Journal: Which Range-Topping, ’80s German Luxury Sedan Would You Choose?

Which Range-Topping, ’80s German Luxury Sedan Would You Choose?

By Petrolicious Productions
June 5, 2013

Early eighties German luxury cars might not be your first thought, or even your first five thoughts, about an underrepresented but interesting genre of collectible classics, but that’s exactly what makes them so cool—anyone can buy a secondhand Lexus, Bangle-butt 7er, or fried-egg headlamp S class, but it takes a connoisseur and an individual to drive a Kraut-rock era executive sedan. Power toys and luxury accoutrements may be sparse by luxobarge standards of even the early nineties, but for style, presence, and sheer old-money sophistication, nothing made in the past twenty years comes close to these two silver foxes.

First up today we present an ’84 BMW 745i Turbo, a rare range-topper offered in LHD markets from 1979-1986. Equipped with a 3.2, and not, as its name implies, a 4.5 liter engine, the 745i used a turbocharged straight six to make roughly silky-smooth HP—exotic sports car numbers for the day. Befitting its special status, turbocharged E23s were offered with several very intriguing options, such as power reclining rear seats, auxiliary gas heaters, and as fitted to this example, water buffalo hides—serious Liberace spec, it’s actually quite tasteful and distinct. Fitted with Euro bumpers and trim, this car’s obviously been well-cared for, and presents beautifully in photos.

If a sharknose Beemer isn’t quite your thing (do you people exist?), then perhaps inside a W126 Benz is where you’d prefer to waft. The car we highlight here is a flagship 560 SEL LWB dating from 1986, claimed to have previously belonged to the founder of the Albertson’s grocery empire. While it’s unlikely to deliver the same road feel or straight-line performance as its Bavarian contemporary, the big Benzo counters with arguably superior build quality (of the Swiss tank variety), ride, NVH isolation, and overall interior ambience. Finished in a striking sky blue over gray hide, this car’s said to have only 74k miles from new and be as close to as-new as can be expected for a near three decade old machine.

So, do you prefer your living room on wheels with a modicum of sporting ability, or are you after a less diluted, more stately town car? Horses for courses, as they say.

1986 Mercedez-Benz 560 SEL LWB           

Click here for the Mercedes details.                      

1984 BMW 745i Turbo 

Click here for the BMW details.

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Frantisek Simon
Frantisek Simon(@frantisek)
8 years ago

the BEAR for me!

Gunnar Heinrich
Gunnar Heinrich(@gllh)
8 years ago

Geeking out some more… [i]Dammit where was I when this posted in June?[/i] So, further to my previous remarks – e23 7er not e28 (5er). [i]Mea culpa[/i]. And more on the point of how the great 7 and S deserve better trims – I think these IMCDB/BevHillsCop shots make my case nicely…timely as it is…

Gunnar Heinrich
Gunnar Heinrich(@gllh)
8 years ago

Sorry for being so late to this party. I do love my grosser Teutons. And this is a very cool comparo, thanks for posting. 🙂

The series 2 W126 is the vastly superior car. Was at the time. Is today. BMW was just starting to seriously flex its muscles in the premium big sedan segment with the e28 gen 7er (no, the Bavaria doesn’t count in a modern context) and by all means the first “7” was a solid effort.

Really the more apt (and far tougher) challenge would be deciding between the most excellent e32 740i/iL (the 750iL’s V12 was a hot mess) and the grand 560SEL. The 745i pictured would be better paired off against a series one 500SEL, but even then, it’s still the Benz’s game.

In this instance, truly neither car is a prime example. That particular 560’s “sky blue” paired with (special to Cali) chrome plated rims is about as vanilla a color combo as you could stomach. The 745i’s camel hair coat doesn’t fair much better, I’m afraid.

No, either car – to be the uber exec saloon – deserves jet black, polar white, midnight blue. You can also make an argument for the seven in silver on red or silver on black.

