Date registered: May 2007
Vehicle: 2003 Mercedes Benz E500
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 1 Post(s)
I have owned both...
a W124, 400E and a W210 E420. As you can tell, I am a big fan of the M119, V8 engine.
Personally, for me the nod goes to the W210. More room, and a much better transmission [if serviced, of course]. A smoother, quieter car overall.
The 400E has a more nimble, sportier feel that the E420; if that appeals to you get the W124. The later W124 chassis did suffer from the biodegradable engine wiring harness fiasco, and I did have to replace mine, which was pricey. The windows on the W124 rattle in the doors when the doors were closed with the windows down... annoying in a car as expensive as the 400E was originally. The driver's seat creaks and "pops" in the W210, and the only solution is a pricey seat rail assembly, that one day will again exhibit the same symptoms...
Both cars have/had ASR, and the throttle actuators failed on both, also pricey.
The W124 had a number of rather convoluted "add on" issues, e.g. the sound system was a nightmare, with a head unit that was only a controller, with the radio being hidden in the trunk, and a bizarre wiring harness to make the CD changer function, etc. Remember, you are really dealing with early 1980's engineering/technology with the W124.
The W210, with its five speed transmission is more than a half second faster 0-60 than its W124 counterpart.
Lastly, although you are looking at a diesel, for those looking at "gassers," the electronic ignition module on the 400E runs something like $3,200 at the dealer, and if it fails people have been known to part out the car... Caps and rotors on the 400E, and yes there are one set per bank, run in excess of $100 per piece at retail; at $400, this is not cheap.
The 400E had a list price of $56K in 1993, and the E420 listed at $53.5K in 1997. In balance, that cost reduction had to come from somewhere...
In the end, "you pays your money and you makes your choice". As suggested above, drive a few examples and then make up your mind.