So I've had this 2001 S55 AMG for about a month now, and I want to write up a little review of it - since you often find more information about the 2003 and up supercharged models and not as much on the 01/02. For reference, I have close to 100k miles, Obsidian black (197) exterior, and gray nappa leather interior. I'll discuss issues and experiences I've had with it too.
Firstly, let's discuss the interior:
Originally I wanted a black interior - but the nappa grey leather looks great too, and is a nice contrast. The seats are extremely comfortable, and you can adjust them all sorts of ways. They also have heating and cooling, and a pulse massage feature. This pulse feature I find a little bit weak, you can notice it but it isn't that useful - the heated seats are really nice though.
The rear seats are fantastic - very roomy, and comfortable. No complaints there. The rear climate control is neat, and the fold-down vanity mirror is a nice touch. This car has the rear power seat option too, so they recline and move! Side window and rear sunshades as well - I have my windows tinted so I don't need these as much.
The visibility is awesome! You have a really clear view ahead of you, although to the back there are some blind spots. This is helped out by the parktronic - I find this feature incredibly useful as I usually have to exit a driveway that has some tight spots, so it let's you know what is around and beeps before you hit anything.
Distronic is pretty cool too - at first I was a bit afraid to use it, but after a while you start to trust and learn how it works. I've used it on long trips on the highway, that way you can rest your foot, keep your attention on the road, but have the backup radar controlled system to help you out. It's cool that you also get a red flashing warning on the panel if you come too close to hitting a car, even if the distronic is off. Nice "Attention assit", sort of what is like on the newer cars.
The command system is interesting. I bought updated GPS disks for 2009, cost $275 plus tax. The GPS system is definitely a bit outdated and takes a little getting used to, but I do like it - it does the job and is nicely integrated in the car's controls. The CD changer is good, but it does not play MP3 CD's so you are stuck with regular audio cd's that fit less music.
Unfortunately the phone system in the car is outdated. To get it up to date with bluetooth, it can cost up to $1,500. Not sure if that's worth it, I have not done it and use a bluetooth earpiece. I also installed satellite radio, which is also a bit difficult because this car does not have an AUX input - thus you either use the tape deck, or try to hard wire it to the radio with am FM adapter, which I've been told works but have not done it myself.
Otherwise, a beautiful and well made interior. It's in very good shape for a 2001, and most people think it is a 2005 or newer car! (Most "regular non car" people.) I also hard wired an Escort 9500xi radar detector - very useful!
This is one good looking car. The AMG body kit really sets it off. The thick rear tires give it an aggressive back stance, and the twin pipe AMG tips look great. I personally would not want to change the rims - I love that AMG original look. The only thing I did was give it a 35% tint, otherwise it is a stock look. I like that much more, I think these S55's are really handsome cars -and no need to update them to a "2003" S55 look. Sure, some people may mistake them for falsely badged S500's due to not having quad exhaust, but I think the bodykit, rims, and engine sound give it away that it's a real AMG!
I had it detailed, as the paint had some swirls and minor scratches. The works - clay, wax, interior shampoo, etc.
Performance and driving:
This is the good stuff. Without this section, this car might as well be an S430. As you all know - this is a 5.4 liter engine, producing 354HP and 391lbs of tq. The 2003 supercharged engine is 493HP- but it also weighs a bit more. 0-60 is around 5.7, and the quarter mile 14 seconds at around 100mph. This is on par with most quick cars of today - and just slightly slower than really quick cars that are now in the 4 second range of 0-60's.
Ok, so now my personal driving experience with it. Before I bought this I knew I definitely wanted an AMG, and originally was going to go for a CLK55 AMG which uses the same engine, but is much lighter and thus faster. The S55 AMG is just such a nicer car overall though, that I can sacrifice a little bit of performance for what this car brings.
The throttle is always "alive". Even at slow speeds, a little light push and you hear the engine's quiet roar like a starting tornado - and if you floor it at slow speeds with a kickdown (the small button behind the accelerator pedal) the car throws you back and just flies. For sure, this is not a slow car. It's fast. It may not be as fast as the newer S55's and S63's - but it is still a very quick and powerful car, and extreme fun to drive. You definitely get tire spin if you floor it from a light a lot of times. That engine noise is fantastic!
On the highway, it is very quiet and tranquil. It gives the illusion that you are going at a slower speed than you really are - for example, if you kickdown at 80mph, the sensation of speed going forward is best expressed by looking at the speedometer quickly going up, because the ride is so quiet that otherwise you don't feel it as much.
The steering is very light and responsive - and if you hit the ABC sport button, everything firms up a bit (suspension too) and the car has even less body roll, and responds very well for a car weighing over 4,000lbs.
The car is amazingly well conserved and built with quality - and the only issues I've had to deal with are regular wear and tear items that I knew I would have to address since the car has high mileage.
First - I replaced the front lower ball joints and control arm bushings, since they worn down with time. I replaced the rear rotors and pads, and just did other preventive maintenance like oil, cooling flush, brake flush, new spark plugs, etc. The headlamp washer nozzles were missing as well, and that caused a leak - but as soon as I replaced it, they worked perfectly and the leak went away. So aside from this regular maintenance issues, the car is great!
For the price, it's a steal. It's considerably cheaper than the 2003+ S55's, so that makes it worth it - it's a great car to drive!