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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Avoidable Contact #147: The last real Mercedes-Benz, maybe

Almost immediately after buying her E350, my father's wife backed it directly into ... something. "I was just reversing, waiting for it to beep at me, and it never did. It just went crunch! The backup alert must be broken."
https://www.hagerty.com/media/opinion/avoidable-contact/avoidable-contact-147-the-last-real-mercedes...
32 REPLIES 32
fueledbymetal
Advanced Driver

You make a very valid case, cheers!
Snailish
Instructor

Often you make me think you are leading to one thesis, and then the logic takes a crisp turn and delivers us somewhere else entirely.

I quite enjoy that, thank you.

In the case of this article, it seemed like we were going down the path of "newer Mercedes lack the range of expected features and are lower quality so we are rubes to pay top dollar for them purely to own that badge"

Meanwhile you clearly detailed why this particular car is built well and optioned the way you would want it. I logic I can agree with having traded in a fully loaded Toyota Sienna for an eclectic- and overall-much-less-specced Transit Connect Wagon (which is still just a little van despite that official name).
Redline09
Pit Crew

Everyone online hates the W210 but I've never really had a bad experience with even higher mile ones. I don't know if it's luck or a case of the only examples left being the good ones.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

Part of the hatred is just the residual shock from how unpleasant the thing was upon its introduction and how quickly they seemed to deteriorate in regular use -- as you note, any W210 that is still around in the United States is probably a later one, one optioned in a manner so as to prevent the worst failures, or AMG E55 trailer queens.
miata93
Advanced Driver

When my daughter was in college she was gifted a '90's W210 from her grandfather. As you stated it was a pure joy to drive. I appreciated the detailed appointments such as the radio with the NOAA weather stations and the intricate and robotic cup holder that screamed, "Take that you American coffee-hunds!". After discovering that Dupli-color Ford Oxford white was an excellent match for the bodywork, I painstakingly repaired all the dings and such that it had accumulated. It was a great car. I was heartbroken when my daughter told me that she could not keep it because in the urban environment of Milwaukee where she was studying, the car made her look like a "target". We unceremoniously traded it for another "300", but this time it was an L300 wagon from Saturn. I wished that I had a space in my own automotive stable at the time.

WeisPanzer
Intermediate Driver

Jack, I hear you -- I feel the same way about my '09 E320, my Weis Panzer. Almost 160K, although I know plenty of people will say that just means an MB diesel is broken in. Not a lot of options, a lovely stand-up hood ornament, gobs of torque -- and the feeling it'll cruise another 200K as long as I take care of the maintenance. I know the new ones are faster, safer, more luxurious-- but will any last for 300K, especially with a gazillion electric doo-dads that won't last much longer than a smartphone, but will be 10x as expensive to repair or replace??? Probably not, considering you see 20 W126s still on the road for every 1 W140.
snavehtrebor
Pit Crew

Nice car. I see my local Carmax has a 2016 with under 40k miles for $32k. Even has blind spot monitoring and a backup camera!
CJinSD
Instructor

Your experience with the W212 is quite different from my friend's experience with her 2014 or 2015 E350 4-matic. Hers has relatively low mileage; as in less than 40,000 and possibly still less than 30,000 miles. She's experienced a number of gremlins, which the dealer responded to by suggesting that it should be expected of a car of that age...three years ago. Why hadn't she turned it in for a new one? Last time I talked to her, a seam had split on the garaged car's MB-Tex driver's seat. I helped her get rid of her old W123 300D Turbodiesel and W124 300D 2.5 Turbodiesel a couple of years ago, and I don't think either of them had split seat seams.
wdb
Advanced Driver

The 212's do have an issue with seat seams, and also with fading wood trim. As long as the engine and drivetrain remain bulletproof I'm willing to put up with those.
AdrianClarke
Instructor

‘Some people think luxury is the opposite of poverty. It is not. It is the opposite of vulgarity’ - Coco Chanel.
ATLpaul
Detailer

The rear parking warning assists in vehicles are so under rated. I used to think I could do better and would just use mirrors and turn my head. I got my new Tacoma and it beeps at me when it finds things coming into rear view of the camera. It is a great feature. Or when I get close to hitting something when in reverse. Particularly in busy parking lots it is a life saver.

Binksman
Pit Crew

I feel that way about my 02 Dodge Ram 2500. Last of that body style, and all of it's options were driveline associated. After 13 years of kids and having worked with the truck enough it paid for itself three times over, the floor and most of the seats look the same as they did a decade ago.

