Family Class: 2004 Mercedes E500 4Matic Wagon W211
The W211 generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class was built starting in 2002, right in the middle of the whole Daimler-Chrysler mess, so you would be correct to be wary. However, the E-Class was always the bread & butter of the Mercedes lineup and didn’t get the same cheapen-till-they-buy approach of the lowly C-Class, nor the needless complexity-for-the-sake-of-it mass approach taken on the S-Class, so you might be able to drive a W211 around for a few years without refinancing your house to pay for maintenance. Find this 2004 Mercedes E500 4Matic Wagon offered for $8,900 in Memphis, TN via craigslist.
The truth is, the 2004 model year is probably one to avoid, because the Mercedes-Benz product were at the bottom of JD Power’s initial reliability survey starting in the late 1990s and continuing through the mid 2000s, but this means the prices for those vehicles are staggeringly affordable. Pay now or pay later…I guess.
The E500 (and later E550) was the fastest E-Class you could find without dipping into the mad-sauce that is known as AMG. This wagon is equipped with a 5.0 liter V8 good for 302 horsepower and 339 ft-lbs of torque. Mated to a 5-speed slushbox, the heavyweight will hit 60mph in just a tick under 6 seconds, with or without the complexity of Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Given the choice, I’d take it without the 4Matic, but folks in snowy climates might appreciate the extra traction provided for all the hooning you’ll do in this beast.
Of course you’d expect an extra set of seats in the back any good wagon (why would you buy a wagon if it didn’t have those little jump seats in the back?) and this W211 doesn’t disappoint.
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The E-class definitely did get some of the DB overcomplication super-sauce, and I'd be wary of any year (think through '06) that had the Sensonic brakes.
The seller capably demonstrates the best feature of the car – the jump seats have a lid over the top of them. Entice your kids with the "special" seats, and once they're buckled in safely, close the lid and hatch for a peaceful ride.
Awesome sedan to drive, especially on long XC drives. But be "Wary" indeed!
Bought a '94 E500 sedan with 84K in '07… within one year i racked up almost $6K in repairs/maintenance (and mine was a well cared for example with service records). The hydraulic pump failed at 91K, that was $2.5K alone (and that was for an aftermarket rebuilt pump, factory part was `$4K!); Pano sunroof rails broke, that was $1.5K; the nav head died and that was another $1.2K; a crank sensor died, another $350; a bunch of other niggling failures (electric and mechanical) racked up another $1K or so over the next 10K.
Masochist that I am, I traded up for an '05 E55 with only 37K miles…it was no better, just add another decimal place to the repair bills….rear hydro struts $4.5K, another nav head unit(!), ABS controller, etc etc. Sold it at a loss and went Japanese. It will be a long time before I ever consider another MB, and none from the Daimler-Chrysler era!
Good God!! I just had to slip a nitroglycerin tab under my tongue after reading that litany of pain.
Yep, said it once, mrkwong said it twice, and I'll say it again. Just say no to any W211 with the SBC (Sensotronic Brake Control) braking system.
That went away and overall quality went up greatly on W211's for the final 2007-2009 model years.