Mercedes-Benz W123

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Mercedes-Benz free logo.svg   Mercedes-Benz W123
1980 Mercedes-Benz 300 D (W123) sedan (20980100691).jpg
1980 Mercedes-Benz 300 D (W123)
Also calledKaensaeng 88 (North Korea)
2,696,915 built[1]
4-door: 2,375,410
Coupé: 99,884
Estate: 199,517
Limousine: 13,700
Chassis: 1,353
LWB chassis: 7,020
DesignerBruno Sacco, Friedrich Geiger (Saloon & coupe: 1973, T-Model: 1975)
Body and chassis
ClassExecutive car (E)
Body style4-door saloon
2-door coupé (C123)
5-door estate (S123)
4-door limousine (V123)
LayoutFR layout
RelatedMercedes-Benz E-Class
Transmission4-speed 722.1 automatic
4-speed 4G-TRONIC automatic
4-speed manual
5-speed manual
WheelbaseSaloon: 2,795 mm (110.0 in)
Coupé: 2,710 mm (106.7 in)
Limousine/ambulance/hearse: 3,425 mm (134.8 in)
Length4,725 mm (186.0 in)[3]
4,849 mm (190.9 in) (US bumpers)
4,640 mm (183 in) (Coupé)
4,763 mm (187.5 in) (Coupé US bumpers)
5,355 mm (210.8 in) (Limousine)
WidthSaloon: 1,784 mm (70.2 in)[3]
HeightSaloon: 1,435 mm (56.5 in)[3]
Curb weightSaloon: 1,625 kg (3,582.5 lb) (turbodiesel, automatic)
PredecessorMercedes-Benz W114
SuccessorMercedes-Benz W124

The Mercedes-Benz W123 is a range of executive cars produced by German manufacturer Mercedes-Benz from November 1975 to January 1986. The W123 models surpassed their predecessor, the Mercedes-Benz W114 models, as the most successful Mercedes, selling 2.7 million units before the production ended in the autumn 1985 for saloon/sedan and January 1986 for coupé and estate/station wagon.

The W123 became a hit with the public due to its modern look. Following the slow build-up during the first year of production as to ensure the high and consistent quality, the customers who placed their orders faced a lengthy waiting period of nine to twelve months. A black market emerged for the customers who were willing to pay more for immediate delivery. The slightly used W123 commanded about 5,000 Deutsche Mark premium over its original sale price.[4]

Like its predecessors, W123 gained the reputation of being over-engineered, well-built, durable, and reliable. Many taxi companies chose W123 for this reason, and they were common sight in Germany. Reaching 500,000 or 1,000,000 km with minor mechanical issues was common with W123 used as taxicabs. Once the W123 reached the end of service life, they were often shipped to Africa and third world countries where they were highly esteemed for ability to travel on rough roads and further without frequent maintenance[citation needed].

W123 production ended in January 1986 with 63 final T-models rolling out. Most popular single models were the 240 D (455,000 built), the 230 E (442,000 built), and the 200 D (378,000 built).


W123 shares technical similarities with its predecessors including engines, steering system, and suspension system. The design is updated with styling cues from its larger sibling, Mercedes-Benz W116, namely wider ribbed taillights, horizontal headlamps and front turn signal indicators on the outer edge, and pull-to-open door handles. The interior is revised with larger instrument panel, central round ventilation outlets, HVAC control panel, single row of control switches in the centre.

The instrument panel has three large gauges placed behind a single plastic cover. The manual HVAC control panel has three large dials with left and right dials for individual temperature control and centre dial for fan speed control. Air flow is controlled by two slides (left for upper zone and right for lower zone). If the optional air conditioning unit is ordered, a temperature roll dial is fitted to the row of control switches. The automatic HVAC control panel is simplified with single roll disc on the left for temperature control, a row of push buttons in the middle for directing the air flow and switching the system on and off, and a vertical set of button on the right for controlling the fan speed and switching automatic control on and off.

All models except 280, 280 E, and coupé feature larger round headlamps with smaller round fog lamps with large glass plate covering entire headlamp housing and acting as diffusing lens. This setup is same for the North American models with the sealed beam units and glass plate partially covering the headlamp housing. The 280, 280 E, and coupé models use large rectangular headlamps with round fog lamps. The headlamp washers and wipers set are optional.


