The 1995 Mercedes-Benz E300D. – (The timeless luxury of range.)

If you’re one of the countless people in Los Angeles who bought a Prius, you probably didn’t consider it a “luxury” car when you made the decision to purchase it. Maybe you thought that you were somehow saving the planet, not thinking about the ecologically-disastrous strip mines needed to produce nickel for the nickel-metal hydride batteries. Nor did you consider the cost or damage to our ecosystem when it comes times to ditch those toxic batteries.

However, the real reason most people bought a hybrid car was to save money on gas. It was pure economics.

The unforeseen benefit of a hybrid is its extended driving range. For example, Ford boasts that its Fusion Hybrid has a driving range of 700 miles. With that kind of range, you probably could cut your fueling stops in half (if not more).  That’s a luxury.

Many years ago, long before the word “hybrid” was in the car-buying lexicon, I discovered this luxury when I bought a 1995 Mercedes-Benz E300 Diesel. It is the best car I’ve ever owned (and I’ve owned more than 25 cars by age 50). That generation of Mercedes E-Class cars (internal designation W124), was the last of the cost-plus Mercs, truly engineered to be the world’s benchmark for mid-sized luxury sedans. And it was.

What was so different about this one sedan, produced only during the1995 model year? It was nearly identical to all the other sedans manufactured during the W124′s ten year life span (1986 through 1995 model years). The interior was the same, as was all the instrumentation, switchgear, electronics and other hardware. The only exterior distinguishing feature (besides the model designation) was a set of five small slits in the right front fender. Most people would be hard pressed to distinguish it from any other Mercedes E-Class sedan of that era.

There were two main differences: First, it had a 3.0 liter, inline six cylinder diesel engine without a turbocharger and it was a 50-state legal car. The engine is exceptionally reliable. Second, it was the only W124 derivative (sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible) with a 23.8 gallon (90 liters) fuel tank. All the other ones had a 18.5 gallon (70 liters) tank.

I routinely got 25 mpg around town and 34 mpg on the highway – the only car I’ve ever owned that got the EPA advertised fuel economy. [The EPA rated the 1995 E300D at 26 city and 32 highway.] On a road trip, it had a cruising range exceeding 700 miles. I once read an article in a car magazine that tested the 1995 E300D to see if they could do an LA-SF-LA round trip on one tank. They succeeded; albeit running on fumes as they sailed back into Los Angeles.