For the money involved, perhaps if you like the Calif. car, you should fly (or dirve with girlfriend or wife) and look at it anyway. 10 years ago, I spent over a year and after looking all over Northern California, couldn't find a black or burgundy or dark blue 560SEC that suited.
We got a lead in Los Angeles, and got up at 5am and drove there, about 500 miles, the car was misdescribed by Downtown LA MB, we went all that way for nothing, but there arfe about 20 dealers in southern California, Los Angeles being a hotbed for them, and we finally found one with 50k on it in pearl black with black leather, fully Starmarked warranty available, at the Benz dealer near Disneyland in the OC.
High book was $42k, Low book was $32k. We got it for $35,800, because the car had sat on the dealers lot for5 months, and they were sick of looking at it, and we made it very clear that we had driven all the way from San Francisco to buy a black SEC, but they only had ONE chance to sell it to us, the deal was struck and we drove it back, along with the old car driven by wife, following it.
There was no need for a PPI, because as a starmarked car, they'd REALLY fixed it up and serviced it, new battery, alignment, hydraulic spheres, power steering box, lots of $$$ put into it, and they gave me the work order and invoice for all the work. They had tried to sell it for top dollar but no one was interested. It's been a good car, I still drive it.
You could post again and see if anyone on Benzworld would be willing to look at and drive the car before you came to look at it. I have done it a couple of times when I lived in the city of San Francisco. Once for a woman in Chicago and again for someone in Florida.
Big money you are thinking of spending. So, get the best car you can for the money. All things being equal, I'd probably go for the one sold by a Mercedes dealer, there's more of a chance they'd be able to stand behind the car, and have a good, cherry picked trade in or lease return. And make sure there is no spring perch problem with the car. Important.
OR, if you really want one, keep looking for a late E500 / 500E. They are wonderful cars, with the highest build quality, and they ARE out there, probably the people on their website, www.500ecstacy.com
, are checking out the autotrader, craigslist, ebay and other sources, everyday. The enthusiasts are ALWAYS looking and critiquing the cars for sale, and remember the very best of the best of these are often sold between and among forum members without being advertised at all.
Just on Benzworld and Mercedesshop I've seen at least half a dozen or more, in the last few months, get put up for sale.
More to think about. Good luck
Just my .02 pfg,.