Per Mercedes-Benz tradition (prior to the 1994 change), model designation corresponded to the engine displacement, chassis type (coupé or estate/station wagon), fuel type (for diesel engines only), and availability of fuel injection system (for petrol engines only):

  • C for Coupé
  • T for Tourismus und Transport (estate/station wagon)

No designation was given for the long-wheelbase: it was simply called "Lang" (long) in the brochures and order forms.

  • D for Diesel
  • E for Einspritzung (fuel injection)

When the diesel engine is turbocharged, TURBODIESEL is affixed to the right side of the boot lid.

As for the chassis codes, W123 is the saloon/sedan, S123 the estate/station wagon, C123 the coupé, V123 the long-wheelbase saloon/sedan a.k.a. Lang, and F123 refers to the bare long-wheelbase chassis as used for ambulances and other conversions.

Model variations[edit]

Mercedes-Benz 280 CE (C123) (Euro-spec)
Mercedes-Benz 280 CE (C123) rear (Euro-spec)
Mercedes-Benz 240D (W123) saloon (Euro-spec)
Mercedes-Benz 240D (W123) saloon rear (Euro-spec)
Mercedes-Benz W123 sedan (US)
Mercedes-Benz 280 TE estate
Mercedes-Benz 300 CD TURBODIESEL coupe (US-version)
Mercedes-Benz V123 "Lang" or Long Wheelbase (Euro-spec)
Mercedes-Benz W123 with passenger airbag

Saloon (W123)[edit]

The four-door version went on sale on 29 January 1976.[5][6]

Coupé (C123)[edit]

In the spring of 1976, a coupé version was introduced on a shortened wheelbase (2,710 mm (106.7 in) versus 2,795 mm (110.0 in) for the saloon). The C123 was available as 230 C (later 230 CE) and as 280 C and 280 CE in most markets. Unlike W123 saloon, the rectangular headlamps were fitted to C123 regardless of engine type.

Limousine (V123)[edit]

From August 1976, a long-wheelbase version (3,425 mm (134.8 in)) with seating for seven to eight was produced. The limousine is built on an stretched W123 saloon/sedan chassis with lower side panels from the coupé behind the rear passenger doors. The elongated roof has the same C-pillar form as on the saloon/sedan. The rear passenger doors are custom-designed in rectangular shape and of the same length as the ones on the saloon/sedan. The engine options were 250, 240 D, and 300 D. A few 280 E limousines were built per special order.

Chassis (F123)[edit]

The stretched limousine version was offered with complete front body clip (B-pillar forward) and strengthened chassis as the base for ambulances or hearses to be built by the conversion specialists such as Binz and Miesen. F stands for Fahrgestelle (chassis).

Estate (S123)[edit]

At the 1977 IAA in Frankfurt, the first-ever factory-built estate, S123, was introduced. The letter T in the model designation stood for Tourismus und Transport (Touring and Transport). Previous estates had been custom-built by the coachbuilders, namely Binz. S123 production began in April 1978 at Mercedes-Benz Bremen factory. All engines except the 2-litre version of M115 were available in the range.


While Mercedes-Benz never built its own convertible, they have been built by external companies such as the St. Tropez models by Crayford in the UK, and also by Niko-Michaels in New York, USA. In the city of Hagen, Germany, until 2016 one small family owned firm- Baehr [not be mistaken with Baur, which have for many years built BMW-based cabriolet conversions], have produced cabrio versions of the C123 Coupe models, and also sold kits for cabrio conversions of the same model.[7] [8]


All engines from W114/W115 are carried over. The single new engine was SOHC 2.5-litre M123 inline six. The 3-litre five-cylinder diesel engine received a proper nomenclature for W123, matching the engine displacement: 300 D instead of 240 D 3.0 on previous W114/W115.

In the autumn 1978, the power output was increased in 240 D from 65 PS (48 kW; 64 hp) to 72 PS (53 kW; 71 hp) and the in 280 E from 177PS to 185 PS. In early 1979, the power output rose from 55 PS (40 kW; 54 hp) to 60 PS (44 kW; 59 hp) for 200 D and from 80 PS (59 kW; 79 hp) to 88 PS (65 kW; 87 hp) for 300 D. 220 D was deleted from the model range for 1980.

In June 1980, the new M102 four-cylinder inline petrol engine replaced the M115. The 2-litre version was available with carburettor only while 2.3-litre version was available with fuel injection only. The carburetted version of 2.8-litre M110 engine in 280 and 280 C was discontinued in 1981, leaving 250 as sole carburetted six-cylinder inline engine.

