The Mercedes 280-Series is part of the W123 line of executive cars that were introduced in 1976. Following the standard nomenclature followed by the German luxury carmaker, the 280 refers to the 2.8L engine that was used in various models of the series, which included the 280, 280E, 280CE, 280C, and 280TE. The E refers to fuel-injected models, the T is for estate models, and the C is for coupes. Thus, the Mercedes 280-Series was available as a sedan, coupe, and estate.
The first model of the Mercedes 280-Series, the 280, was introduced along with other W123 models as well. These models were much larger and more modern than the preceding W115 models, but they still used some classic styling elements from their predecessor. The coupe model, the 280C, was introduced in 1977, and it would later be replaced by the 280CE, which came with fuel-injected 2.8L engines.
By the time production of the Mercedes 280-Series and the rest of the W123 line ended in the beginning of 1986, the entire line of executive cars became the most popular models ever sold by Mercedes-Benz. Even today, it has a number of die-hard fans, and it is respected for the level of quality and reliability it offers. The W123 line in general is known to have introduced a number of innovations to the automotive industry, like driver airbags and retractable steering columns in 1982 and ABS in 1980.
The Mercedes 280-Series in particular was highly popular because of the powerful engine fitted under its bonnet. The fuel-injected engines got a Bosch K-Jetronic fuel-injection system with air volume control. In terms of comfort, the Mercedes 280-Series exhibited the grace and style of the luxurious S-Class cars, but it had a much more appealing price.
The 2.8L M110 6-cylinder engines used in the Mercedes 280-Series had been revised over the years from its introduction in 1975. The Mercedes 280 sedan that was available from 1975 to 1981 had an engine rated at 115kW of power at 5500rpm and 222Nm of torque at 4000rpm. The 280E was also available from 1975 to the end of the W123 production in 1986. Between 1975 and 1978, the engine was rated at 130kW of power at 6000rpm and 229Nm of power at 4500rpm. After 1978, the engine had a revised output of 136kW of power at 5800rpm and 235Nm of torque at 4500rpm. The Mercedes 280C coupe had the same engine as the 280 sedan during its production run from 1977 to 1980. Its fuel-injected version, the 280CE, had the same engine as that of the 280E during its production run from 1977 to 1985. On the other hand, the estate model Mercedes 280TE had an engine rated at 136kW of power throughout its production run from 1978 to 1985.
The Mercedes 280-Series offered the performance and specifications that its smaller 230-Series siblings could not provide. Apart from offering great acceleration off the line, the ride quality was really smooth and comfortable. The cabin feels very comfortable and natural, irrespective of the model chosen. The lack of power or electronic steering, which is common in modern cars, can take some getting used to. The steering wheel needs to be turned harder for turns, but once you get the hang of it, the Mercedes 280-Series cars are really fun to ride. While all the models are fairly stable, it is best not to corner aggressively because new drivers can find it a little difficult to control. The Mercedes 280-Series is one of the most reliable cars from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Despite being more than 20 years old, these cars are still as capable as modern vehicles.
The Mercedes 280-Series is expectedly equipped well, but do not expect completely up-to-date kit. Features that most people take for granted in today’s cars are either absent in the Mercedes 280-Series or available as high-end options. Standard equipment includes power mirrors, air-conditioning, and a radio-cassette sound system. A sunroof with automatic wind deflector is available as an option, as are power steering, disc brakes, central locking, fog lights, and cruise control.
Other options available with the Mercedes 280-Series include power windows. Airbags are only available in models between 1982 and 1986, and only in high-end models. ABS is also a luxury option that is rarely seen in many used Mercedes 280-Series cars; however, these models came with crumple zones for protecting passengers from injuries in a crash.
Although the 230-Series does not beat rival BMW 5-Series models in terms of competition, the Mercedes 280-Series does better and match their rivals head to head. The other main competitors of this series are the Volvo 240, which lacks in performance but offers better safety features, and the Jaguar XJ, which is popular but has reliability issues.