Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3, 450 SEL 6.9 and 500 E: Stardust

Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3, 450 SEL 6.9 and 500 E: Stardust

Three heavy duty limousines - symbols of technical excellence for over three decades

Each of these three models Mercedes is the epitome of the ideal fast and comfortable car that is considered to be the master of its decade. It's time to meet the 6.3, 6.9 and 500 E - timeless characters from the brand's golden past with a three-pointed star in the emblem.

Three cars, each of which is difficult to compare with anything. Three elite limousines combining different and special. With a lot of power, a small size for the usual Mercedes series, a discreet appearance and, most importantly, really unusual characters. Three massive sedans that do not rely on muscle display but on timeless, simple elegance. At first glance, they are almost identical to their regular counterparts; they roll off assembly lines in impressive quantities. If these three Mercedes models can handle the 250 SE, 350 SE and 300 E, the chances of impressing you with something exceptional are very slim. Only connoisseurs will find small but important differences that turn 250 SE into 300 SEL 6.3, 350 SE into 450 SEL 6.9 and 300 E into 500 E. The wheelbase extended by ten centimeters in the two S-Classes can only be seen with the naked eye. .

Perhaps the clearest difference is at 500 E. He emphasizes his special status with a certain amount of narcissism. And there's a reason for that, because it literally puts (almost) every S-Class in its pocket. The car differs from other brethren in addition to convex fenders at the front and rear, as well as standard almond-shaped fog lamps integrated into the front spoiler. Discreet sophistication compared to the standard 300 E is also emphasized by the wipers - the 500 E is the only member of the W 124 family in which they come as standard.

The 450 SEL 6.9 also allows itself the luxury of a slightly different front end layout than the 350 SE. The same is the case with the rear head restraints, which are classified 6.9 and 500 E.

The most obvious feature of the 300 SEL 6.3 is completely different. The standard Fuchs wheels are immediately noticeable and have been selected for optimum brake cooling rather than aesthetic considerations. Other small details by which you may recognize it are the tiny tachometer on the dashboard, as well as the chrome-plated automatic transmission control stick console - the 6.3 was never available with a manual transmission. The sophisticated air suspension system, the wide rear doors and the windshield-framed windshield are undoubtedly wonderful things, but we can also find them in the 300 SEL 3.5 - the civilian counterpart 6.3. The car itself owes its existence to the engineer Erich Waxenberger, who decided to introduce the V8 engine of the top model 600 under the hood of the W111 Coupé and drove many unforgettable kilometers with it. Rudolf Uhlenhout, head of research and development, was delighted with the project and quickly decided that the 300 SEL was the ideal base for a similar concept model.

And where is 560 SEL?

Don't we miss the Mercedes 560 SEL? Objectively speaking, it would be the perfect transition from the heavy brilliance of the 6.9 to the timeless simple elegance of the 500 E. It also definitely doesn't lack power, but with 73 copies running, it's just not elite enough to enter the version club. produced less than 945 10 units. In addition, 000 SEL brings to the S-Class an armada of revolutionary technological innovations, but at the same time remains without a sports version.

500 E, which, according to the logic of that time, in the designation of the brand's models could be called 300 E 5.0, in turn, since its inception, has become a real myth, in which, by the way, actively participates Porsche.

The first touch of the 300 SEL 6.3 makes us clearly understand that this car is not what we expect from it, but a super-comfortable flying carpet without dynamic ambition. Incredible, but true - its power is expressed not only in cultivation, but its automatic transmission has other qualities in addition to comfort.

6.3 - the charm of imperfection

Anyone who has ever driven a 3,5-liter version of the model will be amazed at what the 6.3-liter version is capable of, despite all the undeniable similarities between the two cars. Harmony is not the highest goal here, but the car seems incomparably more direct and sporty, as if it wants to bring the world of racers to the luxury class. The turning radius is phenomenal for a five-meter sedan, and the slender steering wheel with an inner ring for the horn is many times straighter than meets the eye. This does not mean that the S-Class has turned into a rough racer. The feeling of spaciousness and the view from the driver's seat in 6.3 is absolutely adorable - the very sight of a three-pointed star rising from the long front cover located between the curved fenders is enough to feel overwhelmed. It's a panoramic view that's hard to find anywhere else, and in the foreground you can see the sheen of polished walnut veneer, chrome switches and elegantly shaped controls. Well, the latter would be even more beautiful if they also had a large 600 tachometer. On the left, in the driver's legroom, is the manual ride height adjustment lever - a typical feature of the air suspension versions, which later on 6.9 with its hydropneumatic system, it becomes a filigree lever on the steering column.

When driving with a lot of gasoline, the 250 SE more and more clearly begins to remind that it was his technique that was taken as a basis for the creation of 6.3. The raw V-XNUMX sounds closer to its not always tactical V-XNUMX cousin, and you can see the twitching when shifting gears with the four-speed automatic. Air suspension has advantages over the traditional design of the base models not so much in comfort, but especially in the field of road safety, because with it the car remains unshakable in almost any situation. Above 3500 rpm 6.3 finally casts the 250 SE into the shadows. If you decide to use the gear lever and shift gears manually, you will be surprised how quickly this V8 revs up with its huge amount of thrust. Despite some subtle trappings of luxury, after running 6.3 km, an ascetic sports sedan is felt more and more - noisy and unrestrained. Where is the Porsche 911 S now, with which this mastodon competed on the tracks?

