Vintage R&T Road Test: 1969 Mercedes 300SEL 6.3 – “Merely The Greatest Sedan In The World”

How is it that merely the greatest car blog in the world has never written up “merely the greatest sedan in the world”? What a glaring omission. I actually shot one some years back, but had forgotten about it, until now. Well, it’s going to have to wait, but in the meantime I can offer you this as a consolation. I’m not going to claim it’s merely the greatest review in the world, but it is actually quite good, and a bit less breathless than some of the others at the time.

The 6.3 was a rather unexpected bold move by such a conservative company. Shoehorn a V8 more than twice as big as the six it was designed for into the engine compartment of a 112″ wb Mercedes? Was John DeLorean moonlighting for Daimler-Benz? This was pretty radical, for a company that made a big deal in pointing out the small incremental differences in engine sizes on the back decks of their cars. And that wasn’t going to work for this one, as there was no way they were going to let mid-range sedan challenge the Grosser 600 in prestige or numbering rights.


The 6.3 L SOHC V8 was rated at 300 (gross) hp at a very modest 4100 rpm. In the German PS rating, its rating was a mere 250, roughly comparable to the net ratings that came along in the US a few years later. Clicking off a 15.1 second 1/4 mile time was pretty impressive in 1969, with just 300 hp and an automatic. Good luck getting your 300 hp Impala to do that, or even a Chevelle. In fact, in the 1966 Popular Science comparison we posted here, the fastest of the big cars tested was the Impala with the new 325 hp 396, backed by the new THM-400. Its 1/4 mile time: 17.0 seconds.And its 0-60 time (8.9 seconds) was also a full two seconds longer than the 6.3 (6.9 seconds). And they both weighed in right at about 4000 lbs. What gives? Maybe DeLorean was a consultant, in terms of specially prepping this ringer?

R&T even took their 6.3 to the drag races, where it won two out of three races against a 427 automatic Corvette.

Nope; these performance stats were right in line with all the others for 6.3; no hanky-panky. And the tested car did not meet the factory’s stated top speed of 137 mph; it only went 131. But how it went 131 was the key factor: with complete calm and composure.

Do we have to repeat the fact that the Mercedes’ suspension gave both a superlative ride and handling? And that the steering was precise, quick and gave genuine feel, despite the power assist? And that the four wheel disc brakes are terrific? Never mind the comfortable seats and superbly well appointed interior.

R&T did point out that “merely the greatest sedan in the world” did have a few imperfections, but who cares? To drive a stately Mercedes that can shut down 427 Corvettes at the drags and roll down the Nevada highways at 130 for hours on end, these kind of minor quibbles seem rather unseemly.