Archive for January, 2012

Test Drive: 1993 Mercedes-Benz 500SEL (W140)

On January 13, 2012, I test drove a 1993 Mercedes-Benz 500SEL at Master Car Sales in Pomona, California. The car has a black and grey two tone exterior with a black leather interior. The asking price is $3,900 and the car has 217,000 miles. Under the hood of this 500SEL is a 5.0 liter V8 engine (codenamed M119) that produces 315 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 347 lb-ft of torque @ 3900 rpm. The transmission is a four speed automatic, which is codenamed 4G-Tronic, and has standard rear wheel drive. The W140 chassis S-Classes are some of my all time favorite cars. I have always been a big fan of them. The W140s debuted in 1991 in the European market replacing the W126 S-Classes. The W140s came to the North American market for the 1992 model year. They came with many different engine options in all parts of the world, from small Inline 6 diesels to 6.0 liter V12s. From 1991 to 1993, the nameplates for the W140s started with the engine displacement numbers (e.g. 300SE, 400SE, 500SEL, and 600SEL), and from 1994 to 1999, the nameplates started with S for S-Class and then were followed by the engine displacement numbers (e.g. S320, S420, S500, and S600). The W140 is also known to be the car that Princess Diana was killed in, back in 1997. Although she was killed in a serious crash, W140s have been known to be safe and solid vehicles. They can just be expensive to keep maintained. In 1999, the W140 was retired by Mercedes and was replaced by the W220 S-Class. I am hoping to eventually come across a W140 S600 or 600SEL to test drive. Both have 6.0 liter 12 cylinder engines. They are harder to find and more expensive to buy. Now, let’s get back to the test drive.
I called the dealer before I went to go look at the car to make sure it was still on the lot. It wasn’t in a nice part of town, but I didn’t let that bother me. The car was parked by the fence, and the salesperson was sitting down near a barbeque eating lunch when I walked onto the lot. I never got what his name was. I told him that I called earlier asking if the car was on the lot. He went to go grab the key and while doing so I walked around the car for any damage. As you can see in the pictures, the wheels on the car are from a newer S-class. They were from a W221 chassis S550. In the car’s advertisement online, it said that it has new tires. It actually needs new tires, as these were about to go bald. On the driver’s side fender there were some cracks in the paint, as well as the left quarter panel and trunk lid. The back bumper had some scrapes from previous cargo going in and out of the trunk. The front bumper did have some scrapes from hitting other objects, and there was some sun bake on the passenger fender. The salesman told me that the hood was repainted. If it was, the person who did it didn’t do a professional job on it. The interior was in good shape for its age; however, the leather felt dry. When I opened all of the doors, they felt heavy and solid. I didn’t think anything bad of them. I assumed that they were to make the vehicle safer in side impact collisions. The salesman came back with the key, and then I started the car. With older Mercedes vehicles, they have the annoying seat belt buzzer that that lasts for about five seconds. That’s my least favorite thing about these cars. For the next two minutes, I tested the electrical components. Everything such as the windows, locks, mirrors, and radio worked excellent; even the electronic rear window shade. The air conditioning didn’t blow out cold air like it should have. It may need to be recharged or repaired. The radio and climate control buttons took some time to figure out as well. The glass for the side windows were dual pane. I like to call them bullet proof windows because of the thickness. The main purpose is to keep the interior noise quiet while on the road. I asked the salesman if I can test drive it. He got into the driver’s seat and moved the car out onto the street.
While he was moving it, I heard some banging noises coming from the back of the Mercedes. I assumed that he forgot to release the parking brake. The salesman told me that the rear shocks needed to be replaced. He got in the passenger seat; I got behind the wheel, and turned right onto Mission blvd. The car shook while accelerating and the shocks continued to make the banging noises. As I got to 40 miles per hour, the shaking and rattling stopped. As I slowed down to my first stoplight, the rattling and shaking came back. The salesman said that the reason why the car was shacking could be because of a disconnected injector wire harness from the engine compartment. The car didn’t seem as fast as I expected it to be. I have driven a BMW 740il that was much faster with a smaller V8. The salesman asked me if I wanted to drive it on the freeway. I said yes, so we drove towards the 60 West freeway. Before we got on the on ramp, the salesman told me to stop the car completely because he wasn’t quite comfortable with it. I had to stop with traffic behind me, which was very inconvenient. Shouldn’t he know if the car is freeway safe before the test drive? I put the hazards on, stopped the car for a few seconds and let the traffic behind me go around. The salesman said it was fine so I proceeded onto the freeway. I was still disappointed with the engine’s acceleration. It should have felt faster than the Mercedes E420 that I have previously driven about three weeks prior. I don’t even remember being able to hit 60 miles per hour while we were on the freeway. I only drove for about a mile in the slow lane before getting off the freeway. The salesman was telling me that the car needs work before selling it and that he will look into it. He assumed that when the engine compartment was washed it could have done something to the wiring harness. I don’t know how exactly the engine bay was washed, but if that’s the cause then something must have been done wrong. The salesman kept on telling me that the car needs to be fixed because he didn’t want to sell junk. If it needed more money in repairs, he would send it back to the auction. Still, I didn’t think he was the most trust-worthy salesperson I’ve encountered. After getting off the freeway, I drove back to the dealer.
At the dealer, the salesman asked me what the car’s advertised price was. I told him it was $3,900. He gave me a deal that if I wanted the car, I could buy it for a total of $3,800. That included all taxes and fees paid for. I thought it was a fair deal, but I think it would be better for a mechanic to buy it and fix it himself. The Kelley Blue Book’s Suggested Retail value in excellent condition is $5,738. For fair condition through private party, it’s worth $3,263. If I knew how to work on cars, I would have bought it and fixed it up myself. Overall, this Mercedes-Benz 500SEL needs work. It would be a great luxury car for a low price if you don’t mind the paint blemishes, slow performance, and noisy shocks. The W140s are some of the best Mercedes-Benz vehicles built, and that’s a fact! Just give it proper maintenance, and in the future, it could be a timeless classic.
Photos taken by Master Car Sales.


