Test Mercedes-Benz 280E Executive W114

2014 Drive-My

1974 Mercedes-Benz 280E Executive W114 test drive. Special equipment version of small Mercedes with twin-cam engine, and five-speed gearbox. Extremely smooth, free revving power unit, and effortless fast cruising in fifth gear. Slightly notchy change, but good, light clutch. Excellent roadholding and steering; comfortable ride and seats. Magnificent brakes. Good equipment and fuel consumption. A car we all liked. Behind the shapely rectangular lamp units are fog lamps, parking lamps and large Halogen head lamps. There are rubber facings for the bumpers, and rubber protective side strips.

“E” can stand for many things in Mercedes-Benz terminology: Einspritzung, meaning injection, for one; Executive, being the name of this particular model, which is Exclusive to the UK; perhaps even Excellent, for another, since this would certainly be our verdict following full Road Test.

We have always liked the New Generation range W144/W115, as originally introduced in 1968; and this latest version is quite the best so far. It has the twin overhead camshaft 2,8-litre M110 engine, with six cylinders and Bosch electronic fuel injection – the same power unit as in the S-Class 280SE W116. In the smaller and lighter body, it naturally gives considerably better performance and economy.

Although some 85 per cent of Mercedes cars imported to Britain are ordered with automatic transmission (1974 drive-my), the special feature of the Executive is that it has a five-speed manual gearbox. The car is intended to appeal to the more sporting kind of driver – perhaps even to tempt him away, or back, from a BMW. Also in the Executive pack are power-assisted steering as standard, and wide-rimmed aluminium alloy wheels as the only external distinguishing feature.

Test Mercedes-Benz 280E Executive W114

Having the characteristic Mercedes type of lever, with knob and shaft all in one curved moulding, the gear change is well placed between the seats and reached easily without fumbling. Its movement is a bit notchy, and it is sometimes a little awkward to obtain first or reverse gear from rest. Surprisingly, also, when making a hurried change from first to second it is quite easy to beat the synchromesh and produce a nasty crunch of gear noise. When changing down there is some delay while the synchromesh does its work, unless the driver helps out by double-declutching. First gear is a very low ratio, giving a maximum speed of only 31 mph, but this has advantages in hill restarts, and would be appreciated by caravanners.

The change up to fifth, which is offset forward and to the right of third gear position, goes through easily and although this movement tends to be made frequently on a journey it is quite a pleasing action. On sheer numerical values, you could not call fifth a high gear, since it gives only 21,5 mph per 1,000 rpm; but this has to be related to the remarkable smoothness of the six-cylinder twin cam engine.

Reverse gear has a pronounced whine; the other gears are pretty quiet. The other point which must be mentioned is that fifth gear sometimes jumped out of engagement when lifting off at high speeds. We found this rather disconcerting during the maximum speed testing in Germany. The clutch takes up smoothly and its pedal load is extremely light, making for easy traffic driving. In spite of having a good clutch we found this a difficult car to take cleanly off the line for full-power starts when timing the acceleration figures. Too many revs resulted in clutch spin, and too fewresulted in intermittent wheel- spin and violent judder.

This did not prevent the car from returning some creditable acceleration times, including going from rest to 60 mph in 10,1 sec, and to 100 mph in 29,1 sec. It is interesting that the 280E W114, having the fractionally lighter coupe body and automatic transmission gave slightly quicker figures on all but the 0 to 30 mph time, and was 2 sec quicker to 100 mph.

Mean maximum speed proved a little higher at 126 mph, compared with 124 mph for the CE automatic. Special emphasis is deserved for the lack of fuss or noise, even with the rev counter reading 6,000 rpm in fifth. A lot of attention has been given to perfect balancing of the crankshaft, and the engine certainly spins round to very high rev readings when driving hard, without any apparent effort. There is no indication of a rev limit on the instrument, but in fact an automatic governor prevents 6,500 rpm from being exceeded. In normal fast driving this smoothness and responsiveness of the power unit is delightful, while fifth gear cruising around the 90-100 mph area is quiet and effortless.

