The Sportline Factory Option
Mercedes-Benz offered an option called "Sportline" for the W201 and W124 chassis cars. This option was available in the North American market for the 1992-93 model year 190E 2.6, 1992-93 300E/300CE and 1993-95 E320/E320 Coupe. The option package included Sport Seating, wider low-profile wheels and tires, quick ratio steering, lowered ride height and a specially tuned suspension.

 

The only Sportline clues seen on this 1995 E320 Coupe are a lowered stance, 7.0 inch wide alloy wheels, low profile 205/60R15 tires and Sportline badges on the front quarter panels.

 

The Sport Seating included custom leather seating surfaces with larger side bolsters. Rear seats were 2 place buckets with a wood covered center console. This seating was identical to the standard 500E seats.

 

Sportline also featured close ratio steering with 3.0 turns lock to lock, a custom steering wheel and a Sportline badged shifter.

 

The Sportline Suspension
From a driver's perspective, the primary performance benefit of the Sportline option was derived from the tuned suspension. While several aftermarket suspension options are available to the W124 and W201 Mercedes owner, none of them compare to Sportline when it comes to maximum performance and handling with minimal ride degradation while keeping the car within published Mercedes-Benz specifications. After all, it's still 100% Mercedes!

To quote from the 1995 Mercedes sales brochure:

"A Chassis Tuned For Sport

The soul of the Sportline option package is its specially tuned suspension. The suspension includes progressive rate springs that provide increasingly firmer control as the dynamic forces of cornering take effect. With the Sportline Package, the springs also lower the ride height for a more athletic stance. Higher-rate dampers provide greater feedback and more direct response over a variety of road surfaces, while maintaining a well-controlled and comfortable ride quality."

 

The PeachParts Sportline Suspension Kit
The PeachParts team has done the research to identify all the parts necessary to convert a 300E/E300 to Sportline suspension specifications. In addition, we have sourced the OE parts and can provide the entire kit through Fastlane. Contact Phil for current pricing. These parts include the following:

Front Springs
Front Struts
Front Sway Bar
Inner Bushings
Outer Bushings
Lower Control Arm Bushing Kits
Rear Springs
Rear Shock Absorbers
Rear Sway Bar
Rear Bushings
Rear Sub-Frame Mounts

* Please be advised that we need considerable information about each car to be modified in order to select the proper parts. Such information includes year, model, engine number and complete chassis number. The last seven digits of the chassis number are critical. If you are interested in purchasing this kit, please submit a Quote Request.

 

Results - A Customer's Perspective
Regardless of what Mercedes claims in their brochures about Sportline or what we at PeachParts say on our website, the real proof is in the difference a customer experiences on their own car. Our first customer was Shop Forum member John Elliott (known as JCE in the Shop Forum). He selected an independent shop to do the installation and ordered his kit from us in early September 1999. We special ordered the components from our Mercedes parts sources in the US and Germany and shipped them to John by the end of the month. Incidentally, we are located in Georgia and John is in California so the only installation support we provided was via e-mail with the Tech doing the installation. The Tech stated that it was very straight forward but not something a non-tech should attempt in their driveway.

We received the following comments and pictures directly from John:

 

When I acquired my 87 300E, it had 55,000 miles on the odometer, and 6 1/2 year old Bridgestone Turanzas with about 1/8" tread depth remaining. The car handled well, but felt a little "tippy", as if the roll center was too high, and tended to dive excessively on braking. As seen above, the car before conversion appeared lower in the front than the rear, and seemed rather busy or oversprung in the way it it responded to rough roads and dips in the pavement. 

Rather than just replace the shocks and tires, I opted for the full Sportline conversion kit (Sportline Bilstein/MB shocks, Swaybars, springs, bushings, subframe mounts, and lower control arm mounts) from the PeachParts Fastlane. I also elected to install the thinner spring pads at this time, which were not part of the Sportline conversion kit. All the parts were installed by MB independent technician Bob Dallape at Camino Imports Auto Service in San Juan Capistrano, CA.

