Date registered: Dec 2004
Vehicle: 300TE 4-Matic 300GD
Location: Oslo Norway
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RE: Please recommend
If choosing between the two you listed, I would go for the E320. The reason is simple.
The 4-Matic on a well working vehicle with good tyres, gives a false impression on stopping conditions. Great traction does not necessarily mean great breaking. The fact that it was a cinch to get up, doesn't guarantee a problem free decending the same way, and so on. It is necessary to keep that ballast in the back of the head, always. I would say it takes a certain degree of matureness to be able to handle a 4-Matic properly.
Also wallet wise. It didn't take long time before my young son found out this. If you take it out on an ice lake, put her in a moderate power slide, and punch real hard, the needle rushes up towards 240 and the driver can choose between an impressive pirouette or butterfly. Accompanied with a cat screaming M103, it's a nightmare come true for an owner to even concider. Just think about all that torque shifting for and aft. And risk.
The E320, does not invite at all. Performing the same trick on ice will make a lot of noise, but little action. The young ones also get an early warning to slippery conditions, and drive accordingly. But the difference is also noticeable on dry asphalt.
I have a special test curve I use for the purpose. My own 4-Matic increases from 140 km/h to almost 170 from a certain point just at the beginning of the curve, to a certain point where the curve ends. A normal 300TE typically reaches 150 - 155 km/h at the same exercise. And this is the kind of thing young ones find out. At least the bad ones like me and my kin.
So I gave my son a 190 E with worn cams. (He hasn't found out what's wrong with it yet.) We did all the brakes, bushings, bearings and stuff under, and I deliberatly put in an M102 with a known worn cam. It runs decently well in low RPM's, but will not reach redline at all. It was an old broken 190 we rebuildt to a 190 E. (I have some good ones stored.)
I think learning to master a rear wheel driven vehicle well before moving on to front and all wheel drived cars is beneficial in the cases where the young ones want to move up to trucks and other heavy stuff later. And it is the classical way to drive.
Maybe a diesel to go?