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  •   Adam Towler reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    CAR MERCEDES-BENZ 450SEL 6.9

    Year of manufacture #1976
    Recorded mileage 33,487km (see text)
    Asking price £49,950 Vendor Avantgarde Classic, Tamworth, Staffs; tel: 07968 694448; www. avantgardecars. co. uk

    WHEN IT WAS NEW #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9 / #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9-W116 / #M100 / #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL / #Mercedes-Benz-W116 / #Mercedes-Benz-M100 / #M100 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes / #Mercedes-Benz-S-Class / #Mercedes-Benz-S-Class-W116 /

    Price £21,000
    Max power 282bhp
    Max torque 406lb ft
    0-60mph 7.2 secs
    Top speed 140mph
    Mpg 17

    This non-sunroof W116 is splendidly original and well kept, with a fantastic history file including all of the factory books and tags. The firstaid kit remains unopened and the spare, probably still with its first XWX, retains the cardboard tag, though it’s no longer wired to the valve stem. The car was bought new in Cannes and has been in Germany for the past seven years. It was painted during the latest ownership, and every fuel receipt kept shows a diet of only super unleaded. There are 12 stamps in the service book, the first seven from the supplying main dealer. The body is straight and rot-free; it was resprayed after a deer strike that slightly dinged the right eyebrow, and the owner insisted on a full repaint. All of the chrome is smart, the alloys unscuffed and shod with newish Toyos. Beneath, you can still see the M-B green underseal.

    Inside, the factory hide has never been Connollised. The driver’s seat base has a few creases, but that’s about it. The Becker Monza radiocassette player remains, with its handbook and warranty card. The speedo was changed at 105,000km, so the real figure is 138,000 – or 86,000 miles. The motor is tidy, having had the cam covers and airbox refinished. Its fluids are clean, the transmission fluid nice and pink and sweet smelling. The inner wings are excellent, and the underbonnet sound deadening is new because it’s pretty much a consumable on Mercs of this era.

    The 6834cc V8 starts instantly, and playing with the ride height setting reveals that the air suspension is functional. Oil pressure when warm is the usual Mercedes full-deflection 3bar, dropping to 2bar at tickover, and the temperature steadies at c80ºC. It squirts off (in near silence) with some alacrity, and feels as if it would simply keep accelerating at the same rate until it hit 140mph, all delivered with a sublime ride. It’s not intimidating, but it does convey a slightly menacing air – even in Thistle Green. Quite remarkable, and the aircon works. It will be sold with a fresh MoT.

    SUMMARY
    EXTERIOR Repainted to a high standard, on a rust-free structure.
    INTERIOR Leather pretty much as it left Untertürkheim, plus some patina.
    MECHANICALS Iron fist in a velvet glove.

    VALUE ★★★★★★★★✩✩
    For Stonk; ride; rarity
    Against Air suspension can get expensive, but it’s spot-on

    SHOULD I BUY IT?
    If you want what’s probably the best in the UK, and wish to be hurtled in comfort, look no further.
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  •   Adam Towler reacted to this post about 3 years ago
    Nathan’s W123 (left) meets its big brother – the #Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 W116 / V116 I’ve fallen victim to the hard SEL.

    THE STORY SO FAR

    CAR #1980 #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9-W116 / #M100 / #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL / #Mercedes-Benz-W116 / #Mercedes-Benz-M100
    Borrowed by Nathan Chadwick
    Time borrowed Three weeks
    Miles this month 150
    Costs £150 (!)
    Previously The W123 is back on the road

    ‘How far away do your parents live?’ editor Phil asked. I eyed the keys to the Mercedes- Benz 450 SEL 6.9 sat teasingly on my desk. ‘Forty quid,’ I grimaced.

    I was exaggerating, but a round trip of 32 miles in an SEL 6.9 is not to be considered lightly. It’ll happily do the journey – my steed for the trip may look crispy around the edges but it’s had a thorough mechanical revitalisation, and is just awaiting some TLC to the body and paint.

    No, the biggest problem is its enthusiasm for fuel, because this is more than just a big old luxury Mercedes-Benz. It’s a six-nine.

    I’d seen them take centre stage in Ronin, Lost Highway and Rendez-vous. I knew manchild hero James Hunt had one, as did Frank Sinatra and Telly Savalas. Brigitte Bardot had an estate version. Fangio embarrassed a racing car on track with one hand on the wheel in his.

    So when Justin Lazic, who’d sold me the fresh engine for my W123, mentioned he had a six-nine and asked whether I’d like to borrow it for a few weeks, my answer was yes, yes and yes again. Please.

    But as Justin and I approached the SEL in its underground car park lair, I had mixed feelings. Would it be a disappointment? After all, its headline horsepower figure – 286bhp – isn’t exactly huge these days. I needn’t have worried. Dissecting our way out of west London, heading towards the freedom of the motorway, I lost count of the perplexed-looking faces of Range Rover owners left standing at the lights by this rusty old Mercedes-Benz.

    The key figure is the torque – 405lb ft, delivered at 3000rpm. Acceleration isn’t a punch, it’s an unstoppable surge akin to water breaking through a dam – the Hoover dam. There are no flat spots in the torque curve, no kickdowns (unless the driver’s being a hooligan), just pure, analogue heave. And it’s deeply addictive.


    So much so that any journey soon involved a mental recalculation of just how much food I had left for the month – it doesn’t take much provocation for the castiron M100 #V8 to imbibe in the manner of an undergraduate during Happy Hour. An empty, straight road? Just how many chicken breasts do I have left in the freezer? More pertinent food for thought is just how accomplished the SEL is – it’s difficult to think of a car that does everything so well, and so quickly. It’s stupendously fast, luxurious and deeply refined. At whatever speed, any passenger and I could calmly discuss everything from the rigours of my W123’s likely sunroof rubber repair to the wonderful, Apache gunship-style whirring noise the six-nine makes when pushing on.

    Day-to-day commuting was a challenge because it takes a long time for the engine to fully warm up – using that to excuse why I was late to the office each day elicited only bemusement after a week. Then there were the sizeable slurps of 98-RON that the SEL took when I just had to take the long way home. That’s what temptation does to you. In the end, my bruised wallet breathed a sigh of relief when I handed the keys back to Justin, but I soon missed the six-nine. I desperately want one. As for the fuel consumption? Well, I need to go on a diet…

    ‘What do you mean I have to give it back?’
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  •   Andy Everett reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Giant road test #1977 - #Daimler-Double-Six Vanden Plas vs. Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II and Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 W116 with Cadillac Seville.

    Simple, elegant and understated lines of the biggest #Mercedes-W116 . Only its wider tyres and 6.9 badges distinguish it from the lesser models. Interior is built to the same philosophy, with greater accent on efficiency than luxury #Cadillac Seville is clearly styled to influences from both Mercedes and Rolls, shares its body shell with more basic #GM cars. Interior is on the pseudo-luxurious side, but seats are comfortable. Gimmicks like automatic light dipping abound Low and sporty Daimler body is almost as old as Rolls, still has enormous appeal. As with Mercedes and Cadillac, body is shared with lesser models in Jaguar range. Interior is pleasing blend of traditional wood and leather #Rolls-Royce , recently revised as Shadow II, is stateliness itself. Height of body gives it an air of superiority from without and within. For all occupants, cabin is tremendously appealing, with space, wood, leather and charm.

    Mercedes priorities are aimed fully at the driver. It's roomy but rear seat is too hard. Badge tells the story, cruise control governs it, ducts heat doors, roof is standard Handling and drivability right up to top expert level Antithetic Cadillac has only a vague speedo and tiny fuel gauge. Modest room detracts from seats' comfort. Auto dipping and on-off switching, tell-tales for duff bulbs, recessed wipers but false spokes. Handling is understeer all the way Half-way house XJ12, combines modern gauges with traditional wood. Leather looks nice but cloth is more comfortable. Air conditioning is superb, fan cools battery, beading spoils I seat comfort, some trim is rough. Handling and stability are terrific.

    Rolls dash is appealing if inefficient. Everything feels so nice. Flat seats but lots of room and superb finish. Loads of Silver Lady status, glorious air conditioning, electric seat adjustment but tacked-on fog lights. Handling is ...rolly.
    Mercedes engine is as neat as it is powerful, has dry sump for 10,000 mile service intervals and provides pressure for the hydro-pneumatic spring and damper units.

    Much more basic Cadillac V8 does sport fuel injection but is no fireball. Priorities are typically American: reliability and easy servicing; this is rhd convert.

    Marvellous XJ12 engine is a sight to behold: all alloy and superb castings. Injection has made it both more powerful and economical. Heat soak is incredible.

    Rolls engine bay looks every inch a craftsman's paradise, probably unappreciated by most owners. Twin SU carbs still supply the fuel, in appropriately large quantities.


    Rolls-Royce say it and most people believe that they make the best car in the world. In pub and party arguments, the most common contradiction has it that #Daimler-Benz hold the crown. We have heard other people insist that both protagonists are wrong: the best car in the world is a Cadillac. And others, generally those who have driven all the cars involved, advance the Jaguar/Daimler XJ12 as the current king among cars. Indeed, we were partly spurred towards an overdue and once-and-for-all resolution of this tedious argument by our experiences with the #Jaguar-XJ5.3C (Coupe 2-doors) that we recently took to Hungary. Yes, it was brought to halt when its new American transmission failed, and we were inconvenienced when its German headlight relay packed up. But - and you must remember our overtly cynical natures - reprehensible as they were (for the responsibility for such failures must rest at Loyland's feet, regardless of who is actually to blame) they could do little to dampen our absolute enthusiasm for a car that had demonstrated such extraordinary refinement. It was a pertinent reminder of the XJ12's ability: Mr Editor Nichols had only weeks before spent six days driving across the United States in a #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9-W116 , and it wasn't long before that that we had experienced a Cadillac Seville and the latest #Rolls-Royce-Shadow-II . The question, it seemed to our freshly jolted minds, was whether any of these cars could measure up to the overall standards set by the Jaguar, rather than whether it could compete with them.

