In the late 1960s the world was a different place where everything seemed possible. There was a feeling around that Mercedes saloons were ubiquitous and there was an urge for major manufacturers to build flagships irrespective of profit margins.

With the 350SE Mercedes continued to uphold its appeal as a luxury car although inside the 350SE there was a rather austere feeling compared with some competitors. It did however have electric windows.

Drivers however felt at home. With all the important controls arranged on column stalks around the huge, chunky steering wheel, it was so easy to drive because everything was where the driver expected it to be. On initial road tests some drivers commented that the ride didn’t feel as soft and expensive as they were expecting and engine performance seemed restrained but the overall feeling was positive and somehow familiar. Front suspension comprised double-wishbones, coil springs and anti-roll bar whilst at the rear there were semi-trailing arms, coil springs and anti-roll bar.

The 350SE had an all-alloy SOHC 3499cc V8 engine which developed 150kW at 5600rpm and was fitted with Bosch fuel injection. Fuel injection made the Mercedes V8 undemanding but, even though its performance was brisk and satisfying, being capable of 192km/h. It was a heavy car and didn’t have sportscar performance. However with the torque converter-equipped three-speed automatic transmission that originally made its debut in the 1972 S-Class it was easily capable of not only reaching its maximum speed but could also cruise around this figure. Certainly its handling made up for any sluggishness in its acceleration.

The power-assisted recirculating ball steering was high geared for its time, at three turns lock-to-lock, and the combination of genuine feel, weight, a lack of understeer up to high limits and no odd events when starting off made the 350SE probably the best-handling big saloon of its generation.

In total 51,000 of this model were produced.

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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