The car was handed over with an excessively high 1,200 rpm idling speed, and the disadvantage of injection is that there is no easy adjustment provision to enable the driver to rectify such a fault. Starting is always immediate when the engine is cold, and, of course, the enrichment for a cold start is provided automatically by the injector control system.

This and the immediate pull-away on a cold engine were greatly appreciated; but starting was less immediate when hot, and often a second try with use of the accelerator as well was necessary.

Steering, ride and handling

As we invariably find, the Daimler-Benz power steering system is quite excellent, giving all the response and accuracy of a good unassisted system, without effort at low speeds or when pulling the car through a fast corner. The driver retains the feel and precision of the steering and there is good self-centring. There is also a turning circle of only 35ft which, with the ease of changing locks when manoeuvring, makes the Mercedes an easycar to manage in tight spaces. Control at speed is also accurate and the car is little affected by cross winds.

All-independent suspension by coil springs with trailing arms at the rear is used, and it gives that wonderfully insulated feeling of gliding over surface irregularities which is typical of Mercedes. On the other hand there is a surprising amount of tyre thump on bumps, to the extent that we re-checked the tyre pressures; even when correctly set, the impression given is that the tyres are too hard.

The handling of this whole range of cars has always been good, and this top model is excellent for lack of roll when cornering hard, and for the evenness of its front-rear balance. Despite its considerable size, it can be flicked through a tight course with small movements of that very responsive steering, remaining under complete control.


Big disc brakes are fitted all round, and the response is excellent for unusually light pedal loads. Only 50lb effort, produced maximum efficiency with a stop of just over 1g from 30 mph. The result of fade tests was to increase the response by a small amount; and the actual effort needed, falling to 17lb for a 0-5g stop from 70 mph, is remarkably low. There is always quite a lot of nose-dive in braking at speed, but we felt this was accentuated by the way in which such good brakes tend to be used rather harder than others which need a hard shove on the pedal. One always feels confident of the ability to stop, and although it takes only 55lb on the pedal to lock the front wheels on a dry road at 30 mph, there is no excessive tendency for the car to slide under braking in the wet.

A pedal-operated parking brake was provided on the left- hand drive car which we used for performance testing, but British imports have the usual pull and twist-to-release handle on the facia. We were surprised it gave only 0-25g as best figure at 30 mph, and wondered if it was in correct adjustment: facing down the 1-in-3 test hill, the left rear wheel turned and the car would run down the hill dragging its locked right rear wheel. Facing up the hill a firm application of the parking brake holds the car easily.

Fuel consumption

Combining consistently hard driving with a fair amount of London traffic work, the fuel consumption was around 19 mpg, improving to 22 mpg in motorway work with sustained cruising in fifth. On the trip out to Germany for maximum speed runs, the 280E W114 returned a commendable 25,2 mpg. The overall fuel consumption of 21,1 for the entire test is a considerable improvement on the 17,6 mpg returned by the automatic car. The fuel tank holds 17 gallons, so it is quite easy to cover 300 miles between refuelling stops, still with plenty of fuel in the tank. There is a fuel low-level warning light in the main instrument dial.

The oil level showed no appreciable drop throughout our 1,400-mile test.

Comfort and equipment

Firmly upholstered and very well-shaped, the seats are covered in velour on the centre, with vinyl edges. They are very comfortable through long spells of travel, and the height is right for a commanding view over the curved bonnet and wing line, with the familiar star-in-circle badge in view. All seats have headrests, and although they cannot be removed they are not too obstructive to al}-round visibility.

The wipers park at the centre and sweep useful arcs extending well to the edges of the screen. They are switched on by pressing the indicators lever towards the steering wheel, and a small switch on the front of the lever gives choice of fast or slow speed, or intermittent. There is a foot-operated button for the combined screenwash and wiper control; when used, it gives about five sweeps of the wipers with automatic switch-off at the end, and if the side or headlamps are on at the same time, the lamp wiper and washer units also go into action. These normally work well, keeping the lamps clear of road filth, but on the test car the headlamp wiper was not working on one side. This item is an optional extra, priced at £113.77 (total).