    A perennial question like 'best car in the wood' hinges around priorities. To most people, cars are saloons, so this debate has always been about saloons. As a piece of uncompromising automobile design and execution, what can compete with the #Lamborghini-Countach ? Prestige is also involved: relative to cost and achievement attained for money spent, is there a car to compete with the #Citroen-GS ? But beyond these factors, the argument broadens. The car that is the best in the world - within this popularly-conceived sphere - must have more than just the best finish, the best styling, the most prestigious name. To be the best it is going to need the finest chassis: on the one hand it has to provide the best ride with the least noise, tor that is the beginning of real luxury; on the other, it needs the strongest roadholding and best-balanced handling. It needs performance, smoothness and quietness from its engine. It must be as good to drive as it is good to be driven in; it will compromise each of its functions the least, and Wend them the best.

    It is intriguing that these four natural contestants should vary so greatly in price. At one end of the scale, the #Daimler-Double-Six-Vanden-Plas , the ultimate #Jaguar-XJ12 - indeed, the ultimate Leyland Car - costs £14.582 which includes £721 worth of air conditioning and a #Philips mono radio/stereo cassette system. The #Cadillac-Seville, converted to right-hand drive (RHD) in London for importers #Lendrum and #Hartman , is very nearly the same price: £14,888, which includes the complex 'climate control system' and hosts of other universal fittings. You then jump almost £10,000 to the Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 W116 and #Rolls-Royce-Silver-Shadow - £23.850 for the biggest Benz, everything included and £24.248 for the Shadow II (or #Bentley-T2 ). A two-level air conditioning system, rather like the Cadillac's, is a standard fitting. So is a stereo system, which may be altered to your choice and, as Rolls-Royce say: ‘It has always been our policy to produce motor cars incorporating special equipment to meet the requirements of individual customers.' Among the 'more frequently requested items' listed as options in the R-R price 1-st are headrests at £39.19 or head restraints at £79.56, a badge bar at £17.84 or GB letters at £3.22. There are many other items, listed and unlisted, and it's really up to the customer to tell R-R what he wants. Addenda to the #Daimler price list suggest the same sort of flexibility.

    Mercedes build the 6.9 virtually to order, and it is inconceivable that Cadillac would not fit any number of non-standard items for their customers if they were asked. So far as production numbers go - exclusivity if you like - Rolls-Royce will build 3500 cars this year on a delivery time of 18 months, Leyland will make 7000 XJ12s, of which 250 or so will be Vanden Plas with a delivery time of six to nine months, Mercedes will make 1800 6.9s on six to seven months delivery and Cadillac will make 40,000 Sevilles, of which 150 will come to Britain for delivery in three months.

    Styling, Engineering

    Traditionalism and conservatism are part and parcel of the styling approaches of the makers of these cars, if to a lesser degree where the Cadillac Seville is concerned. A Roils and a Mercedes must always look like a Rolls and a Mercedes, and central to their styling are their grilles, without doubt the most prestigious in the world. Each new Rolls and Mercedes follows on subtly from its predecessor, trying hard not to look too new or different. It is an approach that suggests continuity and establishment. security and taste: it is also safe. The Jaguar/Daimler has a slightly different sort of body - lower and more sporting - but it also abides by the rule of continuity and marque character laid down by Sir William Lyons. So within the confines of taste, prestige and stateliness, we have three very different looking cars - the tall, dignified Rolls, the contemporary, slightly wedge Mercedes and the rounded, sleek Daimler. The Cadillac, an enormous departure in size and concept for its makers and the American automotive industry in general, is a copy cat. It blatantly steals its prestige from both Rolls and Mercedes and is a curious amalgam of styling features from both, with stronger Roils overtones than Mercedes, and because it is from the hands of probably the word's most adept mass- production car stylists, it succeeds. It does not really look out of place in Europe, either in size or appearance, and t has put the seal of desirability an a new era in American car design, in the prestige stakes, the Rolls-Royce scores a valuable point by being a model unto itself. The Silver Shadow body is the lowliest in Crewe's range, and except for the long wheelbase Silver Wraith II derivative, has no look-alike. On the other hand, the Cadillac is a development of the Chevrolet Caprice/etc body, suitably re-worked by GM's Cadillac Division for prestige, quality and refinement. The Daimler Vanden Plas, badge-engineering on badge-engineering, differs very little from the 'lesser' Jaguar V12s, and even the sixes, and most people would not spot them should they miss the subtle badges. Badges and wider wheels are the only give-aways that stand the 6.9 Mercedes apart from its lesser S-class brethren, a deliberate Mercedes policy that finds considerable favour with many buyers: they want the biggest, fastest Mercedes but they don't want ostentation. Indeed, in Germany at present such a point is a decided marketing advantage. The badges can be left off, or even replaced by 280SE W116 script and the workers will not know precisely which model their boss is using to tear past them. A Rolls, on the other hand, is unmistakably a car of and for the very rich even though it costs little more than the Mercedes 6.9. As a result Rolls-Royce cannot sell more than 30 cars a year there. Jaguar/Daimler badges can be switched about to read 3.5, Vanden Plas can be removed and the owner can bask in the same sort of obscurity as his Mercedes-driving counterpart which consuming petrol at an equal (well, almost - but we'll go into that later) rate. The weights and sizes of the four cars are interesting: the Rolls is easily the tallest at 59.8in, the longest at 204.5in and. has the longest wheelbase - 120in. The Cadillac, sharing a width of 71,8in with the Rolls, is only slightly shorter at 203.9in but has almost 6in less m its wheelbase. Next shortest, the Mercedes - just under 200in long - is the widest, at 73.6in, and almost 1in taller than the Cadillac. The Jaguar is the shortest (194.7in) the narrowest (69.7in), the lowest (54in) and has the most-modest wheelbase (112.8in). The Daimler is the lightest at 4179lb, then comes the Cadillac at 4232lb, the Mercedes at 4260lb, with the Sumo-wrestler Rolls pushing the scales to 4850lb.

    The foundations of the engineering story are essentially straightforward: conventional front-mounted engines driving to the rear wheels. Within that basic framework there exists varying sophistication, allied more to the philosophies of the manufacturers involved rather than to their resources. The wealthiest company. General Motors, opt for nothing more advanced than a live rear axle if you please, thus standing apart in a group where the norm is independent rear suspension (with twists in the case of Mercedes and R-R - not that the Jaguar/Daimler system is altogether common). On the other hand, it is little Jaguar who break the V8 engine rule by being the only ones to offer a V12, that obvious symbol of luxury and prestige as well as performance. And although it has an extra four cylinders, the Coventy engine is the smallest of the quartet, a mere 5.3-litres compared with 5.7 for the Cadillac, 6.7 for the Rolls and 6.9-litres for the Mercedes. With the Cadillac, by the time the emission equipment has had its go at what's left over from a pushrod valve arrangement and an 8.0 to one compression ratio - but electronic ignition and fuel injection - you get a mere 180bhp at 4400rpm. Rolls-Royce have chosen not to reveal how many horses lurk in their regal stables, but judging by the Silver Shadow's performance one would guess at something in the region of 230bhp, also a result of pushrod-operated valves and an 8.0 to one compression ratio, but with feed by two big SU carburettors. One-up on the Cadillac however, the Rolls' block and cylinder head are made from aluminium alloy. Changes to the engine for the latest Shadow II run to a quieter and more efficient fan, more emission efficient carburettors and a new dual exhaust system that steals less power than before.

    Sticking with the V8, we find the Mercedes powerplant rather more sophisticated. The block is cast iron out the cylinder head (atop a special gasket that eliminates re-tightening) is alloy and sports an overhead camshaft on each bank (with hydraulic tappets to take care of clearance adjustment). Its compression ration is a mere 8.1 to one but it is fed electronically by the #Bosch-K-Jetronic system. Rather more out of the ordinary, the Mercedes has dry sump lubrication which extends oil change intervals to every 10,000 miles. The power from all this is 286bhp at a low 4250rpm... with the enormous beck-up of 405lb/ft of torque at 3000rpm. So far as straight power goes, the much smaller Jaguar V12 - alloy block and heads, one overhead cam per bank, #Lucas electronic injection, 9.0 to one compression ratio - is almost precisely as strong: 285bhp at 5750rpm. But it has a lot less torque: 294lb/ft at 3500rpm. Just what sort of difference this makes on the road we shall see later on. It shall also be interesting to weigh up the transmissions: Rolls and Jaguar/Daimler use the three-speed #General-Motors-Hydramatic transmission (a recent and very welcome replacement for the #Borg-Warner Model 12 in the Leyland car) that belongs in the Cadillac. Mercedes, chauvinistic as ever, use their own transmission, but with three-speeds and not the four gears found in the smaller-engined models.

    All four chassis are essential unitary (the Cadi lac has a small front perimeter frame), although built up in varying degrees of automation. The Cadillac is separated from its Chevrolet parent by careful extra welding and strengthening, with a lot of attention going into reduction of noise and vibration. The suspension is basically the same as John Doe's car though: wishbones and coil springs at the front, with an anti-roll bar and a good ol' live axle and good ol' leaf springs at the rear, given something byway of location through an antiroll bar and by way of sophistication through a self-levelling system. The recirculating ball steering is of course power-assisted but has the added advantages of variable ratio gearing that increases as the wheel is turned. Perhaps surprisingly for an American car, the Seville has disc brakes at the rear to match those at the front; a limited slip differential is optional.

