Mercedes has been known not because of high-priced roadsters or big luxury sedans. The pride of Mercedes is actually its line of sturdy and reliable midsize sedans. Today that line is known as the E-Class—cars that could survive for decades and decades even after being driven over dirt roads or uneven pavement. The E-Class line has always been centered on toughness over power or luxury, along with being worth the extra money an owner pays compared to less expensive car makes. The Mercedes Benz 300E is a proud warrior in that line, and it’s been proven time and again to last a long time. This can be attributed to its rich history of changes and upgrades that have helped it evolve into a durable midsize sedan.
1986: The birth of a sturdy car
In 1986, Mercedes Benz built a new midsize sedan and called it the 300E. It was built based on the W124 chassis, which was the standard internal chassis designation for the 1985 to 1995 version of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class vehicles. Mercedes introduced contemporary aero styling in the 300E—this included flush headlights, a raked windshield, and a lower nose. Durability became the main focus on Mercedes’ new midsize sedan. Crisp handling was achieved by putting a revised front and rear suspension, standard anti-lock brakes, and a curb weight that’s lighter by 200 pounds.
1987-1989: An early favorite
The 1987 300E had a new 3.0-liter SOHC 12-valve straight six which made 177 horsepower. The next year, a new, 300CE coupe was introduced, and a five-speed manual transmission was offered on both the 260E and 300E. In 1990, several other changes were applied to the 300E, and the 260E was even renamed to 300E 2.6. During this year, the 300CE coupe’s 3.0-liter straight six now made an improved 217 horsepower. It’s become an early favorite for people looking for decent power on a durable car.
The 1990s: How the 300E became legendary
The 1990s were big for the 300E. In 1991 an optional Mercedes' ASR system became available on the midsize sedan, which satiated traction control aficionados. The 1992 300E had a “Sportline” option. A new engine was installed in the 1993 300E, along with a few standard safety features. The 2.6-liter engine became a 2.8-liter and wore a DOHC head with four valves per cylinder. Among the safety features that were installed in a standard 300E were dual front airbags. This year also saw the debut of the 300CE Cabriolet. In 1994, the E-Class officially came to be. During this year, Mercedes changed its vehicle naming system by putting the "E" before the number. The inline six E-class became one of Mercedes-Benz' most popular cars in history, with the 300E spearheading the class.