No matter how it's portrayed, a diesel engine always has a negative implication. Rough, unrefined, noisy, and cranky, these are not ideas one would easily associate with luxury. This was greatly challenged by the Mercedes Benz 300SD. Lots of people were aware of the prestige and class of the Benz 300. It was hard to deny its five-decade old reputation as a solid and reliable luxury car. Even the introduction of the crude diesel engine on such a type of vehicle didn't damage its high status. Here's how the German company did it:
The first generation (W116): 1977-1980
The Mercedes Benz 300SD was part of the W116 line that had the
300 name. Though the 300SD wasn't the first luxury car to carry a diesel engine--the 300D from the early 70s had that title--it can be said that it perfected the balance between such an engine on such a car in its class. The 3.0L, inline-5, turbocharged, diesel engine was able to give as much as 120hp. With enough speed, the car drove as smooth as a gasoline engine. Other than that, the usual perks and amenities expected of a luxury vehicle were readily provided. Its looks alone, both inside and outside, spoke enough of its class.
The notable features of the Mercedes Benz 300SD were found in its advances in terms of mechanical and safety features. The new twin control arm suspension system enhanced steering and handling ability. Anti-lock brakes came as a standard for improved braking. This technology ensured that the wheels were always spinning and controllable even when braking hard. The passenger cabin was also improved by increasing the frame's strength. The dashboard and instrument panel were also reinforced to limit passenger injury.
The second generation (W126): 1980-1985
By this time, Benz 300 models from the past generation were really selling well. The company wanted to maintain its strong stand as the best with further improvements on its new cars. With the diesel engine, the aim was to provide enough power while at the same time keep good fuel efficiency. Mercedes Benz was able to do this with an improved 3.0L, inline-five, turbocharged, diesel engine that was still able to reach 120hp at a more efficient rate.
Again, changes weren't limited to the engine. Cars in the W126 line had new features to offer that worked on the innovations from the successful W116. As far as safety was concerned, the Mercedes Benz 300SD offered airbags, anti-lock brakes, modified lights, and pre-tensioners for the seat belt. A new and improved drivetrain with sensors gave the car a rough cruise-control system and a speed controller when on an incline.