Automotive Mercedes-Benz W125 4MATIC sedan

Published on October 30th, 2020 | by Daniel Sherman Fernandez


Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC Started With The W 124 In Malaysia

Until a few years ago, most Malaysians have never heard of 4MATIC. Well, this is the Mercedes engineered four-wheel drive system (4WD) that was first seen in Malaysia with the evergreen W 124 sedan and also its wagon version (S 124 TE). Designed for European farmers and adventurous drivers, this was a car that could be used on the not so rough terrain outside the city and when snow came down hard. 

Before the Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) and Crossover, this was what well to do people wanted to own. 


Not an official model from Cycle & Carriage (before Mercedes-Benz Malaysia set up office in Malaysia it was Cycle & Carriage that handled all the brands business activities in Malaysia) the few units sold in Malaysia came from early Approved Permit holders importing in used units from England.  

The Mercedes 4MATIC is a four-wheel-drive system that sends the engine’s power to all four wheels rather than just the front or rear two. This gives it increased grip and traction, improving handling, acceleration and stability. The system automatically adjusts itself for a variety of surfaces and driving conditions without the driver having any input. 

Mercedes-Benz W124 sedan 4MATIC

PRESS RELEASE: The system first debuted in the W124 E-Class model series back in 1987 and is currently available on dozens of Mercedes-Benz passenger car models across nine series which includes even the A-Class up to the C-Class, E-Class, R-Class, S-Class, Viano and the also their entire SUV and Crossover range.

The latest AMG tuned A35 hot hatch comes with 4MATIC and the sleek new Mercedes-AMG CLA45 S also comes with 4MATIC. 

Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC sedan

The W 124 adopted elements of this young, sporty, compact automobile, but set standards all its own for design and engineering. There were parallels to the compact class, for instance, in the use of high-strength sheet steel and other weight-reducing materials. 

Despite lightweight design, the Mercedes engineers further improved vehicle safety, with the W 201 and W 126 S-Class serving as benchmarks. The passenger compartment of the 124 series excelled with high side-impact and rollover resistance and was provided with well thought-out deformation zones at front and rear ends. The criterion of the asymmetric frontal impact with 40 per cent overlap at 55 km/h was now also met by the intermediate range. In addition, potential contact zones were designed to yield on impact for the protection of pedestrians and cyclists.

Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC rear

Simultaneously with the station wagon models, Stuttgart introduced the automatically engaged 4MATIC four-wheel drive as part of their “Mercedes-Benz Driving Dynamics Concept”. This all-wheel-drive system was available for the six-cylinder models of series W 124 model. 

Along with the complex control electronics, 4MATIC comprised an additional complete front-wheel drive with transfer case and differential; for space reasons, the latter is integrated into the oil sump in the engine compartment.

Mercedes-Benz W124 wagon with 4MATIC

The great technical complexity of this perfected traction system was reflected in the selling price: the 260 E 4MATIC, 300 E 4MATIC, 300 TE 4MATIC, 300 D 4MATIC and 300 TD Turbo 4MATIC, delivery of which began in 1987 and it cost almost DM 12,000 more than their rear-wheel-drive counterparts. 

The mechanical principle of the 4MATIC system is based on a 45:55 torque split between the front and rear axles and a multi-disc limited-slip centre differential with a basic locking torque of 50 Nm, enabling high levels of traction. First, the dynamic shift in axle load toward the rear axle that occurs during acceleration is harnessed to deliver more drive torque to the rear wheels. Second, the multi-disc differential lock is also able to shift the drive torque between the front and rear axles, varying the split between 30:70 and 70:30 as the road conditions dictate.

Mercedes-Benz 4MATIC dashboard

The base design concept, with the engine installed longitudinally and the integral transmission and transfer case unit, minimizes frictional losses and improves fuel consumption.

However, the 4MATIC system does not work alone as it is linked with the ESP, 4ETS or ASR electronic control systems.

Today, a W 124 sedan without 4MATIC is worth less than a basic new scooter. However, the owner of a running condition, un-abused W 124 4MATIC can easily get double the asking price of a standard 2-wheel drive model and a 300TE or 230TE wagon with 4MATIC will fetch three times the value. Yes, the wagon is very much in demand and with 4MATIC its value rises slightly higher.

Finding a unit for sale will be tough as there are not many in the country and most owners love their 4MATIC and they probably inherited the car from a rich parent. So, all that is needed is to keep it running which is not that expensive. Keep changing all lubricants when the car is due to service and you can see years of reliable service. Replacement parts can be found. Prices for 4MATIC parts might be a tad high but they last for years.  

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