    On the face of it. Coventry's suspension is fairly straight forward too: semi-trailing upper and lower wishbones at the front, coil springs and an anti-roll bar with plenty of built-in anti-drive in the very clever geometry. At the rear, drive shafts act as the suspension's upper links, working in conjunction with lower transverse wishbones. There are also radius arms, and twin spring/damper units on each side of the car, spanning the drive shaft. It is an arrangement that works beautifully, and Ferrari, Lamborghini, De Tomaso and Maserati are among those who (although they use upper wishbones too) know of its benefits. But the secret of the refinement of the Jaguar/Daimler suspension rests in the separate sub-frames located into the body by rubber mountings that in turn carry the suspension units, and in the enormous skill that has gone into sorting out the correct bushings and settings. A limited slip differential is optional, the rack and pinion steering (subject of so much debate - for revision later in this test) is power assisted, with three turns lock-to-lock like the Seville's, and there is the added sophistication of inboard rear disc brakes.

    There are disc brakes all-round in the Silver Shadow, and now that it has all after it, it can also boast power-assisted rack and pinion steering - probably the most important facet of the up-date a few months ago. It's a Burman rack, developed in conjunction with R-R’s engineers, with its hydraulic cylinders at its extremities and the output to the track-rod halves in the middle. The suspension components remain the same as before - very wide-based lower wishbones upper stabilizer lever, coil springs and an anti-roll bar. But the geometry has been slightly modified to reduce the changes in wheel camber, and the body roll. At the rear, there continues the semi-trailing arm system with its coil springs, anti-roll bar (reduced in diameter to allow for the modifications at the front end) and an automatic ride leveller.

    The Mercedes, design-wise the most sophisticated of the lot, has wishbones and an anti-roll bar at the front, vast trailing arms and another anti-roll bar at the rear, with a goody dollop of anti-dive and anti-squat geometry worked into it all. But where it departs from normal practice is in its damping and springing: instead of steel springs, four Citroen-like hydro-pneumatic spring units bear the 6.9’s weight, at the same time acting as the dampers, and keeping the ride height and vehicle attitude constant. The steering is assisted recirculating ball and there are big disc brakes at all four wheels. A limited slip differential is standard. Now let’s see how all this pudding fares in the eating…

    Performance

    Big engines, yes; but big overall weights too, and if the pre-requisites of adequate, unobtrusive performance coupled to refinement far above the average can be ticked off in each of the four cars then there is also an even split between them in the degrees in which the engines actually overcome those weights. The split conforms directly with the sophistication of the engines. The Rolls and Cadillac get on with the job in the way that a disinterested driver would wish, surging smoothly and easily away from the delights or loping lazily along the motorway. Their torque will keep him happy, providing enough acceleration to put most Cortinas and the like in their rightful place, and since the Cadillac’s speedometer reads only to 85mph. a genuine top speed of 105mph would appear to be more than General Motors think most of their customers will require. They may be right however, the car is quiet and stable at such speeds, and a serious driver or even a disinterested lead-foot win find that he probably uses ail of the performance a good deal.

    Much the same thing applies to the Rolls, although there is rather more on hand in both acceleration and top speed. But electronic wizardry doesn’t stop the Crewe speedo reading little short of 130mph when the true pace is just on 116mph - at which speed the Silver Shadow II is decently stable thanks to its new nasal spoiler - but those last dozen or so mph come up fairly reluctantly. That doesn’t matter, for no-one could suggest that the Rolls is a car built for sheer speed. But it does matter that at an 80mph cruising speed, full-throttle is needed more often than not to clear slower, more erratic drivers and maintain one's long-distance decorum. At the lower end of the scale, there is enough urge on hand to allow the car to be whisked in and out of traffic with ease.

    The #Jaguar-Daimler and the Mercedes are different. Even smoother and refined they reap the benefits of their designers’ more serious and modern approaches, and they have the sort of sheer performance that will leave all but a few cars way behind. They border on the realms of the all-out supercars, with 0-60mph times of around 7.5 sec and top speeds comfortably in excess of 140mph. And yet within such similar abilities there are differences. The Mercedes feels very fast, spritely and potent, like a good sports car, and tremendously efficient. With that sort of torque on hand, there is little other way it might feel. The Jaguar seems more sedate, quieter, smoother, still more refined. But after losing some time to the Mercedes in the lower ranges, it very swiftly gains on the German car, hauling it in hard as it nears 100mph and taking over firmly as the speed rises from there, incredible though it might seem. Come out of a bend and keep on accelerating, brake into another one, come out hard and wind up to the maximum possible pace, perhaps up a modest incline with a long, sweeper running with it and you'll know that you are going in the Mercedes. It is a high performance car and it feels like one. Ah, this is the real thing, you’ll be inclined to think. But hop into the Jaguar and repeat the exorcise and you will find that, with noticeably less effort, you are actually surging out of that sweeper and towards the top of the incline at a speed greater than the Mercedes managed. The Jaguar just seems to take it all in its stride, and if you notice and appreciate it then that's fine. The Mercedes takes it in its stride, certainly: but it makes sure you notice, through its noise and. well, just its feel. Obviously, thon, the XJ12 and the 6.9 have far more than just 'adequate' performance. Their characters and their abilities arc more complete than the Rolls' and Cadillac's; they will potter just as off handily - even more so - but at the other end of the scale they can really turn it on, providing the driver with more aground capability than the others as well as more sheer refinement. Within that, simply because it has the extra smoothness that goes with 12 cylinders, the XJ engine has more appeal than the 6.9's once one has understood that it has comparable performance, and the sheer excitement of the Mercedes has subsided in favour of the mailed fist in the British car's velvet glove.

    Nor is there a penalty in terms of running costs for the extra performance provided by the XJ12 and #Mercedes-Benz . Efficiency extends to more than just go; cruising pretty quickly across country we were surprised to find that we returned 16.4mpg in the Benz and 15.8 in the Daimler, but with a heavier load on board. In similar conditions, the Rolls returned 14.4mpg and the Cadillac 14.5 (on two-star fuel). Pushed as hard as they're ever likely to go, the Cadillac increased its thirst to 12.8mpg, the Rolls to 13.2, the Daimler to 13.6 and the Mercedes to 11.9mpg.

    Handling and roadholding

    Again, the group splits into two: Mercedes and Daimler on one plane. Rolls and Cadillac on another, with not that much between either pair in their respective sectors. Climb into the Mercedes and you're likely to react the way John, our borrowed chauffeur, did: to know at once that it is a driver's car par excellence. Like the Jaguar (forgive us, but we really can't get used to calling the damned thing a Daimler, or even a Vanden Plas) it is subtle and business-like in its styling inside. It is just plain efficiency. Start it up and what sound there is from the engine suggests that too; the suspension's road rumble only adds to it. The steering, not too light, not too heavy, is entirely in character, and so are the solid, push-me-and-I'll-answer brakes. That also goes for the throttle, and when you enter the first corner you soon learn that it extends to the handling as well. The car feels small, lively and so very responsive. It could be a very good 3.0-litre, not a two-ton heavyweight with almost 7.0-litres under its bonnet. It has honest-to-goodness verve, it feels, as Steady Barker says, like a damned good four-door racing car. It is thus an intensely personal car, one in which a lasting bond is immediately established between car and driver, and which is likely to lead him to reject passengers as often as possible or to think to hell with them and just get on with enjoying themself should they really insist on coming along. If they understand, they will enjoy all the Mercedes has to offer just as much as he: the way it can be flung into bends neutrally or in drastic oversteer at will, or be pushed in quietly but quickly and then snapped sideways and held in the most tremendous slides on the throttle. It just does what the driver tells it.

    Now what surprised John the chauffeur and every last man of us was that, again in its own subtle, understated way, the Jaguar proved to have fractionally more roadholding that the Mercedes, and even tidier handling. It is engineered to be as neutral and efficient as possible while at the same time having abilities as impressive as those of the Mercedes should the driver seek them At about the same cornering speed as the Mercedes is swinging into oversteer, the Jaguar is just as neutral as it was when it entered the bend, rolling rather less. Push it in a little harder next time and as t limits are reached it will gently edge in very modest oversteer, that is counteracted with an equally tidy and natural feeling movement, using up less road space than the Mercedes as the transition and the return takes place. Because the Jaguar is set-up more as a system than a tool, it takes longer to learn that it can be so utilised than it does in the Mercedes. Erroneously, the lightness and the small movements of the wheel and the initial stages of the body motion make it seem as if it will be slightly unwieldy. But the lesson, once learned, will not be forgotten: go in yet harder, and the XJ12 can be flung towards the apex as sideways as the Mercedes. Power it hard past the apex and it can be held in longer, tidier slides than the German car, and when the body drops back as it comes straight there will be considerably less lurch - and important point when it comes to passenger comfort. In short, the Jaguar/Daimler’s suspension is better controlled. Interestingly, coming from the other cars to it during our test, we found that its steering was the nicest of the lot, something we could never have envisaged saying in the past. It no longer seemed so light; it just impressed us with its absolute lack of fuss, its progressiveness and its precision. You could hop into the car and feel totally equipped to get on with the job without drama of any description: bends, crests, dips...they mattered not,, for it only took a few seconds to know instinctively that the Daimler was not going to put a wheel out of p ace. And yet it was at the same time so easy and re axing to drive.

