Mercedes-Benz E500. Life with ‘The Duchess’

The Mercedes-Benz E500 V8 – built with assistance from Porsche – is the perfect car to have as your first car in Dubai, UAE.

[Not a valid template]

I’ve been a big fan of Porsche built water-cooled V8s for some time having owned a 928 S4 many years ago back in Ireland. So when looking for a suitable first car in Dubai, my mind immediately ran to a Mercedes W124 E500: rare, weapons-grade build quality, understated and a perfect daily commuter with Mike Tyson-esque road presence. To the untrained eye it’s just another aging Mercedes on a tasty set of rims, but it’s actually more special than that.

There’s an effortless road presence, an inherent latent intent that ‘90s German performance cars portrayed which you just don’t get in their equivalents today. If you’re lucky enough to see an Audi UR 20v Quattro, BMW E30 M3, Mercedes 190E 2.5-16 EVO Cosworth or W124 E500 nowadays, you are immediately drawn to them (I still remember seeing a Mercedes E500 for the first time a few years ago at the Goodwood Festival of Speed looking way harder than Jason Bourne ever could in Midnight Blue).

Porsche was presented with a unique opportunity in 1990. The company had completed production of the hand-built 959, leaving an unused assembly plant. The plant – Rossle-Bau, in Zuffenhausen – was tailored to very small production volumes and staffed with craftsmen who understand every nuance of quality. Porsche had recently finished an engineering development project to create the 500E (now called the E500) for its client and cross-town neighbour Daimler-Benz. Extensive modifications to the floor and external sheet metal meant the 500E could not easily be built on the normal assembly line at the busy Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant. So Porsche landed the assembly contract: eight to twelve 500Es per day; 2400 per year; built to the highest quality.

Engines, transmissions, and other major mechanicals were assembled by Mercedes-Benz then shipped to Porsche for installation along with characteristic Mercedes icons like the grille, the badges, the headlamps, and the taillights. In essence, Porsche assembled what was referred to in the industry as a ‘knock-down kit’. Mercedes/Porsche produced around 10,249 supercars, all in LHD combined with the 5.0-litre V8 engine producing 326bhp and 354lb ft of torque. Said car would sprint from 0-100kph in 5.7 seconds and derestricted models have been known to reach well over 280kph.

Having a love of cars is a good way to make friends in Dubai, and having known both previous owners of ‘The Duchess’ – dedicated car enthusiasts and all round gentlemen that they are, including crankandpiston’s own Phil McGovern – I finally managed to pry the car into my ownership. Knowing the full history of the E500 and the care lavished upon it meant this was the first car I have ever bought without test driving.

The first impression on the way home was that this was an effortlessly quick car, even by 2013s standards. With 90 per cent of that 354lb ft of torque served up at below 2400rpm, the M119 5.0-litre V8 engine felt muscular everywhere with a glorious V8 engine note causing car park attendants to run and hide (my neighbour had a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG and reckons the E500 holds its own in terms of sound effects).

Categories: Road


Comments are closed