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Mercedes 220TE Vs. E 300e 4MATIC: Evolution

Thanks to Chema and Mercedes we reviewed the W124 ('La Roca') and also compared it with its successor today, the E300e 4Matic ...


The history of the automobile is intimately linked to that of Mercedes. You all know the relationship and the brand itself has exploited that link in its advertising. It's fair to acknowledge that, albeit in a different mix, today's Mercedes remains a hybrid of tradition and dynamism that nonetheless faces savage competition. Saving the distances, a Mercedes SSK 720 from the 20s is comparable to an AMG GT Roadster, but a world of rivals separates them. In any case, what we mean is that, for more than a hundred years, the house in Stuttgart has been supported by pillars that are in the public domain. 

What are those pillars? Think for a moment about what the name represents (by the way, it is a woman's name of Spanish origin): Quality, performance, luxury, technology, innovation, success. This German company has been offering cutting-edge products for eternity, practically without fail. It is true that for a time it was supported and empowered by Nazism, but later had to recover on its own and this is, perhaps, what has most influenced the image that many currently have of the company. Ultimately, Mercedes has never lost muscle.

It was then, after the Second World War, when the 'Pontons', the 'Colas', the indestructible W114 / 5 and W123 (let's remember those 300D) and, of course, the Mercedes W124, the predecessor of the current E-Class. All of these featured, apart from bomb-proof construction and refinement, state-of-the-art security measures. Because Mercedes, through the engineer Béla Barényi, was the initiator of research in this field: Safety cells, ABS or airbags, for example, are inventions of the German brand. And the W124 was perhaps the quintessence of what might be called the philosophy of the star.

El Mercedes W124 it was unveiled exactly on November 24, 1984 in Seville. The design had been carried out by Bruno Sacco, Joseph Gallitzendörfer and Peter Pfeiffer, standing out for their aerodynamics and for such outstanding qualities that they have possibly not been equaled by any other subsequent Sttutgart car. This does not mean that the current models are far from bad but, in reality, the Mercedes W124 was too good

Mercedes 220TE

W124: More than 2,5 million units sold

When the Mercedes W124 hit the market, Mercedes was not as we know it now. She was more demure, more conventional and very neat with her ideals, too neat surely. In Spain it had the sambenito of "grandfather's car", because many retirees, who had been saving all their lives, bought one. It was therefore very common to see a car with the star on the front driven by an older person. Still, being very conservative in design, more than 2,5 million units were sold, a resounding success. And many of them are even running today without needing a restoration. 

This is the case W124 of Chema. A Mercedes 220 TE registered in 1995; that is to say, the station wagon body (presented in 1985), equipped with a four-cylinder engine, 2.199 cubic centimeters, 16-valve cylinder head, 110 kW (150 hp) and 210 Nm of torque. A copy that its owner has decorated as if it were one of the cars in the brand's roadside assistance fleet. The decoration, made with vinyl, is totally reversible to recover its original bottle green paint. 

Mercedes W124
mercedes w124

This W124, also, it has almost 200.000 kilometers. But it is in an absolutely spectacular state: It seems that the years have not passed by him and that is precisely the reason why he stars in this report and, incidentally, he faces his current reincarnation. We wanted to know first-hand if the model really deserves the incredible fame it has. As you will see, like this, first of all, it left us with our mouths open ... 

The market situation forces things to change

It has always been said that the Mercedes W201 was the last platform developed without taking into account costs, and the brand itself came to recognize that it had created a product with a higher quality than necessary. He rated it exactly how "Over-engineered", what could be translated as "over designed"; unnecessarily good. Although this depending on how you look at it, because the study in which more than 600 million pounds were spent in the late 70s came out, among others, the 190 models, W124 and R129. That is, S-class aside, the bulk of the passenger cars that Mercedes would live on for at least 15 years.

Mercedes 220TE

Within the range of the time, the W124 took the place of the midsize saloon, bigger than a 190 but smaller than an S. It might seem like an exaggeration, but please take a look at the photos, analyze the details; things like the wood of the console, the gear selector knob, the steering wheel or, without going much further, the fabric upholstery of the seats. And when you have admired it all, marvel that the car is more than 25 years old and has covered a mileage that would destroy, for example, any French or Italian rival.