That said (and it should be noted for Bimmer aficionados), the 560SEL in a straight line would walk away from the 745i after, oh, 40 mph. But since both saloons handle like trucks, how either maneuver relative to the other is pretty much a moot point.

Lamond Jack
Lamond Jack(@xclusivegarage)
8 years ago

I love them both because I have a love affair with almost all German cars! But since I can only choose one I have to vote for the 560 SEL! Chrome wheels can be changed and replaced but Mercedes craftsmanship and engineering cannot! Mercedes is Genesis for the automobile and it will always have that historical significance over every other Make and model car. The Mercedes was preferred among celebrities, rich people showing off, politicians and ambassadors, drug dealers and the mafia who choose it not because it was bad like they were but because it was better than what they where! It represented something good in your life, an ode to success. The global market embraced it because its a GEM of a car and everyone who bought it new it! 560 Merc Allllllll Dayyy!

Ae Neuman
Ae Neuman(@fb_1293493178)
8 years ago

a vote for the w126 560sel, one of the finest benzes ever.

Ian Lomax
Ian Lomax(@autoarcheologist)
8 years ago

Tough call, but I would have to go with the BMW. I love Mercs, but every time I drive one they leave me cold. I’ve enjoyed every BMW I’ve driven, and have owned 3. A 745i is on my list to own someday, it helps that none came with the US diving board bumpers.

8 years ago

I think I have to go with the BMW. Those chrome wheels ruin it for me.

8 years ago

In the South African market we never got the turbo m30 745i, we got a whole different beast, also called the 745i but with the M1’s m88 straight 6 with dohc craziness.

I would pick that just because of the rarity. It was even raced with good success.

8 years ago

I would definitely go with the Mercedes. I think 80’s Mercedes (that has a nice ring doesn’t it) have an unmistakable charm that no other car can quite replicate. As an added bonus, well maintained models can be found at a great value on the used car market. A six cylinder short wheel base model would serve as a near perfect vintage daily driver.

Brooks Wade
Brooks Wade(@fb_1513800007)
8 years ago

Between these 2 I have to go Benz! The BMW is just too ugly in beige! I feel like even an XKE would look bad in that color!

Matthew Lange
Matthew Lange(@365daytonafan)
8 years ago

BMW for me, living in a RHD market I know little about the 745i but the idea of a turbo straight six from that era is kind of interesting. Looks a nice one, perhaps a more ratty one would be preferable and swap the engine into a more interesting BMW body (E21 or E24).

Walter R. Moore
Walter R. Moore(@moorewr)
8 years ago

Has to be the 560. Neither is a true driver’s car like a 3- or 5-series would be, so you have to go with the stately Merc.

Leucea Alexandru
Leucea Alexandru(@leuceaalexandru)
8 years ago

One will definitely choose the Mercedes, over its popularity and reputation. But an enthusiast like me, will go for the Bmw. Because it didn’t receive the attention the SEL got back in the day, and it’s still a rare sight even on Europe’s streets of today. Choose wisely, because each of these cars speak for their owners. The Mercedes was preferred among celebrities, rich people showing off, politicians and ambassadors, drug dealers and the mafia, while the BMW was more of a conservative limousine, but with the Bavarian sports pedigree in place. It wasn’t in your face, it showed elegance and taste, it was comfortable and luxurious at that time, but its chassis made it also a joy to drive. This brochure reflects exactly what this car is all about. Quote: ‘The difference between exclusive makes of high class international cars is today primarily a question of concept. Whatever the buyer prefers will depend largely on what he has already. The decision to buy a large BMW shows a preference for technical perfection – above all without ostentation – and the identification with a concept that is clearly modeled on the more vital forces in society. This outlet has nothing to do with age, profession or position, it can be found wherever people see their car as a perfect piece of workmanship rather than as a symbol of their wealth and status.’ This is why i would choose this car. I picture it in Marrakech brown, with BBS rims, lowered. Or a burgundy red..hmm

8 years ago

Gotta be the 560. That design is timeless, although those chrome wheels are a war crime.