The wife loves her A208 convertible, but I'm the one that has to fix all the gadgetry that is failing. Power seat failure, power mirrors go berserk, auto climate control failure, and most recently- kids pushed the SOS button which uses now non-existing 3G cell service to contact emergency services so it endless redials and disables the stereo.
MikeD
Pit Crew

I feel this way about today's cars in general. I tend to keep mine for a long time (10 years or so). While mechanically, my 2011 Mustang GT with 160,000 miles runs fine, It's all the gee whiz electronic gadgets I once loved that are giving up. The very nice in-car navigation system gave up TWICE, satellite radio is dead, and after paying $700 to repair it the first time, when it went again, I turned to google maps on my phone. Both power seats gave up, the audio controls on the steering wheel no longer work, and I can't lower the passenger window using the switch on the driver's side. Convenience items like these are nice WHEN THEY WORK, but I'd sooner go back to a car with less of them because it is inevitable that they will fail.
CABRIO-STEVE
Intermediate Driver

I can sympathize. Recently sold our E350 4matic to Carmax for $9,000 because my wife wanted an Audi A7. The A7 has much less of a “slot car” feel and is loaded with electronic stuff (which works most of the time) which will be expensive to repair in the future. The legendary M-B Tex of the 60s and 70s is no more-the driver’s seat of our E350 showed splitting and pulled seams at about 50K miles requiring repair.
I have owned a number of M-Bs and BMW M cars but the satisfaction I get from driving and working on my W124 cabriolet is unrivaled. What a quality piece.
win59
Advanced Driver

You are right on, Jack! We bought a low-mile '96 SL500 as a road trip car, for used Hyundai money a couple years ago. 22,000 miles. Now at 86,000 miles I have had to change oil, buy a set of tires, and replace convertible top cylinders. Figured if something expensive broke for that kind of money, I would just take off the plates and buy a plane ticket home - but nothing breaks! And what a great touring car!
-Nate
Detailer

Another great article .

My 1982 Mercedes 240D base model is still chugging slowly along as it approaches 500,000 miles, I think I'll keep it .

-Nate
AG1962
Instructor

Our family Benzes, from my grandfather’s 1985 300 TD wagon through my 1982 manual 240D, 1978 300D, and finally a W124 300E, were great cars — until the old independent mechanics who could deal with finicky vacuum-assisted locks and climate control retired, and certain parts became very difficult to find and expensive, esp. in Canada. Even the W210 E200 (four-banger!) we borrowed from a friend in Germany and put 10K km on one summer was a great car at 2 and at 200 km/h, though precisely as cheap and nasty inside as you point out. I miss the 240D most of all.

wdb
Advanced Driver

You didn't mention the 22 gallon gas tank, which combined with 30+ highway MPG gives the car a 500+ mile range before it needs refueling. Or the silky V6 that is totally capable of flipping from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde at the press of a foot. Or the impressively flat stance it maintains in corners.

Find a used one. They're cheap. You really want the wagon. I bought a 2013 S212 E350 in 2020, with 37K miles, at a fraction of its cost new. It is a vault, a bahn-burner, and an astonishingly commodious hauler. Plus I don't see myself at every other intersection. Like you I do grumble about some of the missing features, but also like you I'm able to look past them and see the goodness. And the longroof has its own set of clever and very useful additions, such as air suspension in the rear that automatically keeps the car level even with 12 bags of mulch on board, and a cargo cover that raises up out of the way when the rear hatch is open. I might keep this car forever.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

The wagons are truly nice.
wirekat
Intermediate Driver

Well Jack, I call it now unavoidable connection every time I read your article.
My father's first foray into German cars was a first gen Audi. The car was such a failure that the family has eschewed Audis for three generations.
He traded the Audi for a 240D and never looked back, passing each replaced upgraded model on to a family member. He didn't have a SUV when my wife and I started our family, so we bite the bullet and bought a new ML320. While the drive train was typical MB quality, the rest was not. Needless to say, it kind of soured our opinion.
My patience paid off when Dad decided it was time to part with his prized 560SL. My Dad thought he would be buried in it but now I need to ponder that. I love that it has all the old school MB features (none). The power windows take long enough to move that you need to decide beforehand if you really want them up or down.
No, it's not for sale.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

I briefly owned a 560SL from 2013 to 2014. Shouldn't have sold it.
Lash
Intermediate Driver

MB: the best salesman for Lexus ever.
Jack_Hagerty
Moderator

In the case of the W140, I think you are literally correct!
cluedog12
New Driver

My mom leased a 2007 W211 E550 and a 2010 W212 E350. In addition to the E550 going like absolute stink, I fondly remember both vehicles having exceptional external visibility and both were superb when tasked with long distance trips.

