£500 Chal­lenge

Mercedes-Benz S280

Classic Car Weekly (UK) - - This Week -

THE STORY SO FAR Miles driven 56 To­tal mileage 80,195 What’s gone wrong The brakes are worse than ever

DAVID SIMISTER It took an AA break­down re­cov­ery man to spur our S-class into ac­tion – but not in the way we’d been ex­pect­ing.

The fa­mil­iar flicker of or­ange lights graced the CCW car park af­ter col­league David Brown’s Golf de­vel­oped a bat­tery is­sue, and it didn’t take long be­fore we all started chat­ting clas­sics and how the odd hic­cup is only to be ex­pected. With all the old cars in vary­ing states of dis­re­pair out­side our of­fices, our hivis-jack­eted mir­a­cle worker must be a fairly fre­quent vis­tor, right?

‘Ac­tu­ally, it’s been a while,’ he replied. ‘The last car I ended up com­ing out to was a big old Mercedes. The chaps couldn’t get it go­ing. Some­thing to do with the im­mo­biliser, I think.’

I ges­tured to P772 LSR, a cou­ple of rows fur­ther down. ‘It wasn’t that old Mercedes, was it?’ ‘That’s the one.’ I took pity on our poor old S280. Over the past few weeks it’s seen barely any use: any­one who goes near it emerges look­ing pale and shar­ing sto­ries of scary-sound­ing fuel bills and im­mi­nent ex­pen­sive re­pairs. It’s also stranded sev­eral of the team with iffy electrics –in­clud­ing Yours Truly on a cross-Chan­nel ferry last sum­mer – but I also re­mem­ber it be­ing a won­der­ful mo­bile liv­ing room that can shrink swathes of the mo­tor­way net­work.

What it needed was some­one well versed in the W140’s foibles to save it, and it didn’t take long to find one. Clas­sics Cen­tral’s Justin Lazic is def­i­nitely a devo­tee of Stuttgart’s finest – he owns a CL600 coupé – and he hap­pens to know a friendly spe­cial­ist not far from his place in Not­ting­ham.

Two days and one phone call later, I was pow­er­ing up the A1 in our S-class, re-ac­quaint­ing my­self with its charms. It’s still one of the com­fi­est cars I’ve ever driven, and with the old tired rub­ber re­cently swapped for new Bridge­stones it felt smoother, sharper and qui­eter than ever.

Bet­ter still, the fuel bill was far less fright­en­ing than I’d been ex­pect­ing. Hav­ing set our S-class econ­omy record with 29mpg last year, I was cu­ri­ous to find out if the old girl re­ally was as bad as my col­leagues have been mak­ing out. This time there’d be no clever-clogs hy­per­mil­ing or keep­ing the speed down – I was just driv­ing a big Mercedes nor­mally, pri­mar­ily on dual car­riage­ways and a bit of city stop-start traf­fic on the pre­dictably slug­gish crawl into Not­ting­ham.

Fi­nal score was 24.8mpg – not as amaz­ing as it’s been pre­vi­ously, but cer­tainly not the low-teens hor­ror story that I’ve heard be­ing told.

So the S-class isn’t as thirsty as its rep­u­ta­tion makes out, but it’s still a car in need of some at­ten­tion. The brake jud­der, men­tioned by my col­leagues af­ter pre­vi­ous out­ings, is worse than ever, and the four-speed auto could do with some love. Not that it both­ered Justin in the slight­est. Hav­ing fired up his CL600 to treat wife Natalie and me to the won­der­ful noise a 6.0-litre V12 makes on start- up, he had a closer look around P772 LSR and de­clared it a fun­da­men­tally good car, par­tic­u­larly for some­thing that cost un­der a grand.

Justin chucked me the keys to his Rover 800 for the drive back to Peter­bor­ough – keep an eye out for it in CCW in a few weeks’ time – and parked our S-class up be­hind his CL600, ready for its trip to Sh­effield­based Leigh Hol­brook.

Will he and his crack team of Mercedes spe­cial­ists be able to solve our S280’s woes? I hope so, just in case the AA has a ‘fair use’ pol­icy…

David fills the S-class up af­ter the drive from Peter­bor­ough – and is sur­prised at the re­sults.

Justin’s own W140 is this V12-engined CL600. Fancy a swap?

Justin Lazic will be treat­ing our S-class to some spe­cial­ist TLC.

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