classic Rally, an E 500 Limited from the company’s own Mercedes-Benz Classic vehicle collection is ready to roll.
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