Just been for a first look (in the dark) at a Merc 300TE 4Matic. It all
looks sound bodywise and seems to drive well. Only thing noticed was
that the 4Matic warning light was on constantly. What does this
indicate? How should the 4Matic feel when driving? What things should I
look for tomorrow in the daylight?
If you are talking about the orange light with the "!" flickering near the
top of the speedometer, then that just said the 4-matic system was engaging.
Though the system always engages briefly from stop, the warning light
shouldn't flicker unless you are experiencing traction loss. I wouldn't
worry too much about that if you were driving quickly in excessive rain,
snow, ice, or sand with baldish summer tires.
If it was on constantly or it was the red system failure light (located on
the far right in the row of warning lights beneath the gages) then RUN,
don't walk, away from this car. These early 4-matics had transfer case and
4-matic control unit problems and both are expensive fixes even if you can
find a dealer who's not trying to rip you off. It is possible that it's a
simpler problem with an easy fix, but not worth the risk.
I know because I own a 93 wagon and while it's a great car, the maintenance
(especially on the 4matic system) is not for an individual lacking both a
stout heart and wallet.
Other than that its typical W124 type stuff. Mine's been pretty much
bulletproof until recently (160k miles) but they've been known to be leaky
about the head gaskets and need wiring harnesses from time to time (though I
think the wiring harness failures were mostly in the post facelift and post
4-matic 94s & 95s).
When driving it should feel like a very heavy W124, that is to say meaty and
accurate steering, firm but still comfortable ride, a smidgen tankish but
very tight. Relative to other W124s though this car is slow and it
understeers a lot b/c the 4-matic system adds so much weight. When 4matic
is not engaged the car behaves like any other RWD Merc. When 4matic is
engaged you don't notice it so much except in very slippery conditions (very
icy) in which case the car starts to slide just bit before the 4matic cuts
in and corrects everything. It's a little weird at first, but you get used
to it. If you have good fresh snow/ice tires on it (which you should for
the winter) you will barely even notice the beginning of traction loss.
At the time of issue the original 4-matic system was pretty good relative to
the competition, mostly b/c it's a part-time system so you don't get that
weird binding in tight radius turns that was (and still is) common in SUVs
and was common in Subarus. Modern car-based AWD systems are much better
though and new Audis and Subarus (WRX STi) are amazing by comparison.
On 1/3/05 5:02 PM, in article
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