Mercedes E280 (1995)

WOLF retro DESIGN  REVIEW. 11th April 2024

Is this E-Class the best one ever?

A Retro Review looks at products that are usually at least over ten years old from a present-day WOLF perspective with focus on design and craftmanship. While the technology and fashion of an era influence design, and are taken into consideration, great design ideas will transcend their eras to be timeless.

Interesting and factual information may be provided, but our review aims to deliver insight into the eyes and mind of designers.

May they last forever


Product description

The W124 Mercedes was produced from 1984 to 1997 and considered today as one of the most recognised and iconic “E-Class” Mercedes. The model in this review is an Australian delivered E280 5-seater sedan from 1995.

Price and Availability.

W124 Mercs were built in huge numbers and were plentiful second hand but now the youngest ones are now almost 30 years old and clean examples are harder to find. Despite this they are still perceived as common and plentiful so values have remained affordable. Project cars hover around the $10,000 mark while sound cars are between $15,000 to $25,000. The E320 sedan in this review was considered a top of the range model in Australia for 1995 and is relatively hard to come by. Original low mileage examples (under100,000km) such as this one might command over $30,000.

Additional information

The 124 Mercedes was built when nothing but the best would do and has been described as Mercedes best engineered E-class. It was highly successful as evidenced with a huge production run spanning 13 years. It was also a model with the most body variants including coupe, convertible and estate. Many consider the super rare E500 to be the ultimate variant though this was never available in right hand drive.


First impression/ Delight

We remember this car from the time of launch, and although it was a huge leap forward from its W114/W115 predecessors it lacked a sense of flair or excitement. It was a car you could draw with straight lines by ruler, and in the 1980s that was perhaps rather “expected”. From a design perspective it didn’t exactly rock your world. Looking at this car after 3 decades it’s still not moving us emotionally but the word that comes to mind is “Respect”. Regardless of its boxy straight form, it was designed with intent and you can feel it in the details and build quality. The symmetry and geometry make sense and overall, you get the sense that this car is only going to look increasingly cool and classic with time, despite having minimal chrome embellishments.

Exterior Design Review

As square and straight as it looks the W124 was designed with aerodynamics in mind and upon closer inspection you can appreciate this in all the corners and edges that were refined in shape according to wind tunnel studies. The rear deliberately tapers in slightly and its these subtle moments that prevent the car from looking completely solid and stiff.

The E280 in this review is the facelifted version and has several design updates that modernise its look. The most notable visual upgrade was with the front grill whereby the chrome star emblem is placed on the bonnet and separated from the grill. The bonnet also folds and extends to create a narrow separation between grill and head lights. The front indicator lamps are clear and bumpers that were previously black are painted in body colour.

Proportionately this car looks like the quintessential car from the second half of the last century. Nothing is too long, short or tall. Silver is our colour of choice because it looks classy and elegant against all those confident lines.

Interior Design Review

Internally the W124 does not shout at you and that remains part of its charm. Everything is placed and positioned with practically in mind. Nothing is more or less than it needs to be and there something very satisfying about that. The car in this review is well optioned with leather seats a burl wood trimming which offer restrained luxury. By todays standards the interior feels very ergonomic and compact yet without compromise on comfort.


The W124 was conceived in a time when Mercedes set out to build the best cars they could and the price tag was simply a matter of adding up the total and charging it to the customer. It was also a time of great technological advancements and all that allowed for a car that is still considered to be one of finest in the World.

W124 sedans can easily do over a million miles and it’s not uncommon to find cars that still look and feel better than modern cars with half the mileage. The car in this review has under 100,000km and after almost 3 decades still has its original interior “new car smell”. This is testimony to the quality of build and you sense it in all its details. Internally the car is beautiful because of its simplicity and comfort is achieved without needing to be opulent.

Externally we like how all the glazing is detailed to be flush and aerodynamic. The rear windscreen in particular is a masterpiece in our opinion. The doors close with an impressive and satisfying “Thunk” and is something many have come to recognise as a definition for German engineering.

Function – Experience.

The W124 expresses the approach of form following function more than any other Mercedes we know. Nothing is without reason or intent and this has created an experience that is surprisingly peaceful and reassuring. You do feel safe and satisfied sitting in this car, especially in a pristine example such as the one in this review where everything works.

Another aspect to this car and its design is how understated it is. Although its boxy forms and straight lines are very retro, the W124 remains so understated that you almost feel invisible. We don’t literally mean invisible such that people will crash into you, but more in the sense that you won’t turn heads like you might in a R107 or C126 of the same era. Personally, we like that ability to drive under the radar but if you’re after a louder experience the W124 may not be your cup of tea.

Desirability – Collectability or Value for money

Unfortunately, the W124 is not the most desirable of classics and low prices continue to reflect this. Sadly, many are now falling away to scrap yards as restorations are not economically viable. It’s getting hard to find good examples and this makes cars like the one in this review quite rare. With all this, it seems likely that we will start to see remaining W124 cars appreciate. Expect to pay over $20,000 for clean W124 cars and for ones with original paint such as the E280 in this review should be more.

For those after a less understated experience the coupe and convertibles present a slightly more exciting option. There are also the highly underrated estate models that are probably even harder to find in decent shape.


The W124 is an iconic classic and milestone is Mercedes history books. Now is the right time to secure yourself a solid example which you can still enjoy as a daily driver.




The information in this review is intended for informational or educational purposes to provide readers an understanding of how something may be seen from a certain design perspective. In this case it is from the view point of WOLF DESIGNS. As design is subjective this review should only be considered as an independent opinion. Information further to being of an opinion is provided to the best of our knowledge based on our own research at the time of doing the review. We cannot be held responsible for any inaccuracies or inconsistencies and reserve the right to change or update any content as appropriate.
The final responsibility of the design resides with the original manufacturer.