• my buddy, Rick, the mercedes nut, said the following: "The best Benz were built before 1990… after that, Lexus arrived, and Mercedes cheaped out on parts and materials… If you want an old MB, buy one that was built before nineteen-ninety… they are tanks! But still, very expensive to maintain!"

    • In a sense, he's correct, but it's for different reasons than he speculates. Cars built before the 90's, particularly German ones, were over-engineered and over-built. For example, suppose the engineers were designing a metal component with a desired 15-20 year life span. Their approach then was "our calculations say we need 4mm of steel here to achieve this, let's go with 5mm to be safe.

      In the 90's, AutoCAD and similar programs became the norm, and software could tell you EXACTLY how to engineer a component of a car right up to the edge of that desired usable life. Ever wonder why so many things seem to break on modern cars at a) right after the warranty expiration and/or b) 100k miles? This is why. Cars aren't built with "better safe than sorry" in mind from an engineering standpoint….now it's "just enough and no more".

      That's a huge part—the other piece is Mother Earth. I'm not offering a good/bad commentary here, just pointing out facts. Once it became mandated that a certain percentage of a car's components be recyclable, the quality of parts (particularly interior parts) took a nose dive. Disintegrating, crumbling wiring harnesses in everything from Benzes to Volvos, Door panels delaminating and glove box trim falling off e36 m3's, you name it…….super high quality plastic/vinyl parts from the 80's and prior just aren't as recyclable as the parts that succeeded them in the 90's.

      The one area your friend is closer to the truth actually concerns Japanese cars. Through the mid-90's, the build quality of most Japanese cars (particularly Honda and Toyota) was second to none. The first LS400 is an engineering and production marvel. Then in the mid-90's, a phenomenon called "decontenting" hit the industry. Toyota execs realized they could take out gold plated electrical connectors, sound insulation, and make their plastics harder and lower quality and 90% of their customers wouldn't notice—their profits soared and their car's quality ultimately suffered.

      Anyhoo, interesting topic, just wanted to throw in my .02.

    • Thanks for the lesson, Fleetwood. And your points are exactly congruous with my observations, as well. Decontenting especially hurt the typically staid luxury brands, in my experience.

  • The W124 cars debuted in 86 so half of the production run was after the Lexus debut. You can look toward the replacement W210 E class as to when things took a turn for the worse- OM606 td engine excepted…

    • yup…IMHO, the w140 is probably the last of the "built to a standard" Mercedes. Not to say later Benzes are bad cars, just not what I'd ever call "overengineered" anymore.

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