In the 116/126, you are what is absorbing the energy, where as in the newer models, the car absorbs the energy, hence its "foldling like an accordian".
They think their quality is second to none (yet can never explain why, except for "it feels high quality"), they think that its safer (its not, crumple zones are there for a reason), and they think that nothing matches its "classiness".
I think we all justify our purchases to ourselves, but it can come off a bit like sour grapes.
Not quite. MB pioneered crumple zones back in the 50's and all models since have had them, including the 116 and 126, so the "you are what is absorbing the energy" is totally false. In fact all cars, even the lowly Korean makes, have crumple zones now. You might also be interested to know that the 126 was the first MB equipped with airbags. Take a look at the picture of Picklesam's recently totaled 560 SEC and you will see graphic evidence of crumple zones in a W126. In addition, the gauge and quality of the German made steel 20-30 years ago was superior to the cheap Asian steel used now.
It is also a well known fact (at least in MB enthusiast circles) that MB stopped overengineering their cars in the 90's in order to compete with the Japanese move upmarket (Infinity & Lexus), as well as MB's precipitous drop in quality as measured by JD Power during the Daimler/Chrysler years, so there exists empirical, objective proof of MB's slide in quality in recent years.
"Classiness" is subjective, but the boring sameness (yes I know there are exceptions) of today's cars argues against applying the "classy" label to them. New cars are today's drivers and tomorrow's beaters.
As to "sour grapes", most folks here are more than capable of buying a new MB or anything else within reason, they just choose not to for the aforementioned reasons.