There are things that the photos do not show you, such as the feeling of general robustness, the touch of the buttons or the reactions when driving, which we will comment on later, but from here we can assure that they surprise. It is evident that much of the current fame of this model is totally deserved; It is one of the best Mercedes ever made and when you compare it to the current E-Class, the W213 II, you realize that. 

Mercedes 220TE

Has Mercedes lost quality?

Mercedes has long seemed to have lost that level of quality, although having the luxury of being able to closely analyze a car like the Mercedes E 300e 4MATIC is hard to believe. The execution of this car is at a level that finding fault is difficult. To have them there are them, but we have to be very demanding. In any case, we must analyze both machines in different ways, since they come from totally different times. 

When the W124, Mercedes could ask for whatever it wanted for its cars, people were willing to pay for it. Today, the competition is fierce, the maximum rivalry and the equipment that our unit carries makes the Mercedes W124 almost the car of 'The Flintstones'. The technology on board is so overwhelming and so expensive that forces to cut in other sections, mainly in the finishes, so that prices do not skyrocket excessively. And that the RRP of the E300e 4MATIC of this comparison exceeds 80.000 euros with ease. 

Is it better or worse than the W124? They are actually incomparable, but it is one more way of looking at the evolution of the car and the transformation that Mercedes itself has undergone. It may not be apparent to the naked eye, but today's bodies hide real spaceships. Although the W213 II does not have an immortal soul, we cannot deny that it is a true Mercedes.

Mercedes E300e 4Matic

One of the greatest Mercedes hits you can collect

The production of the Mercedes W124 lasted more than 11 years and the model range was one of the largest there was: sedan, station wagon, coupe, convertible, with long chassis and even some in special editions or on request. It was manufactured until 1995 and that same year the Mercedes W210 appeared, the first generation of the E-Class with this name, which coexisted with the family W124 until 1996 (that is, the Chema unit is one of the last manufactured, already equipped with airbags. driver) and with the convertible until 1997.

There were two Facelift o design updates: One in 1989, distinguishable mainly by the soffits or plastic protections that surround the lower part of the body; and another in 1993, whereby the front is assimilated to the new S-class (W140) and the rear bumper becomes enveloping (except for family members).

mercedes w124
Mercedes 220TE

In total, 2.058.777 sedans, 340.503 family cars, 41.498 coupes, 6.343 convertibles, 2.342 versions with long chassis and no less than 6.398 copies with modified chassis for special purposes were manufactured. A) Yes, the W124 reached 2.555.861 copies. It has been one of the biggest successes of the star's firm, especially considering that at that time a Mercedes was not available to so many people, as it is now with the A-Class and company.

Today, in view of the variety of engines (eye, only the 200 was carburetion) and bodies, the most desired version of the W124 is the Mercedes 500E, a masterpiece co-designed and co-manufactured by Porsche. A beast with a 8 hp atmospheric V326 block capable of completing the sprint in 6,1 seconds. Each specimen, built quasi-artisanal between the two brands, took 18 days to complete. However, even this car would lag behind the rival this time, against the Mercedes E 300e 4MATIC.

The Mercedes E 300e 4MATIC -the house of Stuttgart introduced its four-wheel drive system precisely in the W124 in 1987 - is one of the brand's most modern creations and is powered by a plug-in hybrid powertrain. A set formed by a petrol block of 1.991 cubic centimeters and 211 hp, assisted by a 122 hp electric, both linked to the 9 G Tronic automatic transmission. In fact, the electric motor is built into the gearbox itself. Both engines, together, yield 320 hp and no less than 700 Nm of torque, which pass to the asphalt through all four wheels.