 

The front suspension has been stripped of everything but the shock

 

Here the old rear springs can be seen on the outside and the shorter, stiffer new rear springs inboard of them. Note the control arm in the background on the workbench.

 

The old front and rear springs are seen here outboard of the new springs. One of the old Turanza tires is visible to the right in the picture.

 

This photo shows the re-assembly of the front control arms after the new bushings were installed.

 

New Front suspension New Rear suspension

 

After the conversion, the car is visibly more level than the before picture, especially visible at the wheel wells. The height of the car was lowered by 1/4" front and rear according to my measurements.

 

Measurements

Body Height

Before: 

Rear - 8" (Ground to rubber pad on bottom of rocker panel in front of rear wheel)
Front - 7.5"
(Ground to center of hex bolt under rocker panel behind front wheel)


After:

Rear - 7.75" (Ground to rubber pad on bottom of rocker panel in front of rear wheel)
Front - 7.25"
(Ground to center of hex bolt under rocker panel behind front wheel)

Body Height - (after 205/60s)

Rear - 7.75" (Ground to rubber pad on bottom of rocker panel in front of rear wheel)
Front - 7.25"
(Ground to center of hex bolt under rocker panel behind front wheel)

 

John's Final Comments
Even though the car obviously needed an immediate wheel alignment after the conversion, the results were extremely impressive on the 5 mile drive to the alignment shop. (And impressive to the Tech, Bob - he said he would probably do the same thing to his!). Sportline specs were dialed in for the alignment (The camber set 0.4deg lower than normal, and the toe-in set to 0.2deg or 3mm ). To me, the Sportline car rode better than the original on smooth surfaces, and was very controlled over minor dips in the road. Cornering was flat, with no rolling about. The steering was very quick, and felt as if there was improved road feel. After the alignment, the car was driven on a 300 mile freeway trip, and on a 40 mile run over the Ortega Highway, a twisty 2 lane mountain road. Even with the old Bridgestones the cornering was outstanding! Overall, the car gained in cornering and road feel but, lost only about 10-20% comfort on rough roads and potholes, and gained in comfort on smooth roads and over slight dips. It also seemed as if the steering was faster and more precise. 

A week later 4 Michelin Pilot XGT V4 tires in Sportline size (205/60 VR15) were installed. The rims could have taken a 215/60, which would have more closely approximated the diameter of the OEM 195/65 tires, but the Sportline size allegedly provided an additional 1/4" lowering. However, measurement of the height difference with the new tires showed no change in height! This was surprising until I realized that a new 205/60-15 with 3/8" tread depth was probably similar in diameter to a 195/65-15 with 1/8" tread depth! 

The new tires were nearly as dramatic an improvement as the suspension modifications. Cornering improved even more, as did road feel and steering responsiveness. The comfort over rough roads and potholes improved somewhat, indicating to me that the old tires had lost a lot of elasticity. The overall differences provided by the Sportline kit are so dramatic and positive that my neighbor, after driving my car for 2 miles, asked if the kit was available for his 94 320E!

 

Selected Comments From Bob (the Tech)
"All of the parts in the kit were fine"

"As far as my driving impressions go, I was impressed with the difference in the ride.  The car was extremely flat in the turns.  I told John that I wanted to drive it again after the new tires and alignment (I did not have it aligned myself before I gave it back to John because I was under the impression he was going to the tire shop after he left my shop).  Even
though the alignment was not right, I was impressed enough to eventually install a kit like this on my own 124 body"

"All in all the kit installation went smoothly and didn't take as long as I originally thought.  However, the installation is not for the timid. Don't try this at home.  There are special tools necessary if you don't want your head taken off by flying springs or if you don't want to get crushed by falling subframes."

If you are interested in purchasing a Sportline Suspension Kit, please submit a Quote Request.  PeachParts will be pleased to quote a kit specifically matched to your car. At this time we only offer kits for the W124 chassis 300E/E320 models.