Bosch H4 halogen headlamps are fitted; they were wrongly set on the test car, but give very good range and spread, with a sharp dip cut off which ensures that oncoming drivers are not dazzled.

The facia layout is clear and functional, and the instruments are clear.

On the left-hand drive car we had a small rev counter between the two main instrument groups, but this space was occupied by a clock on the right-hand drive car used for photography. We feel that both should be standard in view of the price. Three small instruments in the left dial are for temperature, fuel tank, and oil pressure (the latter as always on a Mercedes indicating the maximum reading at all engine speeds above tickover). The speedometer is clearly marked, with figures every 20 mph; it includes a trip distance recorder, though without instant reset.

The lighting switch is an ingenious multi-function control, turned through two positions to the right for side and headlamps, and to the left for parking lights on either side. Pulled out, in the side or headlamp position, it turns on the fog- lamps, and a further pull lights a bright rear tail light for fog use, at the same time lighting a green tell-tale in the centre of the switch.

Ventilation provisions are generous, with eye-ball outlets at each end of the facia for warmed air, and a separate cool air outlet in the centre, with adjustable vanes. However, it is most regrettable that Mercedes have abandoned their former air blending type of heater and gone over to a water valve temperature control. It works no better than any others of this type, making it impossible to get a flow of gently warmed air through the car; you can have hot or cold, but there is no intermediate regulation of temperature.

On the car used for most of the Road Test the optional electrically – operated sunroof was fitted, with control switch on the console. It opens easily but causes unpleasant buffeting on the ears at speeds above about 30 mph; rear windows have to be cracked open about half an inch to relieve this.

All doors have combined armrests and grab pulls, and on the front doors there are useful map pockets. Roof grab handles are fitted above all but the driver’s door. Deletion of the quarter vents has helped to improve visibility although the screen pillars are rather thick, and there are deep forward- facing channels on the pillars to prevent rain water from running off the screen and on to the side windows. These are very effective, and do not spoil the exceedingly low level of wind noise at speed. A large framed side mirror is fitted on the driver’s door, and there is an adjuster lever for it on the inside. A spacious facia locker with drop-down lid is provided, but it cannot be locked. Central locking for the doors, boot and filler flap is standard, controlled by the lock on the driver’s door. The other front door or the boot can be opened with the key if desired. One key works all locks on the car; the other works only the ignition and steering lock.

To the established qualities of performance, comfort and a very high standard of safety in its handling, steering and brakes, this new Mercedes specification brings the important addition of moderate fuel thirst. In relation to some competitors it also seems now to be much better value than was the case a few years ago. It is a well-equipped car, carefully and neatly finished to the usual Mercedes quality.

Above: The special wheels fitted are available separately for other models, and cost the fantastic price of £442.92

The headrests are standard and cannot be removed (left), but they can be pushed down flush with the seat backrest, where they do not obstruct visibility.

Right: Corrugations on the rear lamp units prevent accumulations of dirt from obliterating them.

With its twin cam cylinder head, the 280E engine is an impressive sight. Accessibility is good despite the congestion.

A generous tool kit is provided, and the spare wheel stows out of the way at the side. The boot floor is covered in rubber matting, and is flat.


Mercedes-Benz 280E manual W114 1974



Wind 3-7 mph


68° F


31.0 in Hg


Damp tarmacadam



6 in line, M110
Bearings 7 main


Cast iron


Cooling Water, pump, thermpstat, and fan with viscous coupling


2746 cc (167.6 cu in)

Bore (mm)

86.0 (3.38 in)

Stroke (mm)

78.8 (3.1 in)

Compression (to one)


Valve gear

SOHC, 12 valve, Twin chain-driven overhead camshafts


Cam drive chain


Injectors, Bosch electronic injection

Power (DIN/rpm)

185 bhp /6000

Torque (DIN/rpm)

175.8 lb ft/4500



5-speed manual, all-synchromesh, RWD, Mercedes manufacturer
Ratios and mph/1000rpm









Five (Top)


Reverse drive(R)


Final drive




Unitary steel


Phosphating; electrophoretic dip primer before main paint coats. PVC underbody coating. Wax spray in body cavities.

