Driving report for the Mercedes-Benz 280 TE

Uli Jooß
Driving report for the Mercedes-Benz 280 TE
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D ie the first generation based on the additional Child seat bench in the rear of the W123 Estate has long been driving a Mercedes. Perhaps it is she who ensures that the station wagon has now become the most sought-after and highly paid body variant of the mid-range Benz.

And maybe exactly what the Mercedes superiors had always feared will happen now - that the station wagon could cannibalize the sedan. Innocent sedans have to serve as part carriers for T-models because higher prices can be achieved for them. As early as 1975 the Daimler managers had major concerns that the expected sales figures for the station wagon could be at the expense of the standard version.

The S 123 project (S for station wagons) was temporarily put on hold, which is why the children of the Golf generation, which in higher-income circles should actually be called the T-Model generation, had to wait until 1978 for the new family station wagon . After all, the market strategists in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim were convinced that a noble station wagon would in no way damage the image of the sedans from the class-conscious house.

station wagon and Mercedes did not match

station wagon and Mercedes, that didn't seem to go together so well that those responsible didn't even want to use the word. Serious consideration was given to naming the station wagon series with the abbreviation St like station wagon - 240 StD or 280 StE for example. It was not until 1977, a few months before the presentation at the IAA, that it dawned on them that these abbreviations would have sounded more like Siemens tram cars than noble Mercedes. The renaming to T, whereby the letter should stand for tourism and transport, was undoubtedly a wise decision. Although it was just as in need of explanation, it quickly prevailed. And ultimately, to this day, nobody, not even at Daimler, mentions a station wagon station wagon.

The noble Mercedes station wagon was so well received by the public at the IAA that some gentlemen were probably wondering whether they would not have been well advised to offer a station wagon variant at the /8. Not only the T in the type designation ensured that hardly anyone misunderstood the new model as a craft express.The design of the price list also made it clear which target group was being targeted. Because the station wagon was around 15 percent more expensive than the sedan with the same engine. In addition, the weakest engine variants of the 123 were missing. The T-buyers did not want to expect the 200 and 200 D models. The list of extras that are subject to a surcharge also pointed more towards luxury liners than commercial vehicles.

The price for the Mercedes-Benz 280 TE also shot up to S-Class level

With some nice ingredients, the price of a 280 TE could easily rise 911 or S-Class level. And there were not a few who made ample use of it. The addition of such useful little things as automatic transmission, radio with automatic antenna, metallic paintwork, rear bench seat, velor equipment and trailer hitch made the 280 TE, which cost almost 34,000 marks, more expensive in 1979 to over 40,000 marks. In return, the well-employed self-employed person was offered a lot. Even today, almost 28 years after its introduction, the T-model impresses with its harmonious lines, which at second glance reveal that the Mercedes designers already had the station wagon in mind when they designed the 123 sedan. And even more impressive is the loving and solid execution in detail, which reveals so much of the best Swabian craftsmanship and engineering than hardly any other Mercedes produced later.

At least if it is as well preserved and equipped as the 1983 nautical blue 280 TE from Hardy Langer from Mannheim. The Mercedes maniac is hoarding a small petting zoo from Untertürkheim automobiles, with a clear focus on the T series. “In 1977 I saw the T-model at the IAA and knew straight away that it was my car,” he recalls. And followed by action: in 1985 he bought one of the last discontinued models, which is of course still guarded. A few others have been added over the years. The nautical blue is a comparatively new acquisition. He spent his youth in Germany, then was abducted to the south of France, where a better fate awaited him than was bestowed on many conspecifics. Because - if things got really bad - they ended up in Cotonou in West Africa.

Rust is an issue with the Mercedes Benz 280 TE

He received yellow fog lights, the Look wonderful in the dark metallic paint and remained largely rust-free. This is also the exception with the T-Model. Because just like the 123 sedan, the station wagon is happily corroding, while the technology gives in to almost nothing but wanton destruction.

The station wagon surprises the occasional driver with the distinctive feel-good atmosphere that is common to all mid-range Mercedes. And that doesn't detract from the clumsy sobriety of the furnishings. It actually seems conceivable that a 123, as a colleague once wrote, would be aEven in freezing rain on the A 61 you always have the feeling that a fire is crackling in the glove compartment. It's just a light bulb that lights up when you open the compartment, but the interior couldn't seem more homely, even with a real glow. At best, velor upholstery would have been desired instead of the dark blue mattress. The list of optional extras for this 280 TE is so extensive that reading it aloud makes you feel like a Maybach salesman talking to a customer.

The air conditioning system for 3,921.60 marks is included, as is the mechanical sunroof with the incomparable chrome handle for 1,145.70 marks, the seat heating for 706.80 marks or the three headrests and the split rear seat for a total of 923.40 Mark. Not to forget the safety equipment with an airbag in the steering wheel and ABS, which together cost more than 5,000 marks. Over 20 years later, almost everything is standard in a modern Mercedes station wagon. The 280 TE is so old that a Becker telephone would have cost 19,880 marks according to the surcharge list. You don't miss the phone, of course, even if you leave your modern mobile phone in the equally modern company car. You miss very little in the Mercedes-Benz 280 TE from 1983.

In the Mercedes-Benz 280 TE you miss very little

The six-cylinder needs for its silky soft Don't run balancer shafts. The long crankshaft, with seven bearings, rotates as uniformly as a fine turntable weighing tons. And the four-speed automatic was so perfected in 1983 that it belies all jerks. The heavy but sophisticated luggage system with roof boxes and ski racks is still exemplary. And the folding bench in the rear awakens the wish that back then you would have been small enough for it and your parents would not have just owned an Audi 100 Type 43.

The true age of the T is revealed in the steering, which responds about as precisely as that of a Klepper folding boat pair. And in consumption, which can be frightening with a heavy foot on the gas. The auto motor und sport colleagues from 1978 chased 18.2 liters of super through the K-Jetronic in the test medium. Whereby one can confidently assume that they often succumbed to the temptation to accelerate the 1,660 kilogram T to the maximum achievable 200 km /h.

Today you can travel fast with 13 to 15 liters. The surviving 280 TEs are probably less common in the left lane than in 1978. Many are now in the caring hands of the T-Model generation, who use them as a stylish everyday station wagon or have locked away as collector's items. Provided that they were able to get hold of a copy that was neither worn out as a consumable car from the 80s nor shipped as an export good.

In 2002 there were still over 100,000 T-models in Germany. There will be moreNot. Unless the author succumbs to the temptation and brings one of those 300 turbo diesels that may have survived in Florida or Arizona in the first hand of retirees home to the Neckar.

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