Mercedes W124 CE Buying Guide

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Dodgy history, neglect, ABS trouble, slipping auto gearboxes, noisy rear axles

Not as attractive as the elegant W123-series CE coupe it replaced, the square, solid W124-series CE is nonetheless an impressive piece of Germanic machinery. Much more wide-boy than the cabriolet version, the CE Coupe often comes with the requisite gold Merc symbol on the bonnet, largely pointless side skirts and front air-dams (its sheer bulk usually keeps it rooted to the ground) and a gold badge on the back saying 'Rude Mercs' or something similar. It is a fantastically smug status symbol, even if your salary is more alley cat than fat cat, although many buyers prefer examples as naked and plain as the day they left the Stuttgart factory. Looking very dated, but not yet in classic territory (it'll take a while) early CE coupes do go for less than £1500, although cars in this price bracket are best avoided. Although the comfort and refinement of these early cars was never in doubt, the standard equipment levels aren't that great: the 230 CE didn't have electric windows until '88.

Rebranded as E-Classes from August '93, the range had to wait until early '95 to get warmed over; at this juncture, metallic paint and walnut trim came as standard-issue on the CE 230, and the E320 got headlamp wash/wipe; both models had new alloy wheel designs and door exit lights. Gee thanks, Mercedes. Air-conditioning remained an option throughout, as did an alarm, and airbags crept in only towards the end. ABS, however, was fitted to all but early 230 CEs, and towards the end, cruise control and anti-skid regulation were added.

The options list, however, was very extensive (and expensive) throughout the range's lifespan; this means there are plenty of, er, individually specified CEs around, with some bizarre combinations of upholstery, exterior paint, gadgets and gizmos. We know of someone who specified electric, heated everything but no air-con or sunroof - great in the summer. Models with the optimistically-named Sportline pack are appealing, with lower, tauter suspension, low-profile tyres and wider alloys, modified steering for greater feel, a Sportline steering wheel and gearshift and optional cloth/leather upholstery, but don't be fooled - dynamic trim details do not a sports car make. Even the AMG version struggles to meet that description, given the weight it has to propel. But who cares? This is a car that looks like a proper ambassadorial S-Class from the front and something moderately more svelte from behind - surely enough to inspire affection.

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