Vintage R&T Review: 1982 Mercedes 380SEC – You Get What You Pay For – Excellence

Since my recent 560SEC post was largely autobiographical, I though it might be good to augment that with a vintage R&T review. The only version they did was the early 380SEC. That somewhat modestly-powered engine has a rep for being a dog, but in its time, right in the heart of the Malaise Era, the 3.8 V8 acquitted itself quite well, and there was no mention of a power deficit. In fact, they way it went about its business was praised, and a 0-60 time of 10.4 seconds was hardly slow. And it did everything else so superbly…

The SEC was an interesting step, given that it was the first S-Class based coupe in modern history. Its predecessor, the SL-based SLC was never really a solid success, stylistically. Some on R&T’s staff thought the SEC looked too long given its width, but I can’t agree with that. It comes off rather superb, to my eyes, with the shorter wheelbase to complement the shorter coupe green house.

The little V8 gets praised for its superb driveability, and how well it works with the excellent four-speed automatic.

Thanks to its gearing, acceleration was felt to be brisk off the line, but obviously it ran out of breath at higher speeds. The interior came in for high praise, although the automatic seat belt mechanism was thought to be a bit gimmicky.

Handling was highly competent, as was the suppleness of its ride over even the worst pavement and bumps. The relatively high-effort power steering also came in for praise, did the brakes. This was a very expensive car in its day ($50k, $135k adjusted), but there was nothing that was perceived not to be of the highest function, capability and quality.

“The excellence is indisputable”.