On paper, the 300D doesn’t do much better in a straight line.
Yet, even as an auto, acceleration in the Benz borders on the semi-brisk, and it gathers speed in a fairly fuss-free way that is far removed from the usual derv W123 experience.
The four-speed automatic was strengthened to take the diesel’s torque and is recalibrated to pull away in first gear rather than second, although to avoid ‘creep’ it holds itself in second at standstill until the throttle is squeezed.
The handling and ride are probably what make this 300D so different to most other 123 saloons.
Its heavy-duty springs with self-levelling mean that it sits around 1½in higher than a normal 300D, and gives an exceptionally smooth and compliant ride, regardless of the load or the number of passengers. Aviv confirms it takes London speed bumps beautifully.
The Mercedes 300D has a spacious rear bench
That said, I suspect the Seville would be its equal in terms of smoothing road-surface irregularities – and rather better at smothering road noise.
The Cadillac is a quiet car even by modern standards, with few rattles.
It is hard to be definitive about ‘build quality’, but the fit and finish of the Seville don’t look far behind the Mercedes, at least superficially.
Neither is the handling. Yes, the steering is lighter than the surefooted 300D, but it has some feel and is reasonably responsive.
With its front-drive and relatively modest levels of lean and wallow, the Cadillac corners faithfully and reassuringly, but with a more detached and expensive feel than the Mercedes.
Heavy-duty springs were added to this Mercedes 300D in preparation for the armour-plating that was never fitted
With almost 200,000 built through to 1986, the Seville was a commercial success but a reputational failure, perhaps the most ‘malaise’ of all Cadillacs – if you acknowledge that the dreadful Cimarron was just a tarted-up Chevy.
It certainly didn’t measure up to the ‘standard of the world’ mission statement that had underpinned the marque for decades.
That title had long since gravitated to the Germans, and to Mercedes-Benz.
The US industry had squandered decades on a formula of annual sheet-metal restyles garnished with crowd-pleasing luxury features.
The Mercedes 300D bolstered the German marque’s reputation for reliability