The Mercedes-Benz 500E first caught my eye in late 1991. Car and Driver magazine ran a short piece about the forthcoming German “super sedan” that was to be an unusual collaboration between Mercedes and Porsche. I first saw a photograph of the 500E when I was a junior at Boston College and ever since that day I dreamed of someday owning that special car. Many years later in 2004, my dream finally came true when I acquired a very special 1994 E500.
In 1991, the Mercedes aftermarket sport tuner Aufrecht, Melcher, and Grossaspach (better known as AMG) was still an independent company. Almost a decade after the launch of the 500E/E500, AMG was officially acquired by Mercedes-Benz. In the late 1980’s BMW had successfully launched the first M5, which was a high-performance Motorsport version of the 535i. The first M5 was based on the aging E28 platform. BMW quickly followed up with a more powerful second-generation M5 based on the more modern E34 chassis. The M5 had the first mover advantage and set the standard for the mid-sized super sedan category. In the meantime, over at Mercedes, their mid-sized super sedan cupboard was bare. Mercedes needed to have a car to stake its claim and compete within the burgeoning super sedan category. In 1990, the largest displacement mid-size sedan in the Mercedes lineup was the 178 horsepower six cylinder 300E.
In the late 1980’s Porsche was still feeling the pain of a strong Deutsche Mark and a worsening global slowdown. As a result, the Porsche factory at Zuffenhausen had spare production capacity and management was eager to fill it. A historic deal between Mercedes and Porsche was consummated. Built to compete with the M5, the 500E/E500 project began in 1989 as a joint venture with Porsche. The platform was to be based upon the highly successful E-class W124 chassis. The car that was ultimately built became the high-water mark of post-war Mercedes quality.