The Mercedes-Benz 500E Is Still The Quintessential ’90s Q-Car
These days the super sedan market is burgeoning with competitors from just about every major manufacturer, mega-horsepower machines with ostentatious body kits and massive wheels roam the streets, intent on humiliating sports cars at every opportunity. There are still a handful of fast yet subtly options out there but to see how to properly do a subtle sporting sedan you need to go back to the early ’90s and take a good look at the Mercedes-Benz 500E.
Casual observers might dismiss it as just another E-Class on a set of fancy rims; but that is because its slightly lower stance and a marginally wider footprint—as well as that 500 E badge—are the only telltale signs that this is no ordinary Mercedes. It is a 326hp autobahn stormer that could sprint to 60mph in well under six seconds as it thundered to its 160mph top speed. That may not seem quite so impressive in today’s horsepower mad world but it still feels like a rapid machine and could give contemporary sports cars a good run for their money.
The 500E was in part developed by Mercedes as a range-topping alternative to the more edgy and track-biased BMW M5, but instead of a high-revving small capacity motor the Mercedes used a big, torquey 5.0-liter V8 and the automatic transmission was retained too, albeit suitably modified to offer sharper responses.
This was no wallowy barge though, Porsche was commissioned to redesign the W124 chassis, fit the bigger motor and carry out changes to the suspension system. It was hand-assembled in Zuffenhausen too. The end result was the ultimate Q-car, a sleeper which could match the Beemer’s performance on the road but was also perfectly capable of blending into the background when its prodigious performance potential was not being tapped.
Just over 10,000 500Es were built over a six-year production run and they have become rather sought-after modern classics, this particular example even more so as it was once owned by renowned American comedian, Red Skelton and his wife Lothian. Its odometer shows a total of just over 67,000 miles, although the car has added just 3000 to that total over the past 18 years and Lothian Skelton kept the car in great condition after Red passed away in 1997.
Finished in a rare black on black specification, it is now on offer at specialist Canepa, who has recently given it a comprehensive mechanical and cosmetic going over. It has also received a set of 18-inch BBS wheels and fresh rubber to give the car a dash of visual flair, the AMG branded wheels offering just a hint of the performance potential that lies beneath that unassuming hood.
Images courtesy of Canepa