RE: Mercedes S600 Coupe (C140) | The Brave Pill

RE: Mercedes S600 Coupe (C140) | The Brave Pill

Saturday 3rd August

Mercedes S600 Coupe (C140) | The Brave Pill

What's got 12 cylinders, does 12 mpg and could probably be yours for almost exactly 12 grand?



After the exotic heights of last week's Ferrari 360 Modena, Pill is returning to more familiar territory: an XL Mercedes with a hefty V12 stuffed in its (very) blunt end. Our last example from this courageous genre was a twin-turbocharged W221 S-Class which threatened to knock zeros off its next owner's net worth. This week's Pill is older, squarer and probably slightly less likely to leave financial scars.

While clay is traditionally used to model future cars, this S-Class has always looked as if it was knocked up by a monumental stonemason out of a huge lump of granite. The W140 saloon was available with two wheelbases, but our Pill is the much rarer C140 Coupe in range-topping S600 spec.

This was the Merc for those who wanted to demonstrate they were considerably richer than yow. Back in 1994 it carried a list price of Β£99,300 - Β£1000 more than the SL600 - and sat at the very top of the Mercedes price list. Yes, there were AMG versions, but they were technically aftermarket conversions.

Not that this brutish S-Class really got on with the era it was launched into, in either two- or four-door guise. Mercedes started work on the design as long ago as 1981, the car being originally scheduled for launch in 1989, and the brief matched the spirit of excess - as big and imposing as possible. Beyond the lack of rear doors the coupe's obvious visual difference was smaller headlights, giving a look that could be likened to a big gut hanging over a tight pair of jeans.


But the delay until 1991 meant the S missed the 'eighties party and arrived just in time for the banging hangover of the early 'nineties global recession. There was also a strange new hippyish notion that was being described as "environmental awareness." Against which, a 2.2-tonne luxo-barge with the proportions of a concrete gun emplacement and a V12 engine that struggled to better its cylinder count in mpg wasn't really in keeping with the spirit of the (new) age.

Of course, in some parts of the world the full-spec S-Class got a far keener welcome. As the Iron Curtain fell off its railings the former Communist Block was quick to embrace the concepts of both capitalism and organised crime, and the biggest, baddest Merc of them all became a great way of demonstrating both wealth and the ability to leave horses' heads in enemies' beds. One murdered Russian mobster loved his car so much he was buried under a vast tombstone carved to look like a W140.

The saloon never sold in the volumes the previous W126 had managed, but the coupe managed tiny numbers. Throughout eight years Merc made more than 400,000 saloons but only 26,000 coupes, of which just 8500 were 600s. There were various rebrandings - it launched as an SEC before becoming a straight S and then a CL - but across all versions fewer than 300 V12s reached the UK.

Yet behind the staid design the S600 was seriously quick, at least for as long as its driver wanted to go in straight lines. The almighty 'M120' V12 made 402hp without forced induction, or indeed apparent effort, delivering urge as smoothly as a freshly buttered turbine. The official 6.6-second 0-62mph time proved slightly pessimistic under testing, and German owners soon worked out that it was possible to bypass the still-novel 155mph electronic speed limiter. Do that and find enough stretch of straight Autobahn and a fully lit S-Class could reportedly hit 179mph. Small wonder this engine went onto power the Pagani Zonda.


The C140's handling was less impressive, but also less relevant. One contemporary road test likened trying to make faster progress to trying to dance with a fat woman, not the sort of comment that would be deemed appropriate in these enwokened times. Mercedes had planned to offer air suspension but couldn't get the system to work well enough for its liking and on steel springs with softish dampers the S's defining press-on trait was roll and squeal, the latter likely to come from both tyres and passengers. Steering assistance is like the helm of a supertanker - light and short on feedback.

It is far better to sit back, relax, look down the gunsight badge at the end of the vast bonnet and enjoy still-impressive refinement. This S-Class was the first Merc to get double glazing, and even now the cabin should be whisper quiet at big speeds. There were some very odd toys, including an optional power-operated internal rear view mirror controlled by a small joystick on the dash - and this was also the Merc that pioneered soft-close doors. Our Pill is slightly too early to have the then pioneering stability control that was fitted to later models, but it does get the ASR traction management with a dashboard light that will flash admonition whenever this is triggered.

Oh, have a look at the rear wings: see what look like the top of power-operated radio aerials, one on each side? They aren't, rather they are 'parking wands', two small metal poles that motor up whenever the car is put in reverse to make it slightly easier to judge where the back of the bootlid is and cut down on expensive crunching sounds. It was only offered briefly, later versions of the 140 clan being modern enough to have radar sensors, making this car an interesting piece of history.


Which segways us neatly to the vendor's claim that this car boasts a full service history. This may well be the case - it may all be there - but the bits listed in the ad reveal and obvious and substantial chasm between the main dealer services listed in 2008 and 2014. It could be that the car fell into a period of specialist care that our seller doesn't deem worthy of extensive documentation, but equally comprehensive list of MOTs make clear the car was in use throughout this time, albeit barely. The listed history also suggests our Pill's last service was in September 2015, but just 400 miles ago. Obscured plates deny us a look at the MOT history, which might raise some more questions, although the good news is that the 140 is much less prone to rusting than lesser Mercs from the era.

