Browse over 9,000 car reviews

Used Mercedes-Benz W123 review: 1976-1986

The W123 was launched here late in 1976 and went on to become the best selling Mercedes-Benz of the 1970s and early-1980s.

Driving an old classic car can be appealing, but it's important to buy a quality oldtimer, like the Mercedes-Benz W123, to avoid the dream turning into a nightmare.

There's something special about driving an old car. Sure they don't have the safety of a new car, they don't perform as well, and aren't as environmentally friendly, but they have something few new cars have, character.

But it's important to make a high quality purchase. A car that was well engineered and well built in its time will usually stand the test of time well.  So, if you start with a quality car, and then buy one that has been lovingly maintained and is in good condition you have a better than equal chance of enjoying your classic motoring experience.

Buy a worn-out, rusty old banger that wasn't a great car when new and you're asking for trouble.  The Mercedes-Benz W123 ticks just about every box for an everyday classic driver.  It was a great car when new and there are many examples still being driven every day.


The W123 was launched here late in 1976 and went on to become the best selling Mercedes-Benz of the 1970s and early-1980s.  It was a mid-sized model capable of accommodating an average family in comfort with enough room left over to swallow whatever luggage they wished to take with them.

It was a model to suit all needs, the Mercedes for the people if you will, with three body styles, sedan, wagon and pretty coupe.  Typical of Mercedes there was a plethora of engine options to choose from, which expanded its appeal even further.

The choices began with a modest 2.3-litre carburettor-fed single overhead camshaft four-cylinder engine that boasted 80 kW and 186 Nm. In quite a heavy car the performance it delivered was best described as sluggish.

Before diesels were even thought of by the everyday motorist Mercedes offered one in the W123. The 2.4-litre single overhead camshaft four-cylinder was an old-time diesel, no turbocharging here, and put out just 48 kW and 137 Nm. Only those interested in economy bought these.

Or the most part W123 buyers chose one of the six-cylinder models, which offered more zip than the fours possibly could.  They were powered either by a carb-fed 2.5-litre single-overhead camshaft in-line engine or a larger 2.8-litre fuel-injected double overhead cam unit.  The 2.5-litre six put out 95 kW and 196 Nm, the 2.8-litre engine boasted 125 kW and 233 Nm.

From 1980 there was also the option of a 3.0-litre five-cylinder diesel that gave a more respectable 65 kW and 172 Nm.  The vast majority of W123s were sold with four-speed automatic transmissions, but some made it to market with four-speed manuals. Final drive was through the rear wheels.

Mercedes generally equipped its cars well, although nothing to the level of today's models.  Even the base model, the 230, came standard with air. It also had power mirrors, fog lamps, central locking and a radio-cassette sound system.  Other models had power windows and some also boasted cruise control.


Buying a top quality model usually means it will stand up well over time, but even the best cars need regular care and attention and the
W123 is no different.  It's wise to check for evidence of regular oil changes over the years, old oil is a car killer.  Also check for crash repairs and paint defects; a car as old as the W123 is likely to have been in a fender bender at some time.

The engine should run smoothly and there shouldn't be any smoke from the exhaust, the transmission should engage gears smoothly without reluctance, and the brakes should pull the car up in a straight line.  Check the tyres for uneven wear that might indicate a suspension problem, and the power steering shouldn't be heavy.

The sun can have an affect on the interior trim components, particularly the dash pad and rear parcel shelf where it's possible to find cracks and faded colours.  Find a car in good condition and the W123 can be a pleasure to drive.


The W123 was made before airbags were routinely fitted, but Mercedes was a pioneer of safety in motorcars and were designing crumple zones before anyone else.  The 'Benz bodies are strong, but are designed to absorb much of the energy in a crash.


No lightweight, fuel economy isn't one of the W123's strong points. The fours and the diesels will deliver the best economy if you can stand the sluggish performance; the sixes are the best buy and will get 10 L/100 km on a run.


* Traditional 'Benz look
* Stylish coupe a classic charmer
* Smooth six-cylinder performance
* Family-sized interior
* Well built
* Solid and sound
* Affordable everyday classic


Neat old car that's fun to drive and still capable of handling modern day traffic.




Year Price From Price To
1986 $2,860 $5,060
1985 $2,640 $4,510
1984 $2,640 $4,510
1983 $2,640 $4,510
1982 $2,640 $4,510
1981 $2,640 $6,270
1980 N/A N/A
1979 N/A N/A
1978 N/A N/A
1977 N/A N/A
1976 N/A N/A

View all Mercedes-Benz 280 pricing and specifications

Range and Specs

SLC 2.7L, Leaded, 4 SP AUTO No recent listings 1976 Mercedes-Benz 280 1976 SLC Pricing and Specs
SL 2.7L, Leaded, 4 SP MAN No recent listings 1976 Mercedes-Benz 280 1976 SL Pricing and Specs
E 2.7L, Leaded, 4 SP AUTO No recent listings 1976 Mercedes-Benz 280 1976 E Pricing and Specs
CE 2.7L, Leaded, 4 SP AUTO No recent listings 1976 Mercedes-Benz 280 1976 CE Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist


Other cars to consider

1983 Volvo 240
1983 Volvo 240

1983 Volvo 240

Pricing guide from: $3,410 – 5,280
1979 Jaguar XJ6
1979 Jaguar XJ6

1979 Jaguar XJ6

1977 BMW 5 Series
1977 BMW 5 Series

1977 BMW 5 Series

Pricing Guide

Lowest price, n/a

View cars for sale
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.