The 500 was a Wolf covered in Sheep Clothing.
More often than not, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche are at odds with one another—trading blow for blow on-track in sports cars or sprinting down the Autobahn in super-SUVs. But that hasn’t always been the case.
The early 1990s weren’t the best of times for Porsche. A German recession had taken its toll on the Stuttgart powerhouse and sales had hit the skids, hard. In order to keep the machine moving, Porsche began looking for more work. Interestingly enough, Mercedes, which could stamp out cars all day long, needed assistance on a low-volume project—an E-Class V8 super-sedan.
Papers were signed, and the built-by-Porsche Mercedes-Benz 500E was born.
Though Mercedes had the final say in its 500E saloon, Porsche handled all the heavy lifting and assembly at its Rössle Bau plant, where it strengthened the base W124 Mercedes chassis. The production process wasn’t what you’d call simple, however. Porsche would then send these partially-built cars to Mercedes for paint and interior work, at which point they’d return to Porsche for the installation of drivetrain components, before going back for delivery prep. The process allegedly took 18 days, but the results were stunning.
The Mercedes-Benz 500E packed a 5.0-liter, 32-valve aluminum V8, which had been knicked from the 500SL roadster, and reworked to generate 322 hosepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 mph took under six seconds and the quarter mile disappeared eight seconds after that. While pretty darn brisk off the line, the 500E had no problem striding up to its 155 mph limited top speed. Allegedly, these cars are good for about another 15 mph too.
The beauty of the 500E is in the punches it pulls. At a quick glance, there’s little to suggest its Autobahn conquering performance, apart from the bulging fender flares and lowered stance. Inside, the 500E came fitted with all the luxury and woodgrain splendor expected in a posh ‘90s Merc, along with four bolstered Recaro Sportline seats. Further beneath the skin lies more 500SL machinery, found in the 500E’s up-rated brakes and front suspension. In the rear, Porsche affixed a hydraulic self-leveling setup to better sop up those 155 mph bumps.
10,479 Mercedes-Benz 500E sedans were built from 1990 to 1995 (the vast majority between ’91 and ’94), and of those only 1,500 or so officially made it to U.S. shores. This 1992 500E, which recently surfaced on eBay, is one of them, and it dons a pair of sleek OZ racing wheels to further that subtle, intimidating look. If only Porsche and Mercedes could still play so nicely together.