Test Drive: 1996 Acura SLX

On January 13, 2012, I test drove a 1996 Acura SLX at Glendora Motorcars in Glendora, California. The vehicle has a green and tan two tone exterior with a black cloth interior. The rear seat bench cushion didn’t match the rest of the upholstery in the car. It was some kind of grey, leather-like cushion. I’m not sure if it’s original or not. The car has 165,000 miles, and the asking price is $2,650. In case if you didn’t notice, the Acura SLX is exactly identical to the Isuzu Trooper. In that case, it has the same Isuzu built 3.2 liter V6 engine as the Trooper. The engine’s codename is 6VD1, which produces 190 horsepower @ 5600 rpm and 188 lb-ft of torque @ 4000 rpm. The transmission is a 4 speed automatic with four wheel drive. When someone thinks of an Acura SUV, the MDX or RDX will most likely come to mind. The SLX was the first SUV under the Acura name, but it wasn’t the first one designed by the Acura brand itself. The Acura SLX debuted as a 1996 model only to the North American market. The SLX’s square like styling isn’t any different than that of the Trooper’s. In 1998, the SLX as well as the Trooper got a minor facelift with new headlights, front bumper, and grille. Production of the Acura SLX ended in 1999 because of low and unsuccessful sales. Like the Trooper, consumers were concerned about the vehicles’ potential of being involved in rollover crashes. Most of the focus was on the Trooper because of the SLX’s low popularity. I have not come across very many Acura SLX SUVs on the road or online. When I found the Acura SLX in Glendora on Autotrader, it was only one of five in the entire United States. I did come across one or two listed on my local Craigslist, but that’s about it. Now, let’s get to the test drive.
I went to Glendora Motorcars and expected a non-pushy salesperson because it specifically said in the Autotrader dealer description, “No pushy sales or finance people to bother you!” I walked in, and there was just one, middle-aged man named Mike in the office. I think he may be the only one that works at the dealer. I just told him that I found the Acura SLX on Autotrader and I wanted to have a look at it. He got the key and we went outside. He told me that the vehicle has been sitting for a few weeks and that it may not start. He was right. He went back inside the office to get a pair of jumper cables. He used a Chevy Suburban parked next to the SLX to jump start it and it worked. The SLX had a very loud start up noise. It could have been from a bad belt or a pulley. The squealing noise went away after a few seconds. While the vehicle was warming up, I walked around it to check it out. There were deep scratches around the body, especially on the light bar cover above the rear license plate. The paint on the hood was dull in color as well. No body damage other than those. The carpet in the cargo area had a few stains in it from whatever was put in there previously. The armrest cover for the front passenger seat was cracked and worn. The interior door handle on the left passenger door didn’t work, but that’s a minor fix. The radio worked, but the power and volume button was missing and I couldn’t hear anything from the front speakers. The power windows and mirrors did operate though. After a few minutes of the SLX warming up, I asked Mike to drive it. He said yes, but he didn’t want me to drive it for more than a mile down the street.
When I put the car in reverse, it slipped into neutral. The shifter in the car was very loose and easy to shift into a different gear without pushing the button. I think if someone wanted to play with the shifter while the vehicle was in motion, it could slip out of gear causing a serious problem. I was extra cautious while backing out. The spare tire would hit something behind me before the bumper would. I also drove very slowly to make a right turn out of the dealer lot, and onto Route 66. Like with many SUVs, the turning radius was not very sharp. Right after taking off, I started noticing some problems. The check engine light has been on since the vehicle has been started. When I floored the SUV as it went into second gear, the power cut off and I couldn’t go any faster than 45 miles per hour. It would then accelerate into third gear after about five seconds. I thought that the car needed a new transmission. I would not recommend driving this SLX on the freeway. I made a U-turn after driving for about a mile and started hearing a quiet rattling noise coming from the engine compartment. It sounded like a winding toy car. I then tried to accelerate and again, after hitting second gear, the car’s power would cut off at 45 miles per hour. I drove it to a residential street next to the dealer. I made a three point turn at a cul-de-sac because a car was parked at the end of it. After driving it back to the dealer, I kindly mentioned to Mike that the Check engine light was on, and the car needed work. I suggested to him that he should drive it so that he can have a better understanding of what was wrong with it. Mike didn’t seem to care a whole lot, saying that the vehicle will be sold as is and that $2,650 was a good price. He didn’t sound mad or offended, but he didn’t seem to think much of what I said. He gave me a business card, and then I left. Mike was a nice and patient guy, but he just didn’t want to fix the vehicle.
Overall, The Acura SLX is big and spacious, but it needs to be maintained well in order to run correctly. If this SLX was repaired and running like it should, then it would make a great vehicle to drive; at least if gas mileage isn’t a big concern. I really liked it, but I was disappointed that it was being neglected and abandoned on the lot. Even though the Kelley Blue Book Suggested Retail value in excellent condition is $2,871, no one will buy it unless if repairs were done on it. Still, I think $2,650 is a little too much. The fair condition value for private party is only $1,196, and in excellent condition, it wouldn’t be worth anymore than $1,950. Basically, it’s worthless. It will be sitting on the lot for a long time unless if Mike does something about it, whether it’s fixing it, selling it for much cheaper, or junking it.

Photos taken by Glendora Motorcars.