Finished Perfection: 6.9

With its hard-to-reach perfection, the 450 SEL 6.9 differs significantly from the improvisation that follows from 6.3. Because this car was way ahead of its time. The style is fully consistent with the spirit of the new decade, the sound of closing doors has become even more solid, and the space inside is even more impressive. The pursuit of better passive safety has made changes not only to the exterior, but also to the interior of the car. Here, above all, functionality and clarity prevail - only the nut root brings nobility. Passengers sit on the seats, not on them, and the surrounding plastic landscape may not create just home comfort, but extremely high quality. The automatic transmission console has been preserved, but there are only three steps. Thanks to the modern hydraulic torque converter, gear changes at 3000 rpm are relatively unnoticeable. It is at these speeds that a maximum torque of 560 Nm is achieved, which accelerates the highly cultivated 6.9 at an incredible speed. All you have to do is push the accelerator pedal a little harder, and the heavy limousine will turn into a kind of rocket. On the other hand, 6.3 subjectively seems more dynamic and lively - because its immediacy is so much more palpable than its sophisticated and incredibly comfortable successor. In addition, the additional 36 horsepower from the K-Jetronic M 100 equipped with a modern fuel injection system does not feel much, since the new model is much heavier. However, there is no doubt that the extended transitions from 6.9 points are overcome much less than from 6.3. The car is definitely not a champion in fast corners, although the new rear axle makes it significantly more predictable and easier to drive compared to the 6.3. Up to 4000 rpm, the 6.9 is extremely polite and almost indistinguishable from the refined demeanor of the 350 SE - the real difference is just above that limit.

Peerless car

Mercedes 500 E is a representative of the W124 generation - with all the positive aspects of this fact. And yet, in character, he is radically different from all his fellows. Even the 400 E doesn't come close in character to the flagship, with its V8 with four valves per cylinder, four camshafts and 326 horsepower. The 500 E seems incredibly powerful and yet so subtle in its manners - by adding the excellent acoustics of its VXNUMX engine, the picture becomes a reality.

500 E: almost perfect

Are you going to use it for dynamic city driving, for chasing someone BMW An M5 on a mountain road, or on vacation in Italy - the 500 E is equally well prepared for each of these challenges. This is an extraordinary versatile talent that is so close to absolute perfection that it is almost incredible. Against him, even the omnipotent 6.9 ceases to seem so elusive. The 500 E boasts an extremely modern chassis design and customization by Porsche, and the result is stunning - excellent handling, great brakes and excellent driving comfort. That being said, the car is not as soft as the 6.9, it is an ideal vehicle with a large boot and huge interior space, which thanks to the 2,80 meter wheelbase is comparable to the 300 SEL 6.3 wheelbase. In addition, the aluminum V8 is impressively efficient, delivering a 500E temperament far superior to the 6.3 and 6.9. The top speed is 250 km / h, and the four-speed automatic, if necessary, allows the engine to develop 6200 rpm. The only thing we would like from this car is a five-speed automatic transmission with slightly longer gears. Because the RPM at 500 E is, in most cases, one idea higher than necessary - as with 300 E-24. Another thing that we at least partially changed is the style in the interior - yes, the ergonomics and quality are top notch, and the leather upholstery and noble wood appliqués offered as an alternative to the standard checkered textiles do look great, but the atmosphere remains very intimate. to each other W124. Which doesn't change the fact that this is one of the best cars ever made.


Editor Alf Kremers: Until recently, I can say without hesitation that my choice - 6.9 - is practically the only Mercedes model of its kind. The 500 E is a terrific machine, but at least for my taste, it looks too close to the 300 E-24. This time, the real discovery for me is called the 6.3 - a car with inimitable charisma, stemming from perhaps the most impressive stylistic era of Mercedes.

Text: Alf Kremers

Photo: Dino Eisele

technical details

Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 (Out of 109)Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 (Out of 116)Mercedes-Benz 500 E (W 124)
Working volume6330 cc6834 cc4973 cc
Power250 k.s. (184 kW) at 4000 rpm286 k.s. (210kW) at 4250 rpm326 k.s. (240 kW) at 5700 rpm


510 Nm at 2800 rpm560 Nm at 3000 rpm480 Nm at 3900 rpm

0-100 km / h

7,9 s7,4 s6,5 s
Braking distances

at a speed of 100 km / h

no datano datano data
Maximum speed225 km / h225 km / h250 km / h
Average consumption

fuel in the test

21 l / 100 km23 l / 100 km14 l / 100 km
Base Price€ 79 (in Germany, comp. 000)€ 62 (in Germany, comp. 000)€ 38 (in Germany, comp. 000)


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