    Now, to return to pure roadholding, you drop almost exactly 10mph in a given bend when you take the Rolls around, and a little bit more in the Cadillac Their roadholding is good, but not to anything like the level of the others, or the upper reaches of current standards. Their handling is not bad. The Rolls is quite curious: it feels tall and narrow, and rather as if it waddles around on a narrow-gutted suspension located somewhere down below. The new steering is light, quick and twitchy, as John says, and it has you son of chipping away at the wheel until you learn the correct degrees of input to be used. Even then, it is a studied business not to overdo it. But despite its size, and what many people might assume to be its character, the Rolls is no longer ponderous. Given correct steering action, it comes into bends cleanly - gone is the drastic understeer of the past; that new geometry works - and sort of sets itself into what feels like a roll-oversteer attitude. Then it stops and goes around fairly neutrally, widening its line, if not actually sliding, all-of-a-piece. Eventualy it seems to push into sort of roll understeer again - quite strange, really - as it eaves the bend. Should you find the power on hand, or be cornering hard enough to induce it by pure speed alone, oversteer can be easily caught and despatched; but the car never feels as inherently flat, stable, progressive and cons stent as the Mercedes or the XJ12. As it transpires, the Cadillac has very good steering: it isn't as light as most people would expect of an American car, the gearing is excellent arid the feel adequate. It directs the car accurately, the chassis responding with consistent-to-strong understeer that becomes terminal if you insist on pushing right to the limits, so that it imposes its engineer's will on the driver. Body roll is well-controlled, and the indication that the limits are nigh is a riding of the nose across the road rather than anything much more dramatic reaching the cabin. Along a country road, however, the Cadillac can be conducted with aplomb and a fairly high level of driver satisfaction. It has more natural poise than the Rolls and is thus easier to hurry, still managing to feel a little more relaxed. But lest you get this out of context, don’t attempt to give either a Rolls or a Cadillac a hard time in your Cortina or Marina: they'll have little trouble putting you straight as long as the bends don’t become so tight that their sheer size handicaps them.

    Ride, comfort

    Now, the normal pay-off for a car with inferior handling and roadholding is for the ride to be better. The measure of real refinement to be found in the Jaguar/Daimler is that it rules absolutely in this area too. It is ever so slightly firm at very low speeds, but beyond that it is utterly absorbent, going about its work with less fuss and noise than any other car's. The isolation of the suspension is so good that to all intents and purposes the XJ12 has no road-noise. A gentle thump s noticeable only when there's a particularly abrupt join in the road surface, and even then it will need to have presented itself White the car is going very slowly. For all this absorbency and comfort, there is absolute stability at all times, each wheel always under control. Even under full-bore acceleration, there is just a faint hum from the engine, so at all cruising speeds right up to 140mph the V12 is present but not heard, and certainly not felt, unless the driver wishes it by way of acceleration.

    The Mercedes' ride loses little in absorbent quality to the Jaguar; it is rather more joggly and pattery over troubled surfaces at low speed, but just as pleasing at high speed, and just as naturally stable and re-assuring. It is also, in terms relative to the Leyland car, extremely noisy. By German standards it might be very quiet; by ultimate standards as determined by Coventry it is raucous, so that any idea that the car is a real limousine is instantly dispelled. There is a hum from the engine when it is given anything like its head, albeit a pleasing hum, and there s enough wind-noise to be noticed. On that score, the Daimler test saloon had some wind-noise upwards of 120mph. whereas the XJ5.3C we ran recently had not a trace of it, thereby feeling even more refined.

    Such is the level of that refinement that even an eminently quiet car like the Rolls is shown to have rather too much road-noise. It is rumble at low-speed more than anything else, a constant pattering over cobbles and plenty of bump-thump when the big radials roll in and out of potholes. It rides very well, but it just isn't the pace-setter, or even near to it. There is no wind noise in the Rolls now though, and the engine is as imperceptible as ever.

    Strangely enough, it's the V8 that gives the Cadillac most of its noise: a steady hum when pushed decently quickly. Save for a solid thump as the rear axle strikes proper bumps, there is less road-noise in the Seville than in the Rolls. But the inadequacies of its live axle are shown in a sort of lateral squirm as the heavy unit throws against its location when the springing and damping as pressed hard; it's not severe, just enough to say 'slightly crude' in this exacted company.
    Car manufacturers so often get their seats wrong; and these four are not really exceptions to the rule. The Rolls' front seats are tall, wide and generous; but they ore a little too hard and too flat for long distances along twisty country roads. The Mercedes' seats are just as hard 'out better-shaped; but they aren't as comfortable when trimmed in leather as they are in the alternative soft velour. The Cadillac seat is soft and plush and (like the Rolls', adjustable every which-way by electric toggle within easy reach) but doesn't go back far enough. The Daimler seat is on the modest side, but it's well-shaped and pretty good - except for the beading that runs around its edge in the Vanden Plas. The simple brushed nylon of the lesser models is much better. Steady Barker spent hours sampling the four cars' back seats while John whisked him from one place to another, and he has plenty to say about life in the back in his accompanying piece. But to recap briefly: the Rolls is the best overall for room, then comes the Mercedes, then the Jaguar and then the Cadillac. Interestingly, although the XJ12 has the longer wheelbase it seems to us to offer less real rear comfort, despite better legroom, than the XJ coupe, mainly because the rail above the saloon's rear window restricts head room too much. The roofline in the coupe is subtly different and less of a restriction.

    Air conditioning is standard for the quartet, and so is a stereo system. So far as the air conditioning goes, the Rolls' automatically-controlled split-level system is the best; then comes the Jaguar's dial-a-temperature unit, the Caddy's similar system (but it’s not really quite strong enough) and then the Mercedes, which is more difficult to work and then doesn't do the job so well. Life is fairly straightforward in the Jaguar and #Mercedes : the adjustable mirrors are hand-operated, so are the seats, whereas the RolIs and Cadillac have electric systems for getting comfortable, along with the usual power windows and central door locking systems.

    Driver appeal

    Again, the approaches differ - from the clinically efficient Mercedes to the over-kill, schmaltzy Cadillac, but each with its own character and its own special appeal. The Mercedes is under-played to the extreme (the Germans seem determined to eliminate all the frills and just get on with the job; and quite right too in the view of many people), but reveals its nature to its driver at once. He will understand, or he will find it dull. It will not suit the pretentious man at all: it's appeal is through its thoroughness, visually as well as functionally- There is a modern four-spoke wheel, leather bound and handy; behind it a simple instrument pod housing a proper complement of dials. The one big column-mounted stalk looks after indicators, light flashing and dipping and wipers and washers (including an intermittent phase). The cruise control lever lurks close behind, easy to reach and easy to work, and in charge of the best system. The heater/vent/air conditioning controls are slightly more complex but are mounted within easy reach; so is the radio. Best of all is the automatic transmission selector - that familiar Mercedes 'golf club' jutting up from its ragged slot in the console. Flick it and it finds the right spot, and activates the transmission beneath with tremendous speed and smoothness. Just another facet of the 6.9's appeal to serious drivers. The gearbox itself, permitting first to run to 59mph and second to 97mph, is crisp and smooth, although not without the odd noise. The brakes feel excellent and stop the car with enormous strength, pushed by either left or right foot, as they should be. Vision is clear and easy, the car simple to place. In other words, if efficiency and responsiveness appeals to you, you'll love the Mercedes to distraction.

    The Jaguar is rather more of a hotch-potch inside; a half-way house. It has all the instruments and the facilities to allow the driver to make use of a car with even more outright ability than the Mercedes, but the presentation is confused, an attempt to combine the contemporary with the traditional by way of big plastic dials and yet a wood veneer fascia and door capping’s. The driving position, however is as pleasing and efficient as it is in the Mercedes, restricted only by a lack of left footroom that worries some but not others. The wiper action is slightly clumsy when they need to be parked, and the tail, spindly shift selector requires overly strong and deliberate movements. The transmission works beautifully, but first cannot be selected or held manually: can't the gearbox cope with its power? The maxima in the intermediates is 60 and 100mph, even more handy than the Mercedes' thanks to a higher rev limit. Overall, the Jaguar has a very pleasing effect on the driver, quite apart from its mechanical aspects and abilities. It feels quite small and tidy, modern but not brash, and quite tasteful (despite horrible touches like the gold plastic V12 badge on the console). It has the impression of being a gentleman's sporting carriage, with a small but meaningful 's'.
    The Rolls goes one step further. You sit up high, surrounded by wood and leather, faced by big round dials set into the wood that tell you things like the time and the temperature rather than the engine's revs. The shift lever is on the column, jutting high to the upper right, with an easy action when it comes to activating it, and with the cruise control set into its knob. Things like the .vipers are worked by chromed meta knobs on the fascia: decidedly old- fashioned, but they feel so beautiful. The transmission shifts silently and easily, running out to a mere 40 and 74mph in the intermediates. Best time to be driving the Rolls is on a relatively deserted motorway. You sit up in that coach-like atmosphere, wafting along, looking down on the world and its minions, savouring the car's straight-line stability, and, at this speed, its silence. But be careful les the idyll should be upset: don't move the wheel too quickly or too much, for the reaction of the car will be more wayward than you would wish. Yes, a car to waft along in, above all else, with something nice on the stereo and your mind not too much on the driving.

    Despite all its gadgets, that goes for the Cadillac too. Very largely, it is all add-on luxury. Besides the electric seat controls there is the central locking system, activated when the transmission is put into Drive, the Sentinel lighting switch that brings on the lights at dusk and switches them off at first light, and the automatic dipper that drops back to low-beam when it detects the lights of another car (or its own lights' reflected by Cotswold rock walls!). There are the fibre-optics tell-tales to let you know whether your head and stop lights are working, and tiny green and amber lights in the fascia to show whether you're driving economically or not. There is a digital clock, ell sorts of buzzers for unfastened seat belts and keys left in the ignition and so on, and the steering wheel tilts through crazy angles at the touch of a lever. All well and good, but GM don’t seem to understand about priorities: the windscreen wipers/washers switch is small and awkwardly located on the driver's door armrest, there is only the 85mph speedo (reading a full 20mph slow at 60mph in the test car!) and a fuel gauge too small and too impossibly located to be read without extreme effort. The angle of the pendant carrying the brake pedal is far too awkward to allow fully adequate pressure to be exerted upon it too (although that could be a fault of the British conversion) and the brakes themself fade badly without much provocation. And whereas the Cadillac's boot doses and opens by electric motor, the (collapsible) spare wheel takes up far too much space to make it much use at all. So the Cadillac emerges as a car for those who like to see their luxury and be constantly reminded of it. Subtle it isn’t, although to judge its driveability by its cabin would be wrong.