The world's first turbocharged diesel engine for passenger vehicle, OM617 A was finally introduced in W123 models in September 1979, exclusive to 300 TD TURBODIESEL for European market. The same engine is offered in the North America and Japan in 1981 as 300 D TURBODIESEL, 300 CD TURBODIESEL, and 300 TD TURBODIESEL.[9]

Equipment and features[edit]

The standard and optional features are extensive along with larger number of engine and gearbox options. The customers could choose cloth, MB-Tex vinyl, velour, or leather material for the upholstery as well as interior wood trim for dashboard and centre console. The paint and interior colour palettes are extensive as well.

The driving dynamic enhancement options for extra cost became more extensive over the time: ABS (from August 1980 onward), self-locking differential gear, five-speed manual gearbox (introduced in 1982 for European market only), Tempomat cruise control system, power steering system (standard from 1982 onward), passenger-side external rear view mirror (standard on S123 model), "Alpine" horn with selectable loudness (popular in Switzerland due to strict noise regulations), retractable steering column (from 1982 onward), and so forth.

The extra cost options for creature comfort includes power windows (with cut-off switch for rear passenger door windows), vacuum-powered central locking system, sunroof (manual and electric), air conditioning system (manual or automatic control), seats with orthopaedic support, electrically heated seats (all seats are individually ordered), pre-heating system (for heating the passenger compartment at pre-selected time when the engine is not running), different assortment of radios with and without cassette players, rear seat head rests, etc. The W123 destined for North American market tend to have more optional features as standard, reflecting the American customer's preference for luxury accessories. For the first time in the executive saloon from Mercedes-Benz, W123 has the option of upgrading to full automatic climate control for extra cost if the customers choose to do so. This option is popular feature in the North American and Japanese markets. The rare option is a column gear selector that could be ordered with automatic gearbox if the customer wishes. The most expensive option was Becker radio telephone, selling for 13,512 Deutsche Mark.

In the estate/station wagon model, a third row rear-facing foldable seat was offered as an extra cost option.


Mercedes-Benz updated the W123 in incremental steps, calling them series:

  • Series 0.5, November 1975 – July 1976
  • First Series, August 1976 – July 1979
  • Second Series, August 1979 – August 1982
  • Third Series, September 1982 – January 1986

Changes to the second series (from August 1979):

  • smaller steering wheel (10 mm) in a more elegant design
  • modernized toggle switches with smoother edges (hazard lights, windows, etc.)
  • pneumatic headlamp leveling system
  • modified belt buckles and smaller headrests
  • new fabric patterns for the seats

Changes to the third series (from September 1982):

  • Rectangular headlights and power steering as standard for entire model range
  • Molded front seat backrests for more knee freedom in the rear
  • Cloth insert in the door panels
  • Zebrano wood paneling in the dashboard
  • Reduced wind noise due to improved roof trim strips
  • Ventilation outlets are no longer chrome-plated
  • Driver's Airbag

For 1981 model year, the automatic climate control panel from W126 S-Class with simplified icon design was adopted. The new five-speed manual gearbox was introduced in February 1982 and was available in all models except 3-litre turbocharged diesel engine for Europe and elsewhere. This gearbox is never offered in the North American market.

In September 1982, the driver's air bag with seat belt pre-tensioners for the passenger were offered as a 1,762.80 Deutsche Mark option for all models for 1983 model year onward.[10] Very few W123s had both driver and passenger air bags. The passenger air bag used a pyrotechnic gas discharge design, a world's first.

Knockoffs and copies[edit]

The W123 was officially produced by FAW in China from 1987 until 1988, as a 200 sedan or as a long wheelbase 230E. Only 828 cars were built in their Changchun plant.[2] Another Chinese company called Bamin Automobile made W123 lookalikes using other parts. Bamin was an army-owned company located in Minhou. Their W123 copy was built on the chassis of the Bamin BM212A/213A, a copy of the Beijing BJ212 and came in a few different bodystyles. There was a four-door pickup called the BM2022A (or the better equipped BM1020KHA) and a wagon derived from it, as well as the BM1020KH/BM6480 (proper station wagons).[11] A more faithful replica was made in North Korea, almost entirely by hand, called the Kaensaeng 88.[citation needed]

Technical data[edit]