The inline six E-class has been one of Mercedes-Benz' most popular cars in history. The combination of balance, smoothness, power, economy, reliability, value, and solid luxury has made it a favorite since its inception in 1986. Sedan sales of 100,733 attest to the following this car had with the public.


Priced in the mid $40k's when new, this car in any of its iterations comes standard with leather, zebrano wood, and a host of standard luxury fitments that are expected on a car of this caliber.


The early 300E was available with either a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission. This made it one of the few cars Mercedes has ever sent to the US with a manual option. An overwhelming majority were automatics and the manual option was discontinued after a short time.


Curb weight ran from 3195lbs for the early 300E to 3525lbs for the later E320. Tires were the W124 standby of 195/65/15.


"The 300E is as close to a perfect used car as you'll find on the market today."  Automobile Magazine April 1999

"The 1986 300E outperformed the 380 and 500 engined S-Class cars plus the contemporary Porsche 944 and IROC Z28 Camaro. A 300E is your best overall buy in a used Mercedes-Benz. Period. End of discussion."  Illustrated Mercedes-Benz Buyer's Guide by Frank Barrett


Mercedes Benz 3.0 Liter Inline SOHC 6 Cylinder Powerplant
The M103 3.0 liter inline 6 engine in the 1986-1992 300E's displaced 2962cc's or 180.8 cubic inches. While in SOHC 2 valve per cylinder trim it made 177 horsepower @ 5700rpm and 188 lb-ft of torque @4400rpm. The 24 valve DOHC 3.0L motor of the CE(coupe) made 217HP @ 6400rpm and 195lb ft of torque @ 4600rpm. In 1993 model year the E-class got a new inline six. This new M104 engine displaced 3190cc's and with a 10:1 compression ratio made 217HP @ 5500rpm and 229lb-ft @ 3750rpm. The new DOHC 24 valve engine had variable valve timing on the intake cams and a tuned resonance intake manifold to spread torque over the rpm band while actually improving fuel economy.


Zero to sixty is about 8.3 seconds for the older 300E and 8 seconds flat for the E320. The manual version of the 300E was able to make 60 in 7.8 seconds. The early 300E's had a 3.07 rear differential to make up for the lack of low end torque while the E320 made due with a 2.65 ratio. Top speed for the 300E was 137 automatic and 140 manual. The later E320's, although capable of more, were electronically limited to 130mph. EPA fuel economy ratings of 19/25 for the 300E and 20/26 for the E320 made it a wonderful compromise between performance and economy.


Driving Impressions
The early 300E's with either transmission is an instant favorite. These cars posses a handling feel that is almost unrivaled in the Mercedes Benz lineup. The tossable, nimble, almost 4-door go-kart feel is truly a joy. The fact that this is coupled with a wonderfully smooth ride and precise steering make the driving experience that much more enjoyable.
You may not be going any faster than the V8's but you are sure having a helluva lot more fun! The balanced handling "feel" of the 300E is very rewarding no matter what kind of driver you are. Short gearing and a willing, rev happy engine, make spirited driving easy for even the most timid novice. The neutral handling is forgiving of any boneheaded driver input yet allows for very impressive performance. Later E320's add more power but lose a small bit of the handling feel that is part of the charm of this breed. The real appeal of these cars is the total package they offer. After spending only a short time behind the wheel of either of these cars it is easy to see why they remain a staple in the Mercedes-Benz lineup.  - Lee Scheeler