    If you look closely in the out-of-the-way places on the Cadillac, you will find the same sort of flaws that spoil the XJ12 and which you will never find on the Mercedes and Rolls-Royce. There are too many rough edges on the Cadillac, too many poorly-folded panels. And yet from the outside they all fit so exactly: just don't look too deeply. Some of the Jaguar's flaws cannot escape detection: chrome trim sections that don't mate up, fascia edgings that are skew-whiff. Then again, look under the bonnet and behold that super engine and all its castings and plumbing, and marvel that it could ever have been fitted beneath such a tow bonnet line. The Mercedes is the epitome of top-class mass-production build quality, with never a drop of paint or glue where it shouldn't be. never a panel fitted roughly, never an awkward-looking screw. And yet it is rather cold with its efficiency. The Rolls reeks of traditional craftmanship and hand-building, sporting the odd rough edge now and then to show that it has been touched, and lovingly, by human hands. It has magnificent paint work and under-bonnet detailing, for instance, and everything is in equisite, conservative taste.

    Conclusions

    Several points emerge from this Giant Test. First, the #Cadillac-Seville attains quite remarkable heights of refinement considering its remarkably basic and cheap engineering. Given its own environment, it is obviously a" very good buy. Yet it is a fairly good buy in Europe too. It is smooth and quiet, rare, loaded with convenience items and not at all bad to drive in an uninspiring sort of way. It is not a pace-maker in the chassis, but it suffers no major vices either. Even if it were a lot more expensive it would still be a very worthy competitor for the Rolls-Royce for it is just as competent in most situations, every bit as quiet and were it not for its restricted room would be just as comfortable. When hurrying many drivers will find it preferable to the Rolls.

    That the Rolls does not really rise much above the #Cadillac as a creator and upholder of motoring standards does most to establish its own perspective. It is still the most commonly-accepted and desired motoring status symbol; and because of its presentation - its unique character - it deserves much of the adulation. Its seats are slightly too hard and the rear reading lights and mirrors prevent one from lounging property, but it is a marvellously pampering car to ride in. and to be seen riding in. It is far from unpleasant to drive, but it is not as pleasant as it should be, those loping (aunts down the motorway or edging down Park Lane apart. The point is that it is eclipsed in too many areas to be considered the best car in the world. It might be the best finished, the most enticing; out it is not the quietest, it does not have the best ride, the best steering, the best brakes, the best roadholdinq, the best engine.

    The Mercedes-Benz 6.9 is notably better in many of those areas. And yet it is not the best either. More often than not it is a misunderstood car: It is a driving machine, a truly superb sports saloon conceived and developed by skillfull and enthusiastic drivers for skillfull and enthusiastic drivers. It is not a limousine: it is too noisy for that, and its rear seat, in the leather anyway, insufficiently comfortable, and lacking detail niceties. It is for the high-speed business man who likes to whisk very quickly across vast distances in maximum safety with minimum fatigue and yet extracting a very high degree of driving pleasure. Yet he can, carry passengers if he wishes or needs to. To understand this Mercedes for what it is to appreciate it for what it isn't.

    Finally, while we expected the Jaguar to have the edge over even the Rolls in terms of ride quality, overall silence and drive-line smoothness, we did not anticipate that it would not only match the Mercedes as a driver's car, but actually better it, although without such a feeling of excitement. It carries its capabilities more subtly, blending them with more overall refinement than any other car currently made. They are tremendous capabilities, made even more awesome by the car’s price: even in its ultimate form it is £10.000 cheaper than the Rolls and the W116 450SEL 6.9. Yet, if it were up to us, we would opt not for the top-line Double-Six Vanden Plas but for the standard £10.668 XJ12 with cloth trim, for its seating is more comfortable in that form. If motor cars are ultimately a compromise, the XJ12 - in whichever form you select to suit you best - is the ultimate compromise. Rolls-Royce have a new model lurking in the wings. If they wish seriously to lay claim to the title of the best car in the world with it, it's not the Silver Shadow they must better but the car from the other end of the Midlands.

    FROM THE FRONT
    By John Hatton, professional chauffeur who drives DJ Noel Edmonds XJ 4.2

    1977 #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9 W116

    A driver's car, no question about it But not a chauffeur's car. It has so much life, spurring you on to enjoying its marvellous handling, its terrific acceleration, that powerful braking and absolute stability. It responds so temptingly to your every command. But your passengers, along for the ride only as a matter of convenience at best, as a matter of necessity at worst, won't appreciate that. Even at steady speeds, as you check yourself, they'll find the ride too stiff, the seats too hard, and the road noise too extreme and not just in relation to the price they've just paid for it. You hope they don't take their ire out on you - you’re frustrated enough as it is, seeking so’-ace in the beautifully lad out controls and waiting for the chance to have it and a decent country road all to yourself one day.

    Cadillac

    All I imagined it to be - flashy, full of gadgets ... some useful and some useless. It reminds me of a funfair car. But it has a comfortable enough chassis from the driver’s point of view, except over the occasional harsh join in the road surface where there’s a thump from the rear axle to upset things a bit. The cornering is alright, the braking average, the steering very good in fact. Good gadgets, like the fibre optics to show if the headlights and brake lights are on, enable the driver to make sure his vehicle is not defective without having to check externally. I also like the two lights on the dashboard - one green and one orange: the green light indicates that the car is running at the most economical speed, and the orange shows that it is running uneconomically, which in this day of conservation is an advantage. It also means, of course, that you’re driving as smoothly as you should. The interior as a whole looks quite cheap and plasticky really; otherwise, the Cadillac compares more favourably most of the time with the Rolls than most people would imagine - more than I had anyway.

    Daimler

    I drive a Jaguar, but taking part in this test made me appreciate just how much it stands out. even in such exalted company. It is by far the best car for driver and chauffeur with its silence, excellent steering, well-balanced brakes and such ideal handling. Really, there's nothing at all in the mechanicals that I, as a private and professional driver, can criticise. Instead you find your faults with the obvious cost-cutting in the cabin (although it is. of course, so much cheaper than the Rolls and Mercedes). For instance, although the reading lights in the rear arc very good, their wires are left exposed and bits of trim elsewhere are not finished off property. Sections of the dashboard are the worst. More seriously, the beading on the front seat is too prominent; it becomes uncomfortable over a long distance, or many hours in the city. But then your passengers will be finding similar problems with the back seat in the Vanden Plas. I’d have to recommend that my boss give the Vanden Plas a miss: the lesser Jaguars are more comfortably upholstered, and give me the cloth trim over the leather any day.

    Rolls-Royce

    What peculiar handling! The steering’s so light it has you constantly over- correcting. whereas you need it to be more in keeping with the size and character of the car. And if you haven't upset your passengers that way. the brakes, at first so sharp and fierce, should do the trick. Pity the driver relying on tips. The brakes need to be far more subtly efficient. All this is particularly upsetting when driving in town, although after a while you became accustomed to the peculiarities and adjust accordingly, if not entirely satisfactorily. So doing your job with the Ro Is-Royce. rather than perhaps doing your job in it, is a tot harder than it should be. In the country the steering is more of a problem Getting your passengers along at a decent clip is far too twitchy; you can't relax behind the wheel, the concentration needed is too great to allow that. Nor can you fail to notice the excessive road noise, worst in town - and you wonder what your passenger will be making of it. Nothing much to criticise among the instrumentation, the switches or the air conditioning, which allows you to keep your charges cool headed, at least. Handy electric seat adjustment, if there is another driver or you fancy a small change yourself, although the leather of the seats is a little too hard for long days at the wheel because of the tightness of their leather. It will slacken after a few years, but so might you. Anyway, if somebody is paying so much money they want the seats to be comfortable from the outset. With the Rolls, both owner and driver expect the very best. In practice, though, they don't get it.

    AND FROM THE BACK

    By Ronald Barker country gent, critic and owner of quality conveyances

    1977 #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL 6.9 #W116

    But took, it's full of Alsatian dogs! Himmel. does prosperity so swell the West German head, or are they just peaked headrests ? These doors are so thick and heavy, and their locks massive - no wonder they shut cl... unk like a safe. You can sense the strength, it’s no illusion created by advertising copy. Echt leder inside, genuine thick, strong, shiny, slippery German leder, with a cheese grater pattern punched into its surface - for grip? For ventilation? For chafing the skin of a lady's back through her thin summer dress? Sniff how it smells and hear how it creaks like an old club library every time the chauffeur moves or I fidget. Why fidget? Because the back seat is quite appalling; the backrest is tod upright and short of lumbar support, and the cushion seems to have a semi-rigid spring frame just beneath the surface that has to move ail together or not at all. There's lots of legroom, but a fiat floor and hard ribs under the seats to catch your feet. No woolly bear nonsense Gort sei dankt and the removable carpets are secured by press-studs. No safety belts, either, which is surprising. The Alsatian headrests are adjustable for angle - gut! Behind them, recessed into the window shelf, is a great big box of First Aid goodies. There's just one central roof lamp above the backrest, ashtrays but no cigar lighters in the doors (not even a gauleiter!) No mirrors or armorial crests, but we shan't miss them. Gute fahrtl (Have a good trip, actually). But it's quite astonishing - this magnificent machine, so powerful, so stable and controllable on the road, so rewarding for the chauffeur to drive and substantial, yet it isn't a luxury car at all when you ride in the back, not for such a vast price tag. Although the ride is stable and level and shock-free, it's also unexpectedly harsh and noisy, with a mush of din from tyres and/or transmission, and if your man presses on a bit to exploit the M-B abilities, you roll about on that unresilient leather platform, unrestrained by safety harness or ergonomically profiled upholstery. It's just a genuine four-door four-seater hard-topped air-conditioned racing car.


