Porsche-built Mercedes-Benz 500E now 30 years-old

Porsche-built Mercedes-Benz 500E now 30 years-old

The W124-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class is probably one of the most well-loved executive sedans of its time. It was available in a range of body styles and powertrain offerings, and among them stood the special 500 E and The Hammer, the latter a creation by AMG. But did you know that the 500 E was built in close collaboration with another Stuttgart company – Porsche?

That’s right. In 1988, Mercedes-Benz (then Daimler-Benz AG) awarded Porsche AG the development contract for the 500 E, a high-performance variant that was to be equipped with a 5.0 litre V8 engine plucked from the 500 SL. The engine produced 326 PS and 480 Nm of torque, and when paired with the four-speed automatic gearbox, would sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds. The top speed was electronically limited to 250 km/h.

Now, why did Porsche agree to build a Mercedes-Benz E-Class? Well, the contract came at a time when Porsche was going through revenue decline from the export market. It was also not meeting key performance indicators, thus suffering from production cutbacks.

Porsche-built Mercedes-Benz 500E now 30 years-old

At the same time, Daimler-Benz couldn’t squeeze another model into its Sindelfingen production line because the plant was too small. The investments required for new tooling wouldn’t have been worthwhile, so outsourcing it was the only feasible option.

So, from 1990 onwards, Porsche began manufacturing the 500 E at its Reutter facility in Zuffenhausen. When production started, Porsche only produced 10 vehicles a day, but this quickly rose to 20 units due to strong demand for the model. Fun fact – the first 14 units were all built by hand, before mass production began.

Porsche was responsible for 90% of the 500 E’s development, and oversaw the full integration of drive and vehicle components. The 500 E went on sale in the spring of 1991, and by 1995, approximately 10,479 units of the four-seater bruiser had been built. It only seats four because the differential was too big, so there was no room in the middle of the rear seats.

The 500 E turns 30 this year, which means it has reached classic status. To celebrate the milestone, Porsche invited Michael Hölscher, former Project Manager Development for the 500 E and Michael Mönig (Prototype Management) to take one for a spin.

Looking at the Sapphire Black Metallic example, Hölscher said “it’s almost impossible to believe that the design could be so perfect 30 years ago without CAD data. I have enormous respect for my colleagues in the body shop and especially their vision.” The pair’s eyes were constantly drawn to the 500 E’s flared fenders, which is one of its distinguishing features from regular W124 variants.

Besides the flared arches, the 500 E was 56 mm wider than the base W124 model, and sat 23 mm lower to the ground. The 5.0L engine was shoehorned up front, and due to the combination of space constraints and weight distribution, the battery had to be installed at the rear right side of the luggage compartment. Other notable upgrades include uprated brakes and exhaust systems, as well as chassis and suspension tweaks.

The last time Hölscher and Mönig sat in the 500 E was 30 years ago, where they drove to Lake Constance. “It had plenty of power, but without being ostentatious, both dynamic and luxurious at the same time. The 500 E is not a showy vehicle. It represents pure understatement, and catches the eye only at second glance,” Mönig said, adding that the 500 E was and still is his favourite project.

“The collaboration with colleagues at Mercedes-Benz was very respectful, focused and on equal termas and was based on a great desire for success. That was very special,” Mönig said. The only series production W124 that was more potent was the aforementioned Mercedes-Benz AMG Hammer, which packed a 6.0 litre V8 engine making 376 hp and 580 Nm of torque. It would do the century sprint in 5.4 seconds.

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Matthew H Tong

An ardent believer that fun cars need not be fast and fast cars may not always be fun. Matt advocates the purity and simplicity of manually swapping cogs while coping in silence of its impending doom. Matt's not hot. Never hot.



  • Old Master on Jun 01, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    Let’s roll this continental for a Nurburgring Record.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
    • Jeremy on Jun 02, 2021 at 3:07 am

      The Mercedes-Benz 500 E W124. A car that happened because good guy Mercedes wanted to help neighbours Porsche keep their factory running. A true legend.

      else Porsche gone by now.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0
  • JOACHIM on Jun 01, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    The best is still the old ‘Tank’ W123. Plenty are still running around in Africa

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2
    • tricycle on Jun 04, 2021 at 10:14 pm

      And That Ultra Rare AMG-Tuned 1990 Mitsubishi Galant 4G63 8000rpm 170HP

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  • Heartdoc on Jun 01, 2021 at 7:06 pm

    Were any units sold in malaysia?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3
  • Johannian2 on Jun 01, 2021 at 11:47 pm

    Love the W124.
    Aging so well.
    Impression akin to a well made Swiss watch vs digital watches
    A new, more modern car just feel less special.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  • Timeless design. Still see these in good condition

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
  • alive n kicking on Jun 02, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    Thanks Matthew for this article. Hopefully the next one will be about the Cosworth tuned 190E 2.3 – 16.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0
  • Semi-Value (Member) on Jun 02, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    real classic. the days when AMG wasnt part of mercedes benz. nowadays, and tom dick and harry c180 also can be amg.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  • Skyhwk on Jun 06, 2021 at 4:45 pm

    LHD only, even if exists in Malaysia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

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