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post #1 of 3 (permalink) Old 09-24-2004, 02:20 PM Thread Starter
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recommend me a diesel

Since I'm getting very sick of paying $50 a week for gas for my 300SE, I've decided to go the diesel route within a few months. Can you guys give me some pros/cons about each model, model years to look for, etc? I'd like a turbo diesel model, sedan or coupe, and it should either be late 70's to around 91. I've had my eye on a 1984 300SD, simply because I like the w126, as that's what my current car is. But the 123 and 124 are fine too. Also, a 1980 300CD looks promising too. I'd also like to stick with a 5cyl, as they seem to be the best from what I gather. Thanks in advance.
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post #2 of 3 (permalink) Old 09-24-2004, 04:00 PM
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RE: recommend me a diesel

Unless you're out to get the simplest car you can find, and you're probably not if you put up with the quirks of a 300SE, stick to a turbodiesel.

As you say, the 81-85 300SD is very similar to your 300SE. Bulletproof engine. I find the pleated leather interior of the 88-91 cars more comfortable than the perforated leather interior in the earlier cars but that might be just me.

Next similar would be an 86-87 300SDL. A little more rear seat room than your car has but otherwise indistinguishable. The 6 cyl engine is an improvement over the 5 cyl engine in the 300SD but some (or too many) are afflicted by cylinder head cracks. Replacing the head with a redesigned head costs ~$2000 DIY to ~$4000 at a shop. A 300SDL will top 120mph which is probably a challenge for a 300SE.

There's also the 90-91 350SD and SDL. Think of it as a more refined 300SDL. Where the 300SDL has problems with the head, the 350s have problems with connecting rods. When they go, expect a $10K bill for proper repair. I haven't heard of a properly repaired or replaced engine experiencing another round of connecting rod problems.

Moving back in time there's the 78-80 300SD. Think of the body style of the 450SEL. These cars are more prone to rust but it shouldn't be problem in California. Hard to imagine even the best maintained examples don't need new seat pads by now. Otherwise they have a strong following and many believe they handle better than the S-class that followed.

Then there's the cars I'm not so familiar with including:

W123 - bulletproof 5 cyl iron/iron engine

82-85 300D sedan
82-85 300CD coupe
81-85 300TD wagon

W201 - very reliable iron/aluminum engine

86-89 190D 2.5 (5 cyl, available with 5-speed)
87 190D 2.5 turbo (5 cyl, available with 5-speed)

The 190D 2.5 will hold its own without a turbo.

W124 - reliable iron/aluminum engine

87 300D sedan (6 cyl, looks like a 300E)
87 300TD wagon (6 cyl, looks like a 300TE)
90-93 300D 2.5 (5 cyl, looks like a 300E)

The 6 cyl 300D and TD have the same engine (with the same problems) as the 300SDL.

The 87 300D is about as quick and fast as a Diesel gets. In proper tune, 0-60mph is under 10 seconds.

Consider also a 96-97 VW Passat TDI. Only available with 5-speed. Very rare in the west coast. I think VW didn't offer this car in California but the DMV will let you bring one in.

Happy hunting.
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post #3 of 3 (permalink) Old 09-24-2004, 11:27 PM
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RE: recommend me a diesel

Get a first generation W126 300SD turbo - you can't go wrong and they are the most desirable. I LOVE mine - best thing that ever happened to me. The others may have the updated, nice interior - but what good are nicer seats and 4 extra inches (SDL's) in the back when it's sitting in the repair shop?

You can always update the interior yourself with a write-off or a partscar from any later W126 standard wheelbase model - That's what I am going to look into, however the stock interior is still very nice.

W116 SD's are also nice, I had a gas V8 one and I love the body style with Euro lights, however they have a little less power than the W126's and not all come with turbo's if I am not mistaken - I am sorry to stay, but in my opinion, a diesel S-class that heavy without the assistance of a turbocharger is dangerous now-a-days.

It all depends on what you want, though - if you want to stay with a larger car, go with the S, but if you want to try a smaller car, go with some of the other ideas you and others have outlined.

Good luck and happy shopping!


1990 560SEL - W126
-929 nautical blue metallic & 262 navy blue leather
-58,000 KM (36,200 Miles)
-Euro spec Japanese import (KAT edition)
-Complete service history since new
-5,546cc SOHC 16v V8
-10.0:1 compression
-285 hp@5200 rpm, 324 lb/ft@3750 rpm
-2.65 limited slip diff
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