    Cadillac

    Even if this is really only a chevre-au-lait with a cream filling it looks very posh outside and inviting inside, all soft pale grey cloth and voluptuously rounded cushions. And it feels good - for a moment; but the cushion finishes inches short of the back of the knee. It’s a full 3in shorter than the front cushions. Does Detroit consider back seat riders collectively as idle rich drink-and-be-driven dwarves? No, they made the body shell too cramped and had to chop the back seat to create an illusion of ample legroom. So my thighs are inadequately supported and my feet rest on a flat floor which will soon tire the inkle joints; they ere trapped in a nicely padded slot beneath the front seat. The backrest is rather upright, and where am I expected to stow any of the countless small things I'd need if sitting hero for days on end motoring from NY to LA? Not a door pocket or back-of-the-seat net, only a narrow rear window shelf that the Cadillac manual tells me not to put things on.

    If I want to doze, there's no headrest, and the rear quarters are filled with reading lamps and embossed crests. It isn't designed for seating three-abreast, but there are lap straps for two-and-a-half. The centre armrest is too short low and awkwardly angled, and those thinly padded elbow rests on the doors are pretty mean. In each door there’s a rather vulgar pretend-wood and bright metal console with rigid door pull, ashtray and lighter. The thick woolly carpet seems not to be readily removable for cleaning. It's very quiet back here, less wind noise than in front; no tyre rumble to speak of, but no way can you fully suppress an unsprung live axle dancing about below. The Seville rides surprisingly flat and stable round the bends, and the tyres don't disturb with roaring and squealing. Thank goodness for front headrests shallow enough to see over - I can’t bear looking forward to a sort of grasshopper's eye view of Boot Hill cemetery. A surprisingly nice car, but only in the front.

    Daimler

    A #Daimler-Benz did you say? Oh - just plain Daimler, please! Two days with these four cars and no one mentioned #Daimler or #Vanden-Plas . It’s a V12 #Jaguar and other badges don't stick. All Jaguars/Daimlers need interior designer (what about David Bache?) to modernise and harmonise and en them without necessarily spending more money in production. They are super-cars mechanically, let down by visual deficiencies in quality and tad taste.

    The Vanden Plas treatment evolves pseud seating with ably showroom appeal, so thickly upholstered and unyielding that your head almost touches the roof, with high pressure rolls under the thighs (front and back seats) where they should be soft and leather piping at the leading edge that gave our short-legged chauffeur John actual pain after 100 miles in the back (he likes a change).

    Stupid woolly bear rugs (extras) effectively reduce critical cushion-to-floor depth, and push your feet further up under the front where several vicious hook-ends of springs are poised to gouge them, but the best ride, the least road noise, the least roll, the least engine and mission noise - at the cost of the least headroom, no legroom to spare (but enough), less all-round visibility than the high-seated six-window cars.

    Not too easy to enter or leave, either, without tripping over the Kangol Euroflex belt. All four doors have rigid pockets also encasing quadraphonic speakers, and there are elastic pockets behind the seats. One sits high enough in the back to see right over the headrests. Might not the standard Jaguar V12 possibly provide more true comfort for a lot less money?

    Rolls-Royce

    Does it have to idle so fast, with all that noise? I suppose it's to keep the alternator spinning for the auxiliaries. Pity the doors shut with that shudder and tinny rattle. Smell the leather! Beautifully stitched, but pulled so taut over the cam - how long will it take to stretch and wrinkle a bit, so as not to look like pvc and to fit you snugly like an old shoe? The seating feels so formal, dictating you posture, not really letting you relax. After paying more than 24 grand, isn't one entitled to slouch? And all the great big windows, to see and be seen: in the old days when #Rolls-Royces were clothed by HJ Mulliner and Thrupp and Maberly and Hooper and Barker and Park Ward and James Young and Gurney Nutting - most had sumptuous, separate down-filled cushions, and smaller windows with roller blinds so you could, if you wished, be obscene without being seen. And why not in your own car, behind your own discreet chauffeur?

    Mirrors and reading lamps with spot lenses replace padding in the near quarters, but there are headrests; no seat belts. Open-topped elastic pockets are set in the front seat backs, beneath are loose footrests that slot into cutaways under the seats: very right and proper, a real aid to comfort. The fitted carpets are press-studded, but topped by those untidy status-creating, dirt-collecting, space-reducing woolly bear rugs. A fixed transmission line (IRS) allows a much more slender tunnel than the Caddy's, and a third passenger - be carried in quite reasonable discomfort. All the fittings are superb, even down to door lock buttons and ashtray lids. Nothing looks skimped or in bad taste; none of the others approach the Rolls-Royce standard in this area. Discreet little head (optional) restraints on the high-backed front seats partly obscure the view forward, but can be looked around. Drive on, James!... But where's the traditional ghostly hush disappeared to? I can actually hoar the engine as well as the road beneath - suspension by Messrs Thump and Rumbelow. A little faster, my man!... Whoops! No, you'd better slow down if you can't help it lurching about like that. If only I could sink into the seat a bit more, perhaps I wouldn't notice so. And should it have this stow-motion pitch, with all that hydro-pneumatic gear controlling it? Perhaps a Mercedes-Benz after all.
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  •   Mike Renaut reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    The great escape - take one #Mercedes-Benz #450SEL 6.9 #W116 , some stunning Norwegian scenery, and you get a true dream drive. Taking to Norway’s beautiful and often challenging roads in the iconic 450SEL 6.9 was one opportunity not to be missed.

    It would be very easy to dramatise feelings of worry as I slipped into the Bamboo leather seat of this 37-year old, long-wheelbase saloon. But the fact is, although I did not know the total distance of our roadtrip before it began, I was utterly convinced that this W116 Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9 would complete it. Extremely healthy bodywork and a quick starting #M100 V8 can do that for a modern classic driver’s confidence.

    This 6.9’s well documented history also helped the positive feelings to grow. Delivered – to Beverly Hills in California on June 27 1977, the W116 S-Class moved 800 miles north to Oregon 23 years later, and received a transmission rebuild complete with a new torque converter. The air conditioning compressor was replaced and the system updated to R134a gas, too.

    Falling into the hands of another Oregon based keeper in #2003 , the 6.9 enjoyed new parts for its hydro-pneumatic front and rear suspension (standard on this flagship #S-Class ), new brake discs and pads, new front wheel bearings, new fuel injectors on four of the cylinders, a rebuilt starter motor, and a new water pump and radiator. In #2007 , the bodywork was repainted using the original and oh-so-cool, DB404 Milan Brown metallic colour, and during that work the rubber seals around the windscreen and rear window were replaced. Thanks to living in such a dry climate from #1977 to #2000 , the bodywork remains rust free while the chrome reflects mirror perfect images of the world around it.

    This 6,834cc V8 saloon began the next chapter of its life when it was bought on eBay in September #2008 by its current keeper Per Rustberggard, and promptly shipped to Norway (that first Scandinavian winter must have come as a shock to this old Mercedes!). Since then, the 6.9 has required only servicing and a new mount to secure its cast iron block V8.

    Per saw fit to replace the extended North American bumpers with Euro spec items, but as these are more expensive to buy new than what he paid for the entire car, he sourced the bumpers from a somewhat cheaper #1976 #280S .

    Back in the present, the object of today’s drive is simple: to enjoy the experience. We have long championed proper use of classic and modern classic Mercedes-Benz cars, and owners of this 6.9 have certainly lived up to expectation, racking up over 117,000 miles by the time my fingers acquaint themselves with the steering wheel’s rubber rim, the crinkled surface unusual to hands more often applied to perfectly smooth modern finishes.

    NOW OR NEVER

    Freyr, the Norse god of many things including sunshine, clearly approves of our intent, blitzing early morning clouds and leaving a near flawless blue ocean above, the 6.9’s shade merging with roadside flora as we begin our journey south west, leaving the town of Gol along road 7 and aiming for Hoi, 36 miles away.

    With tighter curves few and far between, the flagship 116-series S-Class is allowed to stretch its legs on a hard surface well accustomed to sub zero temperatures, the 6.9’s automatic transmission relying on second gear to do most of the leg work before carefully smudging the change to third gear - the highest available. At 50mph, the two-valve engine is barely past 2,000rpm, and reminds the car's occupants of its presence with a rhythmic and ever so gently reverberating melody that calls for the Becker radio to remain silent, and conversation between myself and photographer Craig Pusey to be sociably fleeting.

    Soon we are on the outskirts of Hoi before rolling north west along road 50. As we begin to climb, greater use of the 6.9’s recirculating ball steering is required, and it is along here that we get our first sight of snow. Almost 1,000 metres above sea level, the Strandavatnet lake literally stops us in our tracks, reflecting the snow covered hills and blue sky above in its impossibly tranquil surface. Unexpectedly, out here in this wilderness the 450SEL 6.9 looks completely at home, its slightest of curves and coppery hue becoming pan of the landscape rather than distracting from it.

    Eager to make tracks with the promise of even more spectacular scenery, the full 250bhp and 360lb ft torque of this US spec 6.9 (Euro cars had 282bhp/405lb ft, in part thanks to a 0.7 higher compression ratio of 8.8) are deployed as we leave the layby and rejoin the carriageway. The V8’s ascent through its rev range is relatively steady but it packs the force of a freight train, the final 1,000rpm before the redline at 5,000 the most energetic as the engine emits a deep and brutal snarl hardly in keeping with the bodywork surrounding it. The quoted 134mph maximum (140mph for Euro cars) certainly feels possible with more provocation of that floor hinged throttle pedal.

