Date registered: Apr 2004
Location: Edmonton, Alberta & San Tan Valley, Arizona
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RE: Which vintage MB is right for me?
Handsdown for safety plus the fact you're in the snow, I'd investigate a 1993 300E 4MATIC.
With an inline 6 displacing 3.0L, it generates 177 bhp and 188 lb/ft at the wheels, that's enough power to get you out of a lot of trouble. Plus it's a very safe and solid car with AWD.
Keep in mind that 560SEL you had is VERY safe...1990 to 1991 featuring dual airbags plus fortress construction, but no AWD like on the 300E 4MATIC.
Don't be so harsh on the diesels...Mercedes is very different than the domestic american brands that ruined the image and made them into big, loud, smelly, for trucks only. They are not bad in winter and with the current gas fiasco, it's a great way to break free. Do yourself a favour and check out a 1991 350SDL - S-class long wheel base styling and safety with the reliability and economy of a diesel.
W116 S-classes are very, very safe as well. Whilst lacking airbags, you still have over 2 tonnes of armour plating between you and the offending vehicle which is probably made of plastic now-a-days. These have old world styling and craftsmenship combined with modern technology (excellent brakes, precision power steering, excellent crumple zones, climate control, powerful engine options, 3-point seatbelts for 4/5 passengers, fortress on wheels)...a SEL version still gets you a 17.5 ft car! I'd venture to say that these are more safe than a lot of brand new cars evern with the fact that they don't have airbags.
Also keep in mind that if your children are going to be sitting in the back, airbags will not effect them since these vintages had driver and sometimes passenger airbags. If I had kids, I know where I would want them sitting: in the back seat of an older Mercedes long wheel base S-class belted in with their 3-point seat belts...next best place to be during a tornado than the cellar [:D]
If you weren't concerned with airbags etc, look into a 450SEL, a 280SEL 4.5...head turning styling and a pleasure to drive and extremely safe still. If you want to see my 2, e-mail me! firstname.lastname@example.org
Good luck in your search, but I think the 300E 4MATIC sounds perfect for your needs! Let me know how it turns out.
Remember that airbags and electric aids will never replace steel of the cars of yesteryear [:D]