I distinctly remember the W211 having a higher quality interior, with fewer hard touch plastics and a beautiful sliding wood cover. Sure, the W212's interior looks better to my eyes today, as the design is cleaner, but the W211 is the Mercedes I remember most fondly.

It appears that even today's W213 E200 Limousine is equipped with the modern ultra-wide digital screen, so it seems the quietly-premium Mercedes E Class is gone for now. I think there's still demand for such a vehicle, but most people in the market for an E Class in stripper form will quietly prefer the the charcoal open pore wood over limousine's shiny piano black plastic centre console.
DRF
Intermediate Driver

The W124 300E has got to be one of the best as you note.
Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

Your dad is saving you from yourself.

Also shame on you! You may be cursing your father to a lifetime of problems if he goes for a new one. Not to mention the planned obsolescence of today's cars and their "tech".

I did enjoy the story!
Darel
New Driver

Couldn't agree more. We have a clone of your car, a white '14 4Matic albeit with just a couple more options than it sounds like what you have. Bought it just off lease in 2017 with a bumper-to-bumper "no questions asked" warranty. It's been fantastic, 300+ hp and 30mpg. Even now, 8 years on we still do the "look back" when we park it - still one of the best looking sedans ever made. Comfortable, fast, quiet. Love the ergonomics, even when compared to other MBs and even the later generation of E-class. Gorgeous interior. Just a few quirks. 1. Eats tires. Never got more than 12,000 miles out of any set of any brand without them being completely bald. 2. Eats wheels. I live in pothole central, but even still, in the first 18 months we had the car it went through 21 wheels. That is NOT a typo. Finally stopped spending an entire car payment just on wheels by upsizing the tires and putting a set of aftermarket semi-forged wheels. For comparison, the 2009 Audi I had at the same time on larger wheels and skinnier tires was still on it's original four rims. 3. The driver's seat needs work. Now, I am not a large man. In fact I am in much better shape than 99.9% of other middle-aged dudes. However, Germans did not build this seat for larger Yankee butts. If you follow the W212 forums you'll find a very long, in-depth thread about seat pain. Turns out in the lower cushion there are two support wires in the outer bolsters (conveniently that dig into your hip bone) that require you to disassemble the seat and bend those wires out. Originally I couldn't drive the car for more than 15 minutes. It was excruciating. Now it's the comfortable cruiser it should have been. I believe this issue was fixed for 2016. #4 we do have the "upgraded" Harman-Kardon stereo and it's crap. Tinny, thin, no soundstage. Be glad your dad didn't spend the money on it because it's not worth it. The aforementioned Audi with the B&O system will forever be my benchmark of a fantastic stereo.
Truthworldwide
Detailer

I'd have to look for a black E63 of that same generation, but I'd be willing to take the fuel-mileage hit. Possibly the most sinister looking four-door this side of the final CTS-Vs.
944racer
Pit Crew

I think you're a little quick to rule out the W211, which actually isn't all that bad. I bought my mom a W211 E350 4Matic back in 2006, and she happily drove it through 14 Chicagoland winters before deciding she was getting too old and rheumy of eye to keep driving. CarMax/Carvana were only willing to pay an insultingly small amount, so I shipped it to my place, changed the fluids, and pressed it into service as my daily driver. (It replaces a 30-year-old W124.)

Aside from $650 worth of leaking transfer case seal, the W211 has been trouble free, and quite nice to drive.

My experience with W124s has been that somewhere between 20 and 30 years old you have to invest significant money to replace rubber fuel lines, vacuum lines, engine seals, suspension bushings, and all of the electrical relays. After that, they continue to drive in the way that made Mercedes' reputation; solid and stable all the way to triple-digit speeds. Turns every start of the key. A little hard to justify the expense in 2018 when a similarly-sized C300 could be leased for $450/month, but the cheapest C-Class is now more like $800/month, and that pays for a lot of Pelican Parts orders for an older car.

I'd expect the W211 will get to that age, too, at which point I may or may not decide to trade for a younger W212. The W212 E350s seem to be $10-15k cars right now, which seems dirt cheap for the driving experience they offer.
petersalt
Advanced Driver

"Dirt cheap" ??
It's the 'Fixing' and 'Maintaining' experience which is setting that used value.
SAG
Technician

I guess they should "remove all Mirrors" with that option
so you will know
you have 'rear parking assist'
SAG
Technician

and:
Side monitoring