    With the morning rapidly eroding, we continue our march along road 50, now heading north west towards Aurland. However, to get there we must pass through several tunnels including the Nesbotunnelen (1.6 miles long), Berdaltunnelen (2.6 miles) and Stondaltunnelen (1.4 miles), each black hole through the mountainside testing a driver’s nerve and spatial awareness, and of course, their car’s headlamps, which in this case are somewhat lacking in their lighting ability!

    The tunnel roads may be dead straight, but they are littered with bumps and covered in dust. And the fact they are only just wide enough to take two cars abreast does not make meeting oncoming vehicles any easier, or less stressful. For those drivers who have navigated the Blackwall Tunnel in London, that mildly twisting route under the River Thames is a walk in the park compared to what greets us in the next few dozen minutes.

    EMERGING FROM THE BLACKNESS

    Still around 12 miles from Aurland, and after carefully aiming the 6.9 downhill through yet more tunnels Gollum from The Lord of the Rings would be happy to call home, a puff of smoke rises from the front left wheel and wafts across the bonnet as we come to a halt at a red traffic light. The disc brakes of this two-tonne Benz are crying time, so under the advice of their owner I manually choose a low gear and stay off the stoppers whenever possible.

    It takes all of lunch in Gudvangen, another 12 miles west of Aurland, to regain my confidence in the 6.9’s vacuum boosted brake system, which has sufficiently cooled before the next challenge presents itself - one of the steepest roads in northern Europe. Right!

    We could simply retrace our tracks along the E16 back to Aurland, but with a 6.8-litre super saloon to hand and a lusting for a deeper sense of adventure, the Stalheimskleiva it is. Beginning at the rear of the Stalheim Hotel, which overlooks the Narroy Valley, this 13-hairpin road, complete with two adjacent waterfalls, puts renewed strain on the 6.9’s brakes, the old saloon suddenly feeling incredibly wide and longer than ever as we tiptoe down the mountainside, the craggy, knee high walls separating us from certain death doing little to calm my nerves. Somehow, we make it to the bottom of the valley without a wisp of brake smoke to speak of, and the 6.9 is duly rewarded for its steadfast performance with a full tank of fuel.

    Continuing back to Aurland before attempting to absorb the majesty of its vast fjord, we once again choose the scenic route as we begin the return leg of this dizzying journey. The next destination is Latrdal, and most drivers head to and from it via the Larrdalstunnelen, a monster, 15.2-mile cavity bored out of the mountains. We, however, set the 6.9’s 14-inch wheels on the Fv243 a road seemingly scribbled onto the map by a child and which zig-zags across huge areas of countryside almost always covered with snow. Lots of snow - banks so high they loom over this 1,410mm tall Benz.

    Despite the snowfall in these parts, the roads are sun kissed today and perfectly formed, inviting the 6.9’s double-wishbone front end to hunt apex after apex along this twisting back route. There is just enough room for two cars to pass each other along here, but this otherwise grand Mercedes starts to shrink around me and gamely chirrups its inside rear wheel on the exit of one 90-degree left hander. Sadly, nobody else is around to see and hear the long-wheelbase S-Class fire down the road at a rate of knots that must have seemed completely absurd in the 1970s.

    BACK WHERE IT ALL BEGAN

    Our isolation brings renewed focus on the car, which feels more responsive and wieldy than ever as we join the E16 in the heart of Laerdal, before heading south east towards Hemsedal. Norway gives us one last, emphatic memory' during the final 60 miles, road 52 offering up more for the driver to savour than most of the A-roads in the UK combined. Again, the long-wheelbase 6.9 comes alive, the extra legroom in the rear seemingly of no concern to the 116-series chassis, with composure only ever rocked by poorly judged entry speeds into corners, or overly keen inputs through the helm. Of course, there is body roll (not even the rear level control system can fix that), but it is not the door handle scraping sort that came with any hydro-pneumatically suspended Citroen of the day.

    I imagine Norway’s main routes are welcomed by this S-Class, brought up on arrow straight American highways. Fast and (lowing, they allow the M100 to sing, and with half-turn curves they keep those old joints supple. It is a dream environment for this once most powerful Mercedes-Benz to flourish, and as we arrive in Gol, around 10 hours after we left, I swear I see a flash of new life in the 6.9's headlamps as we part ways - painfully for me.

    With another 232 miles under its wheels, this 6.9 has proven that older Mercedes really can be taken on new adventures in the second decade of the 21st century. All it takes is a sense of responsibility for maintaining that which would otherwise be lost in time. Given the potential rewards, I think it’s the least we can do...

    Long downhill stretches tested the disc brakes.
    One of the steepest roads in northern Europe.
    Many settings for this California car’s climate control system
    The light at the end of the many tunnels was a most welcome sight.
    Bamboo leather looks tremendous with the Milan Brown paintwork.
    A shade under 118,000 miles and none the worse for it - what a machine!
    One of the few times Editor Molyneux wasn’t smiling while driving.
    Hydro-pneumatic level control at rear ensures little fighting in corners.

    THE FACTS
    ENGINE M100 6,834cc V8
    POWER 250 / 286 bhp @ 4.000rpm
    TORQUE 360lb ft @ 2.500rpm
    TRANSMISSION 3-speed auto, RWD
    Weight 1,990kg
    0-62MPH 8.9sec
    Top speed 134mph
    Fuel consumption 15mpg
    Years produced #1975 - #1980

    Figures tor a US spec car as pictured, built from #1977 to #1979 : fuel consumption determined at % of top speed (not more than 110km/h 68mph) plus 10 per cent.

    The craggy, knee high walls separating us from certain death do little to calm my nerves.

    I imagine Norway's main routes are welcomed by this S-Class, brought up on arrow straight American highways.

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  •   Mike Renaut reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    Best of the Best - #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9 W116 Driven / - #Mercedes-Benz-W116 / #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-450SEL-6.9-W116

    What it's like to drive a luxobarge with more torque than a Ferrari of similar years. This is the car that really paved the way for the super-saloons that are preferred by the super-rich today.


    Today, the richest 1% of the population glides through city streets in monstrously powerful symbols of opulence like it’s nothing. The over-engined #Mercedes-Benz-S-class is power, a new-money V-sign to petty concerns like fuel prices, austerity and public opinion. And the more things change, the more they stay the same. In fact in May #1975 , when the 450 SEL 6.9 went on sale, more than a year after its official unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show, this fuel-guzzling statement car was even more dramatic, as the oil crisis of the early 1970s sent petrol prices through the roof.


    Mercedes-Benz delayed the launch when the pumps ran dry, but eventually had to let the best saloon in the world free. Running a car that returned just 10.1mpg in Sport mode was still the equivalent of lighting a fat cigar off a £50 note and James Hunt’s own 6.9 ended up on bricks in his drive.

    It was the wrong time for a car of this ilk but, at the time of its inception, Mercedes-Benz was determined to overthrow the #Jaguar-XJ12 . It also wanted a successor to the world’s first real Q car, the 6.3-litre W109 300SEL 6.3, created by M-B engineer #Erich-Waxenberger , which was once the fastest fourdoor saloon in the world. This one continued the ethos: the only things to mark it apart from the lesser 450 were the 6.9 badge and wider tyres.

    Mercedes-Benz stripped the 6.9-litre M100 V8 from the 600, together with the trick hydropneumatic suspension system. Aluminium cylinder heads, hardened valve seats and sodium-filled valves, together with #Bosch-K-Jetronic fuel injection and dry-sump lubrication were all revised for the handbuilt 6.9. After all, this was an engine designed to make an impact on the world.

    Today anything less than 500bhp is barely breaking a sweat, but back then this 286bhp titan with its 420lb ft of torque was Top Trumps stuff. The #1976 #F1 World Champion #James-Hunt declared: ‘It looks like a taxi, goes like a Ferrari.’ That was slightly optimistic, but it’s a glowing testimony nonetheless.


    Others were equally keen. The great American journalist David E Davis said this was, ‘the ultimate manifestation of the basic Daimler-Benz idea of how automobiles are supposed to be designed and built. It is the best Mercedes-Benz automobile ever sold.’

    Like Davis, who claimed the big Benz handled like a Mini, CAR magazine was entranced with the road manners of this hefty hunk of car, which tips the scales at 1935kg. That’s 200kg more than the standard 450, thanks almost entirely to the big V8 up front. ‘A car of such speed and weight must have demonstrably good roadholding and handling, and this one is no disappointment in anything from a hairpin to a three-figure bend,’ the magazine said. Swiss automotive newspaper Automobil Revue, which is hardly known for going too far, called it: ‘The best car in the world.’

    So it’s good, then

    The 450SEL 6.9 cost DM69,930 (£12,880) at launch, but inflation took this to £24,950 by 1978, which was less than £2000 cheaper than a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II and almost twice as much as a #Jaguar-XJ5.3. For a car with cloth seats and not so many creature comforts inside. It was ludicrously expensive, but this was by far the fastest, most capable and brilliant saloon car in the world. It was a technical tour de force that came together in the face of environmental pressures making today’s Green movement look passive, and it a car that set the benchmark fo engined saloons everywhere.

    JFK Junior, Frank Sinatra Telly Savalas and the Shah of Iran all drove a 6.9, as did heavy metal star David Lee Roth, who painted his black and put a skull and crossbones on the bonnet. It was, then, a fashion icon and the public took to it. Despite its staggering price and fuel consumption, 7380 were sold between 1975 and 1981. That means they’re readily available today at a reasonable price – but that is surely set to change in the years ahead as the much-revered 6.9 becomes harder to source.