Yes, it loses 6 hp compared to the Mercedes 500E, but complete the sprint in 5,9 seconds, it approves a consumption of 6 liters and can reach 245 km / h. The 500E consumes twice as much and reaches the same top speed, weighing about 300 kilos less (1.700 kilos vs. 2.065) and being much less dynamically effective. Obviously, Chema's Mercedes 220 TE, with 1500 kilos on the scale, does not come close to any of these beasts, but they do not come close to the cargo capacity of the station wagon thanks to its 530 liters of trunk, which reach 1.770 liters if the rear seatback is folded down.

There are other desirable sports versions like the very rare AMGs or the V8 400E / E420, which took advantage of the chassis tuned by Porsche. Also, those that equipped the package 'Sportline ', which included, among others, sports seats, fatter wheels and tires, sports steering and suspension, lower height and a smaller steering wheel. Regarding valuations, a 500E is bought today in Spain normally at 20.000 euros, while any more conventional variant in good condition tends to be between 3.000 and 6.000, the sedans closer to the first figure than the second. You can find real bargains. The Sportlines are rare and would be in the middle ground, while the AMGs are almost impossible to find.

Mercedes 220TE

Sensations at the wheel of our 220TE station wagon

If, as you can imagine, the modern Mercedes is a true performance machine capable of everything, the classic is more of a boat. And is that the line between conventional sedans and sports cars has blurred a lot. Nowadays it is easy to choose a car of this type that has everything, but before you had to choose if you wanted to have fun or simply transport yourself safely and comfortably. Mercedes typically offered to enjoy the comfort of a marquis rather than make you feel like an ace at the wheel. For a high price you could opt for the sports variables W124 reviewed or by a W201 190 2.3 16V a little smaller, but it was not usual.

Therefore, at the controls of the relative do not give great sensations, but it simply conveys the feeling of great solidity that characterizes it. Nothing creaks or screeches, and the chain-timing, dual overhead camshaft drive pushes like a percheron horse to around 6500 laps. Linear, predictable, no surprises. The suspension is extremely comfortable and absorbs everything. Still, along with the super power steering, it's effective. Although without giving much information, the car goes where you ask, accurately, rocking but without understeering or oversteering. Braking is good. Everything within a driving is understood a little animated, not on fire. With the optional hydraulic suspension, which this unit does not mount, it would probably be better.

The driving position is that of a classic Mercedes: Spring armchairs without any type of lateral support that enhance the effect flying carpet, with a fine, pleasant-touch steering wheel and a long but precise gear lever. At the back, the space for the three seats is ample; If there are 5 as corresponds to the 7-seat version, which there was also, then it goes a little fairer and you lose some space in the great trunk. The latter also has an automatic closing once the huge gate rests against the lock.

Mercedes W213


In short, thanks to Chema and Mercedes we have been able to verify the evolution of the star brand, which today is similar and at the same time different from the Mercedes of a lifetime. Thanks to the E300e 4Matic we have seen that it has become more youthful and technological, although it has lost some of the advantage it had over other manufacturers in terms of quality. A Mercedes is still a Mercedes, the best of the best, but other brands are successfully following in its wake. That is why it must remain vigilant and continue to honor its name and all that it represents, even taking into account the conditions of the current market.

Compared to the 220TE, it is the perfect example of a car for life, indestructible. It's hard to find a W124 eaten, the build quality and finishes of these machines simply don't allow it. They are made not to age, they are hard as a rock; precisely, what the Mercedes have always been: The same thing happens when you see a Ponton, a Colas, a Pagoda, among many others ... They simply survive, as does the anvil to the hammer. If you haven't had one yet, and given the prices, we encourage you to give them a try. They will not disappoint you and you will know what a car is as God intended 😉

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Javi Martin

Written by Javi Martin

If you ask me where my love for motoring comes from, I wouldn't know how to answer. It has always been there, although I am the only one in the family who likes this world. My father worked as a draftsman in a metallurgical company with a lot of auto parts production, but there was never a passion like I can have.

I really like the history of the automobile and I am currently creating a personal library dedicated exclusively to the history of the motor in Spain, without forgetting the motorcycles that gave so much service in our "old" Spain. I also have a huge collection of scanned material.


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