Not that there isn't plenty to still go wrong. The 140 is often described as the last hewn-from-solid Merc before the palace coup that saw the company's engineers overthrown by the accountants. But running costs can still be painful, with the V12 mill having a tendency to fry the under-bonnet part of the wiring loom. It will also devour tyres, brakes, suspension components and - most of all - petrol. The official 15.3mpg should be regarded as a best-case scenario. Although, this being PH, there will doubtless be a starry-eyed owner insisting it is possible to get 30 on a run.

At Β£12,995 from a dealer before negotiations commence our Pill also strong money; it is possible to get a decent-looking S600 saloon for less than half of that, you could even stretch to a nice example of the twin-turbo W221 CL600 for less. But our choice is properly rare and comes with the sort of swaggering presence that only a truly brave buyer knows.


See the original advert

Author
Discussion

Venisonpie

Original Poster:

393 posts

26 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
Love the saloons of this era but the coupe's look awkward and the wheels do it no favours.
Great engine though.

A1VDY

669 posts

71 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
Awful looking thing and the description of concrete gun emplacement is apt.
Ave of 12 mpg (likely far less) makes this thing pretty useless... Unless just bought as an enormous ornament..

humphra

65 posts

36 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
[quote] .....the S's defining press-on trait was roll and squeal, the latter likely to come from both tyres and passengers.
[/quote]

Love an early morning chuckle and this gave it to me!

It's what I'd call an archetypal Merc - imposing and dressed in black. Not for me, but I can see the attraction.

LaurasOtherHalf

15,255 posts

140 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
I honestly think these look better than what came after

MadDog1962

761 posts

106 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
Hmmm.... This is like an alternative to an XJ-S. Except there is probably a reasonable chance that you could find less expensive parts for the Jag (as they were sold in much larger numbers). I can't honestly recall when I last saw one of these beasties. Probably a wonderful cruiser, but it'll have all the complexity and costs associated with a big Benz. Any kind of major mechanical failure (e.g. a major transmission failure) will spell the economic end of life no matter how magnificent the rest of it is.

At £6K it's probably worth the risk, but at £12K it probably isn't. That doesn't stop me liking it though.

Cambs_Stuart

570 posts

28 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
Utterly useless. Too heavy, expensive and fuel thirsty. Parts will be a nightmare. Annual service cost probably more than a decent runabout or a few sheds.
But i love it. A proper brave pill. Lots and lots of risk and the only reward is an old, out of date german saloon that most people wouldn't think was at all special.

BigChiefmuffinAgain

138 posts

42 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
Nicely written article. Proper brave pill to though probably verging on the foolhardy...

2002

1,604 posts

42 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
The only reason these are going up in price is that the C126 SECs are now too expensive, so now moved on a generation. I do like them, don't get me wrong, a little slab-sided and looks like pumped-up fixed-roof R129 SL, but there is an appeal to them.

I would have 'only' the 500, though. Too scared of the V12..

HardtopManual

1,216 posts

110 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
Segue.

A Segway is an electronic device for moving fat people and tourists.

Motorsport3

303 posts

136 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
I would get a good one for £5k and convert to LPG. Anything ove 10k is just daydreaming imho.

BigBen

9,792 posts

174 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
article said:
look down the gunsight badge at the end of the vast bonnet
The coupes don't have the gunsight so would be a struggle.

I had one of these a couple of years ago, mpg was more like 20 in general out of town use. They are really pretty simple cars and parts are plentiful given they are mostly common to the saloon.

The price being asked for this one is barking, low milage aside the pre-facelift cars are a bit uglier and have much more old fashioned interiors.

I sold mine as I never really bonded with the car, I then replaced it with a W220 S600TT, that is a complicated car with plenty to be scared of, the W140 in the article is not.

My ideal would be a S600 saloon, I had a 500 and the 600 would surely be the same but 50% better!

Ben

Edited by BigBen on Saturday 3rd August 12:54

AC43

7,198 posts

152 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
Styling-wise probably my least-favourite Merc of the last 30 years. The SEC's before it looked magnificent to me, esp on staggered AMG.

Ah'm oot.

Cold

7,157 posts

34 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
HardtopManual said:
Segue.

A Segway is an electronic device for moving fat people and tourists.
yes This one runs on petrol.

edwheels

146 posts

90 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
Wow - the parking wand, in the last photo in the article, is massive.

cmoose

44,799 posts

173 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
Awful and magnificent in equal measure.

Love the sense of over engineering. Looks great from some angles.

But pretty ungainly from others and the rear track never looks quite right. And the cabin has all the aesthetic panache of a dental surgery.

Think fair to say the W140 (C140 in this case?) is slightly post peak Merc (last properly peak Merc model probably the R129) . But still a wonderful thing.

Numeric

473 posts

95 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
The W140 is one of the last great Mercs before the Shrimp and his goals destroyed any trace of real quality. But this just about last effort from Bruno Saco was just plain wrong - I would have a 140 (V8 not 12) but the coupe just went all odd.

I do suspect that it is built to last though except for the daft engine.

Deep Thought

23,626 posts

141 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
Venisonpie said:
Love the saloons of this era but the coupe's look awkward and the wheels do it no favours.
Great engine though.
+1

Totally agree.

Verging on ugly.

unsprung

3,310 posts

68 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
BigChiefmuffinAgain said:
Nicely written article.
+1


Plate spinner

13,293 posts

144 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
AC43 said:
Styling-wise probably my least-favourite Merc of the last 30 years
Agreed.

Touring442

631 posts

153 months

Saturday 3rd August
quotequote all
£12'995?

That's the last you'll see of that.