    As impressive as ever on the road

    It’s amazing how much perspective 40 years provides, as the eulogies bestowed upon the 6.9 simply don’t hold true today. US motoring scribe David E Davis suggested the big #Mercedes-Benz could be thrown around like a Mini, but after picking up the car here from Mercedes-Benz HQ in Milton Keynes we glide right over the first mini roundabout. The steering simply isn’t quite as pin-sharp as I was led to believe.

    The hydropneumatic suspension that was a development of Citroën’s system handles the weight well for a car of its era, but I still have to set up for the bend to avoid understeering into oncoming traffic. It’s well-damped in high-speed corners, holding the line effortlessly. The big Benz also tramples the mini-roundabout with barely a bump and squashes bumps and potholes without transmitting them to the cabin. It’s every bit as well damped as a modern car, more so even.

    Adjustable ride height seems like overkill for a saloon car, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless. The self-levelling front and rear and anti-squat technology to keep the car level under heavy acceleration and braking are more relevant. At the rear, the 6.9 inherited the standard S-class rear semi-trailing arm, along with a Watt’s linkage to help with enthusiastic cornering. That 200kg hanging over the front end still dictates a slow in and fast out style in slower corners. But, my Lord, it’s fast out, even in a modern context.

    The performance figures are impressive, with the big barge hitting 60mph in 7.4sec and a top speed of 140mph, but it’s the way it lets rip from 60-100mph that is shocking even today. The languid nature of the car simply does not match up to the way it acquires speed. It could absolutely shred your licence these days.

    That rumbling V8 is distant, insulated, like a distant storm. It makes its presence felt with every stab on the bounteous accelerator, though, as the scenery starts to rush past at a surreal rate and the fuel gauge seemingly drops before my eyes. There’s no getting away from the scary consumption – the Benz consumes a third of the 96-litre tank in 60 miles, but then you shouldn’t buy a 450 SEL 6.9 without knowing what you’re letting yourself in for.

    Thankfully for a car that builds speed so fast, it’s equipped with disc brakes all-round that seem stronger than the tyres’ ability to lay the braking power to the road. It will lock up, but that’s inevitable with this much weight going that fast, even though post- #1978 cars come with a rudimentary anti-lock system #ABS / #Bosch .

    Modern AMGs could learn a thing or two from the understated looks. Many owners deleted the 6.9 badge, making the big Mercedes-Benz look like a totally standard 450 on the outside, with just the 6.5J x 14in alloy wheels and wide tyres marking it apart. That aside the W116 is a comical blend of understated elegance and fussy detailing such as the double-deck bumpers, overly complex chrome window surrounds and louvred light lenses.

    Inside it’s typical 450 fare, with a few extra warning lights thrown in to accommodate the handbuilt engine that remained more or less maintenance-free for the first 50,000 miles. Those cloth seats seem out of place in a car that cost this much, but they’re supportive and suit the style of the car, allowing me to hang back with a single finger on the wheel. I can even mess with the #Blaupunkt stereo, with its digital display. It’s the one item on the car that isn’t period. The oversize handbrake is an item that never once fails to bring a smile to my face, even if starting out from an overnight stop at silly o’clock when nothing else is funny. The heavy wood veneer also takes me back to a bygone age. But the rest, including the cruise control, feels fresh.

    That’s the real surprise with the 450SEL 6.9. It might be an icon, but it’s a car that can hang with modern executive saloons. It’s a classic that simply doesn’t make any demands on the driver beyond a simple adjustment in driving style to cope with tight bends. In short, it’s a 40-year-old car you could drive every day that will still put a smile on your face when you flatten the throttle. There aren’t too many of those in this world.

    ALTERNATIVES

    Jaguar XJ12

    It’s fast enough to put a smile on your face, so if you can’t stand the thought of buying a Mercedes, the Jaguar will be more than enough fun. What’s more, you’ll be buying British.

    Bigger wheels are about the only giveaway that this is not a standard 450 SEL, especially if you remove the 6.9 badge.

    Target price £14k
    Target price £15k

    Above, man with smile on face, having just flattened the throttle.

    Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9 vs. #Rolls-Royce-Silver-Shadow

    Much slower, more luxurious and with that quintessential English charm, the Rolls-Royce is a stylish alternative if you don’t give two hoots about performance.

    Yes, cloth upholstery. In a car chosen by plutocrats, heavyweight politicians, music superstars and Telly Savalas. David Lee Roth thought it looked better with a skull and crossbones. James Hunt said it looked like a taxi.

    Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners may sneer at the M-B approach to car interiors, but it’s comfortable and long-lasting.

    Select ‘S’ and you’ll appreciate that 420lb ft of torque. Three-dial convention, and a few more warning lights.

    The 6.9-litre engine is handbuilt, has aluminium cylinder heads and drinks petrol at the rate of 10mpg.

    SPECIFICATIONS

    ENGINE 6834cc/V8/SOHC #M100
    POWER 286bhp @ 4250rpm
    TORQUE 420lb ft @ 3000rpm
    MAXIMUM SPEED 140mph
    0-60MPH 7.4sec
    FUEL CONSUMPTION 10-15mpg
    TRANSMISSION RWD, three-speed auto


    OIL CAPACITY
    ENGINE 12.4 litres
    GEARBOX 8 litres
    AXLE 4.8 litres
    OIL GRADE
    ENGINE Castrol Classic XL20w/50
    GEARBOX Castrol Dexron 11
    AXLE Castrol Axle Z


    WHAT TO PAY

    CONCOURS £30,000
    NICE £20,000
    USABLE £12,500
    PROJECT £1000
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  •   Mike Renaut reacted to this post about 4 years ago
    For #1980 , #Mercedes-Benz / #Mercedes-Benz-W116 introduces the most relentlessly efficient automobiles in its history.

    Dramatic fuel mileage gains of from 14.3 to 33.3 percent in gasoline models — without downsizing bodies or engines a whit. All five Diesels gain new power — without spoiling their famed fuel efficiency. A remarkable engineering accomplishment. But just what you’d expect from Mercedes-Benz in times like these.

    Stringent efficiency is no sudden demand to the engineers of Mercedes-Benz. For 94 years they have built cars with little else in mind.

    For 1980, these engineers have inched the standards up another notch. The result: eleven automobiles that stand as the most relentlessly efficient Mercedes-Benz has ever built. Evolution, not revolution.

    This new peak was reached without panic. Without downsizing bodies or cutting engine capacity. Without cutting hundreds of pounds of weight.

    And without cutting corners in safety or comfort or quality. From the solid “clump” when you shut a door, to the deep safety padding that envelops the cabin, down to the last lovingly hand-rubbed enamel coat, you can rest assured a Mercedes-Benz is still a Mercedes-Benz.

    Through meticulous technical refining, it is simply an even more efficient Mercedes-Benz.

    Diesels — and more power to them

    In any ordinary year, it would be major news that Mercedes-Benz engineers had boosted the performance of their Diesel- powered cars.

    And boost it they did — to a healthy degree. The muscular 300 SD Turbodiesel W116 is even more muscular. The five-cylinder 300 TD Station wagon, 300 CD Coupe and 300 D Sedan move more briskly. The 240 D Sedan enjoys new punch.

    But 1980 is no ordinary year.

    The best news is that the legendary Diesel fuel efficiency remains legendary. The economy of the 240 D remains in the rarified air usually reserved for compacts and mini-cars. For 1980. the 240 D with manual transmission has an EPA estimate of 28 mpg. That beats every compact, mid-size and large car listed in the official FPA fuel economy information for 1980, published September 7. 1979.

    All of this has been accomplished without tampering with the 240 D's solid 1.5 tons or its first-class accommodations.
    The 300 SD Turbodiesel gains a full 10 horsepower, further increasing its lead as the most efficient Diesel yet installed in a car. But while performance soars, fuel mileage remains the same as last year. Compare this to other cars. Your mileage may differ depending on speed, weather conditions and trip length! Mercedes-Benz engineers did enjoy a rather unfair advantage over other engineers working on other 1980 Diesel cars: the advantage of a 44-vear Diesel heritage.

    The pleasant shock of efficiency

    Mercedes-Benz offers the American buyer a choice of six gasoline-powered automobiles again in 1980. All six remain object lessons in advanced design.

    But the connoisseurs who always admired the 450 SFL Sedan as the nr plus ultra of automotive travel get a bonus in 1980. So do advocates of the six-cylinder 280 F. and 280 SF Sedans, and 280 CF Coupe. And enthusiasts of the 450 SL Roadster and 450 SLC Coupe may also be in for a pleasant shock.

    In these cars for 1980. fuel efficiency gains some makers might be pleased to achieve in two. three or five years have been achieved in one. Advances ranging from a 14.3 percent increase in fuel mileage for the 280 CE Coupe, 280 F and 280 SF Sedans, to a 33.3 percent gain in the 450 SEL Sedan, the 450 SL Roadster and the 450 SLC. Coupe. Compare this to other cars. Your mileage may differ depending on speed, weather conditions and trip length.

    Quality service: reaffirmed commitment
    With every new Mercedes-Benz comes a dual commitment: to provide unparalleled engineering in its cars and to provide unparalleled service — through the unstinting efforts of over 400 authorized Mercedes-Benz dealers across the United States.

    A challenge since 1886

    Every car maker today speaks of its cars being “right for the times.” Mercedes-Benz is no exception.

    But it is worth noting that Mercedes-Benz — having never let its cars grow too long and large and heavy — is not now forced into radical redesign to bring them back in line.

    Making its cars more efficient does not loom as “the challenge of the eighties” at Mercedes-Benz.
    It has alums been the challenge. Engineered like no other car in the world.
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    Mercedes-Benz W116

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