Front suspension

Unequal length control arms anti­roll bar

Rear suspension

Independent by semi-trailing arms, coil springs additional rubber springs anti-roll bar.


Assisted recirc ball

Turns lock to lock


Turning circle (ft)



5.5J x 14, 205/70 VR14, Michelin XWX


Servoed discs, 

ATE-Dunlop discs front and rear with dual-line hydraulic system; drum type parking brakes in naves of rear discs

ATE direct acting, standard

F, 10.9 in. dia. discs

R, 11.0 in. dia. discs

F, 219 sq. in.,

R, 196 sq. in.

Total 415 sq. in. (240 sq. in./ton laden)




Front track








Weight unladen (cwt)

30.0 (1530 kg)

Weight as tested (cwt)

33.6 (1707 kg)

Ground clearance


Fuel tank (gals)

17 (78 litres)


Front headroom Front legroom

(seat forward/back)


Rear headroom Rear legroom


(seat forward/back)


Front shoulder room

Rear shoulder room

Luggage capacity (cu.ft)


Major service time

Sump (capacity/oil grade)

7.5 litres /SAE 10W50

Oil change intervals


Grease points/intervals Time for removing/


replacing engine/gearbox

Time for replacing clutch. Time for renewing

front brake pads Time for renewing

exhaust system

Number of UK dealers






Clutch unit

Brake disc

Set brake pads

Front damper

Exhaust system

Oil filter


Starter motor



Front door (primer)

Front bumper

Bonnet (primer)


Headlamp unit (each)



Price without extras


Price as tested


Model range price span



Length and conditions

12months/unlimited mileage

ACCELERATION – Mercedes-Benz 280 E manual W114 – 1974


0-30 mph

0-40 mph

0-50 mph

0-60 mph 0-70 mph 0-80 mph 0-90 mph 0-100 mph 0-110 mph 0-120 mph

2.8 sec

5.1 sec

6.7 sec

10.1 sec 13.1 sec 16.5 sec 22.5 sec 29.1 sec 39.3 sec 57.5 sec

0-40 kph

0-60 kph

0-80 kph

0-100 kph 0-120 kph
10,2 sec
Stand 1/4 miles 17.3sec 88 mph
Stand 1km 31.6 sec 102 mph
SPEED IN GEARS (at 5100 rpm)



ACCELERATION IN KICKDOWN 20-40 mph 30-50 mph 40-60 mph 50-70 mph 60-80 mph
40-60 kph 60-80 kph 80-100 kph 100-120 kph
Banked Circuit 126.4 206.2
Best 1/4 mile
Terminal Speeds: at 1/4 mile –  
Terminal Speeds: at kilometre –  
Terminal Speeds: at 1/4 mile – 
Touring (est. 

Consumption midway between 30 mph and maximum less 5 per cent for acceleration.


22 mpg / 12.8 litres/100 km

21.1 mpg / 13.4 litres/100 km

Fuel grade Petrol
Tank capacity 17 galls / 78 litres
Max range
Test distance 1630 miles / 2623 km
NOISE dbA Motor rating (A rating where 1 = 30 dbA and 100 = 96 dbA, and where double the number — means double the loudness.)
30 mph
50 mph
70 mph

Max revs in 2nd


Speedo mph True mph
90 88

Figures taken at 3,300 miles by our own staff at the Motor Industry Research Association proving ground at Nuneaton. All Drive-my test results are subject to world copyright and may not be reproduced in whole or part without the Editor’s written permission.

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