While Britain can arguably lay claim to having created the breed (with cars like the 3.8-litre Jaguar Mk2), Germany has surely made the best super saloons for a long while now. It's no surprise, really, given a powerful, luxurious, refined and dynamic car suits German roads rather well. In the same way that Britain does great sports cars for B-roads and America great trucks for off-road exploring, the German talent for fast four doors makes a lot more sense once you're there.
Furthermore, while Britain may not suit the 'barnstorming saloons quite as well as their homeland, there's no escaping our fondness for them in this country. The UK remains a huge market for various M, RS and AMG cars, their combination of performance and practicality appealing even if motorists here can't exceed 70mph. Pleasingly, too, as this E500 shows, the recipe hasn't changed a great deal in more than a quarter of a century.
Buy a flagship E-Class today and it'll have a V8 engine, an automatic gearbox and look - all things considered - relatively subtle. If you'd have bought a flagship E-Class in 1994 it would have been a W124 like this one, with a V8 engine an automatic gearbox and very subtle styling. If it ain't broke, don't fix it - right? Oh sure, technology has seen to a few advancements - more than twice the numbers of gear ratios, double the driven wheels and nearly 100 per cent more power - but the formula, that of stuffing a lot of engine into a fairly ordinary saloon, has remained very much the same. Still appeals just as much as it always did, as well.
That perennial appeal has ensured that the original bad boys of supersalooning have always been in demand, even if the recession years saw values take a dive. This E500 - as the car was known after the 1994 facelift; they were 500Es before that point - was originally sold in Germany, where it was owned by a mother and son for the first decade of its life. And even by E500 standards, this was a lavishly specced one: electric sunroof, electric steering column, an auxiliary heater and the Mercedes 'Exquisit' audio upgrade were just a few of the optional extras. Furthermore, it has only covered 16,000 miles with its three owners across 15 years in the UK, putting the current total on 63,000 - remarkably low for a car surely so suited to covering big distances.
Now all W124s, as perhaps the best exponent of traditional big Merc values, have enjoyed some considerable appreciation in recent years, and the 500s are no different. This car, the only one currently on PH, is for sale at £54,995. Not far off what a new C63 might cost, in fact, but also broadly in line with what these icons sadly now command. See this E34 M5 Touring, another left-hand drive legend of the era, that's for sale at £65k, this Audi RS2 - another collaboration with Porsche, like the Mercedes was - at £40k with 160,000 miles and this Lotus Carlton; with a scarcely believable 4,500 miles, it's currently being offered at £125,000. Could have two E500s...
Rare, interesting, desirable and usable German classic costs a lot of cash - yep, what a shock. But while bargain hunters may have missed the boat on the best of the V8 barges, it's hard to imagine an E500 like this one sticking around for long. It is, after all, a milestone in Mercedes history, and here in seemingly immaculate condition. But if you are looking for some AMG E-Class hooliganism at a more attainable price, the W124's successor - the rather less revered W210 - is still available with a hunk of V8 for less than £10k. Given that already represents a climb on where they were, don't say you weren't warned if they go further...
SPECIFICATION - MERCEDES-BENZ E500
Engine: 4,973cc, V8
Transmission: 4-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Power (hp): 326@5,600rpm
Torque (lb ft): 347@3,700rpm
Recorded mileage: 63,000
Price new: 145,590 Deutschmarks
Yours for: £54,995