The Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3 (W109) profile
The combination of frequently opposing elements often has a special charm. Think sweet chocolate with hot chili, Campari and healthy orange juice or a sporty engine in an elegant limousine: The Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3.
1968: Daimler presents the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 (W109)
In 1968 a new W109 flagship model was presented at the Geneva. The W109 series had established itself as a solid luxury sedan with a long wheelbase and cosseting air suspension. This 300 SEL‘s 250bhp, 6333cc, V8 engine came – like the four-speed automatic transmission – from the Mercedes-Benz 600 (W100). In contrast to this model’s statesman-like appearance, the lightly modified eight-cylinder engine is playful and gives the W109 a completely different sporting character.
Mercedes 300 SEL 6.3: pure excellence
Simply inflating a vehicle’s power output rarely contributes to a cohesive package. The real trick was to not give up the Mercedes’ core ethos and retain a comfortable, safe but still very powerful sedan without overstatement. The 6.3 maintains the necessary external refinement to retain its regal status amongst executive cars. Only the subtle lettering on the boot lid, slightly wider tyres, double halogen headlights and additional fog lights provide clues that this is no ordinary W109.
Of course, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 is not a pure sports car, especially thanks to its 1780 kg weight. The air suspension and the automatic transmission are primarily configured for comfort. That said, the 250bhp on tap easily propels this big sedan. Mercedes-Benz claimed a top speed of 136mph and acceleration of 0-62mph in 6.5 seconds. Considering this car’s autobahn charisma, Mercedes only really feared competition from Porsche, as Audi and BMW were yet to be distinguished in this arena.
History of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 stems from test engineer Erich Waxenberger. In the 1960s, he recognised the potential of the V8 engine from the 600 W100 for the W109 series. Initially without the knowledge of car development chief Rudolf Uhlenhaut, he built a test vehicle. According to legend, Uhlenhaut heard from his office the subtle rumble of the passing prototype and questioned Waxenberger. Thankfully the two engineers were on the same wavelength and received official blessings for the further development.
Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 Buying Advice
Between 1968 and 1972, 6526 examples of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL 6.3 were produced. High volume meant that there was plenty of availability, preventing skyrocketing values as seen with the SL. However, if you want to buy a 300 SEL 6.3 today, you’ll find that prices have increased significantly in recent years. Good examples can change hands for more than 80,000 EUR. Cars in need of attention are considerably cheaper due to their high repair costs.
During its construction period, the 300 SEL 6.3 was not only the crown of the W109 series, it also set the standard for potent sedans. And what was good, fast and prestigious back then is now a revered classic. You’ll find it difficult to pinpoint a faster and more elegant sedan from this era.
Text Paolo Ollig Photos Dino Eisele, Hans-Dieter Seufert / Daimler AG
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