Mercedes-Benz 500 E made its first appearance at the Paris motor show in October 1990. This powerhouse of the 124 Series had surprisingly modest appearance. Only the somewhat more voluminous wings, the slightly lower body and a modified front apron with inset fog lamps differentiate it from the other models in the 124 series.
What made the difference, was the engine. Eight cylinders in a V configuration, a displacement of 5 litres, 326 hp (240 kW) of power. It takes just 6.1 seconds for the sprint from 0 to 100 km/h, while the top speed is electronically limited to 250 km/h – performance figures worthy of a sports car.
The engine and four-speed automatic transmission were taken from the 500 SL, but the Mercedes-Benz 500 E did incorporate several other new features: it was the first car to feature what was known as the “standard deck” engine – one and the same crankcase used for both the 4.2 and the 5.0-litre unit. This meant that the 5.0-litre engine was 16.5 millimetres lower here than when it made its debut in the 500 SL (R 129) a year and a half earlier.
Shorter connecting rods ensured that the bore-stroke ratio remained the same. In addition, in the Mercedes-Benz 500 E the Bosch LH-Jetronic injection system, with electronic control and air-mass sensor, replaced the previously used mechanical/electronic KE system. From October 1992 the engine output was lowered slightly to 320 hp (235 kW), in order to reduce both fuel consumption and pollutant emissions. Compared with the 500 SL, the 500 E had a shorter axle ratio (1:2.82), so benefiting acceleration. The top speed of both models was electronically limited to 250 km/h.
The Mercedes-Benz 500 E was created in close cooperation with Porsche: also based in Stuttgart, the sports car manufacturer was brought on board by Mercedes-Benz at a very early stage in order to boost the company’s own somewhat stretched development capacity. The manufacturing process was subsequently split: the bodyshell was painted at the Mercedes-Benz Sindelfingen plant, while the final assembly of the components supplied from Sindelfingen and Untertürkheim was undertaken by Porsche in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.
There were two reasons for this. First of all, the production order came as a timely stroke of good fortune during what was a somewhat difficult period for the sports car manufacturer in the early 1990s. And secondly, the relatively small volume was an ideal match for the manufacturing processes at Porsche, meaning that production of the 500 E could not have been in better hands.
The powerful saloon benefited from the last facelift of the W 124 model series in 1993. The first change related to the name: the mid-series was renamed E-Class and, as with the other model series, the model designation now preceded the figures and the “E” for injection engine (“Einspritzer” in German) was omitted, making the 500 E the E 500.
Production of the Mercedes-Benz E 500 was discontinued in April 1995. Just 10,479 units were built, this figure also includes the E 60 AMG. The first Mercedes-Benz 500 E cost 134,520 deutschmarks – more than twice as much as a 300 E. By the end the price was 145,590 deutschmarks for an E 500, as it was designated from 1993 onwards.