Vintage R&T Road Test: 1968 Mercedes 220 & 250 (W115/114) – A New Generation

The new W114/115 Mercedes may not have looked all that different stylistically from the larger S-Class cars (250/280/300S/SE/SEL), but it was the biggest change under the skin in a long time for the brand. Gone at last was the rear low-pivot swing axle suspension, replaced by a semi-trailing arm IRS and a new front suspension too, setting the template for all Mercedes to come until the all-new W201 190 with its new multi-link rear axle and front struts.

These cleanly styled cars penned by Bruno Sacco were paragons of the Mercedes design and engineering principles so strongly espoused by the company at the time. They were as roomy as the swb S-Class cars, and covered a wide range of engine choices and performance. R&T tested two of gas engine versions, the four cylinder 220 and the six cylinder 250.


Mercedes was really going against the American longer, lower, wider mantra at the time. Despite being several inches shorter, narrower and yes, lower, these new cars had better interior and luggage space, paragons of space utilization considering the modest 108″ wheelbase and conventional front-engine, RWD configuration.

The interior was deemed “conservative”; “Mercedes traditional” might be more accurate. The dash is an evolution of the one used in the S-Class, with the key instruments positioned directly before the driver in a raised pod. Visibility was of course superb; it didn’t get any better actually.


The ride wasn’t improved by the new suspension, but the handling certainly was: “Their stability in fast highway driving just has to be experienced to be believed”. True that; designed to roll down the autobahn as fast as the engine would allow, for hours on end. The oversteer at the extremes was gone, and the power steering (manual in the 220) was highly accurate. And then there were the four wheel disc brakes. All of these together with a body built like tank combined to create the classic Mercedes experience at the time that so set it apart from the typical American sedan.


The 116 hp 220 four wasn’t exactly overly  brisk, but it got the job done, certainly quicker than its 65 hp diesel counterpart. The 146 hp six was of course more eager, if not exactly to BMW six cylinder standards. Both cars came with the latest four-speed automatic, which did start in first gear, if only momentarily. But then it had to, as this was still a fluid-coupling box, not the torque converter version that replaced it.

R&T was impressed, all-round, with only a few minor niggles; well, that and their very high prices. They weren’t overtly sporty like BMWs, and they weren’t really luxurious either. But they were highly capable of taking on anything thrown their way, and offered a totally unique combination of qualities on the market.