W124 is the Mercedes-Benz internal chassis-designation for the 1984/85 to 1995/96 version of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, as well as the first generation to be officially referred to as E-Class. The W124 models replaced the W123 models after 1985 and were succeeded by the W210 E-Class after 1995.
In North America, the W124 was launched in early November 1985 as a 1986 model and sold through the 1995 model year, through November 7, 1995.
Series production began at the beginning of November 1984, with press reveal taking place on Monday, November 26, 1984 in Sevilla, Spain, with customer deliveries and European market launch starting in January 1985.
W124 was a mid-sized vehicle platform, which entered planning in the autumn of 1976 under development Hans Scherenberg. In July 1977, the W124 program officially began, with R&D commencing work under newly appointed Werner Breitschwerdt. In April 1978, decisions were made to base it on the Mercedes-Benz W201 model program. By April 1979, a package plan was completed for the program, laying out the guidelines of the project. During the winter of 1980–1981, the final exterior for the W124 program was completed, chosen as the leading proposal by design director Bruno Sacco, and approved by the board of management in early 1981. By mid-1982, the first prototypes reflective of the production design, were assembled and sent to testing. In March 1984, pilot production commenced and development of the sedan concluded with engineering sign-off.
Front suspension used a separate spring and damper with a rubber top mount. The rear suspension of the W124 featured the Mercedes multi-link axle introduced in 1982 with the Mercedes 190 and which is now standard on many modern cars. Estate cars (and optionally, saloons and coupés) had Citroen-like rear self-leveling suspension with suspension struts rather than shock absorbers, gas-filled suspension spheres to provide damping and an under bonnet pressurizing pump. Unlike the traditional Citroën application Mercedes opted for a fixed ride height and employed rear coil springs to maintain the static ride height when parked.
The R129 SL roadster was based on the W124 platform, and in return, W124 was later equipped with one of the roadster's engines, creating the 500 E.
Much of the 124's engineering and many of its features were advanced automotive technology at its introduction, incorporating innovations that have been adopted throughout the industry. It had one of the lowest coefficient of drag (Cd) of any vehicle of the time (0.28 for the 200/200D model for the European market with 185/65 R15 tires) due to its aerodynamic body, that included plastic molding for the undercarriage to streamline airflow beneath the car, reducing fuel consumption and wind noise. It had a single windscreen wiper that had an eccentric mechanism at its base that extended the wiper's reach to the top corners of the windscreen (more than if it had traveled in a simple arc). The saloon/sedan, coupés and convertibles had optional rear headrests that would fold down remotely to improve rearward visibility when required. This feature was not available for the T-model because of its specific layout (no space to store the retractable headrests), but the estate serially came with a "neighbour-friendly" rear door that was pulled in the shut-position silently and automatically by a sensor-controlled servomotor. This allowed the use of a tighter fitting rear gate, minimizing the cabin noise in the T-model - sometimes an area of concern for station wagons.
With the exception of the 200, which was equipped with a Stromberg or Pierburg carburetor but was not available to the United States, fuel injection was standard, and the engines incorporated features that maximised performance. The most notable such feature was the addition of an oxygen sensor in the exhaust system which, in conjunction with a semi-electronic fuel injection system, could make the engine run more efficiently. This improved fuel consumption while simultaneously meeting stricter emission regulations. Mercedes-Benz's four-wheel drive system, the 4Matic was first introduced on the W124 in 1987.
The estate cars (chassis designation S124) came in 5 or 7-seat models, the 7-seater having a rear-facing bench seat that folded flush luggage compartment cover and an optional (in the US until 1994) retractable cargo net. To provide a flat loading floor with the seat folded down, the T-model's rear seat squab was mounted about 10 cm (3.9 in) higher than in saloons, robbing rear seat passengers of some head room. The S124 estate continued in production alongside the new W210 until the S210 estate launched more than a year later. A two-door coupé version was also built, with the chassis designation C124.
Mercedes launched a cabriolet (convertible) version in Europe in 1991, the 300CE-24 cabriolet, and in the UK (RHD) and Japan (LHD). The 320CE, and North America, the 300CE, in 1992. These versions were re-designated as the E 320 in 1993, complemented by the less powerful, but less expensive E 220 in 1993, and the mainland-Europe-only E 200 in 1994. Mercedes brought the E 320 cabriolet (convertible) to the USA and Japan from 1993 to 1995. There were 68 E 36 AMG cabriolets built from 1993 until 1996 (54 LHD and 14 RHD) to complement the also rare E 36 AMG coupé, saloon (RHD only), and estate. The pre-merger AMG coupés are based on the 124 series 2 update. The AMG 3.4 CE (300CE-24 based coupé) were all LHD, 25 were produced from 1988 until 1993. There were also 7 cabriolets built, and eleven saloons (and possibly estates). AMG Japan also carried out such conversions locally.
The E 320, E 220, and E 200 cabriolets ceased production in 1997. Indian assembly (in a joint-venture with Telco called Mercedes-Benz India) began in March 1995. Offered with four-cylinder diesel engines built by Mercedes' Indian partner Bajaj Tempo, the W124 was replaced there in December 1997.
A local manufacturer in Indonesia are known to continue production of the W124 until 2000 despite the W210 was already introduced in late 1996, making it the last country to locally produce the car since its worldwide discontinuation in 1995. At this time, only two variants were offered; the E 220 and E 320 (the other variants were discontinued in 1996).
SsangYong Motor Company of Korea licensed the W124 design and continues to produce a stretched and rebodied version of the W124 as the Chairman, with a Ssangyong badge. It has a wheelbase measuring 2.9 m (110 in) and a 3.2 L Mercedes inline-six M104 engine. The latest versions of the Chairman were equipped with 2.3 L (M111), 2.8 L (M104), and 3.2 L (M104) engines in its product line-ups. The car had a modified 3.6 L version of M104 engine recently for the high-end models. The engine has a designation of XGi360
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