Painfully slow but extraordinarily tough, the diesel-powered Mercedes 240D sedan was an icon of automotive reliability and a testament to the strength of German engineering and manufacturing. A member of the the company's W123 range, the 240D was produced from 1977 to 1983. It was viewed as the entry-level Benz in the U.S., and internationally it often saw duty as a taxi. Its basic interior, solid construction and famous reputation for being "bulletproof" made it an excellent fleet vehicle.
Circa the 21st century, Mercedes-Benz models are known for sumptuously appointed cabins, sleek, dramatic styling and a laundry-list of high-tech luxury and convenience gadgets. In comparison, the 1983 240D was quite spartan. While real wood trim came standard, so did such down-market features as cloth upholstery and crank windows. Even a passenger-side mirror required the tick of an option box. The 240D's version of luxury was quality construction and smooth operation, not necessarily an occupant-pampering interior. Still, the usual lineup of luxury features - including leather upholstery, heated seats, air conditioning and a premium stereo - were available as options. What many folks remember most about he 240D's interior, though, was the solid "clunk" made by the doors each time they were shut. The Mercedes had a heavy, tank-like feel that inspired confidence.
(Barely) Adequate Power
The 240D was powered by a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder diesel engine. Buyers could choose between a four-speed manual and a four-speed automatic transmission. While the car's diesel powertrain was famous for its ability to withstand years of heavy abuse, it was also infamous for its lack of performance. The engine produced a modest 67 horsepower at 4, 000 rpm and 97 foot-pounds of torque at 2, 400 rpm. Acceleration from 0 to 60 mph took well over 20 seconds. While the car had no problem cruising at 80 mph and even slightly above, getting up to that pace took considerable time and road space. For this reason, the 240D can be a bit harrowing to drive in contemporary, fast-paced traffic.
A Versatile, Practical Size
While the 240D sedan was considered a midsize vehicle, it was somewhat bigger than the average midsize offering of its day. The Mercedes four-door measured 186 inches in length, 56.5 inches in height and 70.2 inches in width. It rode on a 110-inch wheelbase and tipped the scales at 3, 047 pounds.
Fuel Economy and Pricing Information
Much like today, fuel efficiency was a major concern among buyers in the 1970s and 1980s. Diesel cars were marketed to people hoping to save money at the gas pump. To its credit, the 240D was quite the fuel-sipper. It averaged around 28 mpg in mixed driving. Way back when it was new, the 1983 240D had a starting MSRP of just over $20, 000. According to Hagerty Insurance - a top insurer of classic and collectible autos - a well-maintained example is worth around $4, 360 as of fall 2014.