Date registered: Feb 2008
Vehicle: 2004 W220 (S430) ; 2001 R129 (SL500) Sport
Location: Alabama Gulf Coast--formerly Charlottesville, VA
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I would advise you to give the Lexus LS a look in your process. The advice about the W211 was good; it is a relatively trouble-free car.
We bought a 3 year-old Lexus LS for my wife for about the money you are talking. For another $2,000 or so, we extended the factory warranty to 100,000 miles (her car was still under warranty when we bought it). Since then, we have paid for routine maintenance.
The car sits higher than my W220 (S-class) and is a very comfortable car for her 83 year-old mother (who uses a walker) to get in and out.
I'm not trying to chase you off a Mercedes. If your wife has her heart set, there are lots to choose from in your price range. I have two and neither one has had any repair beyond maintenance in the two years I've owned one and the six months I have owned the other. I can't say if that is typical experience or not.
I suggest you drive a variety of Mercedes models, and have your wife practice her getting in and out. They vary considerably from one to the other.
"Don't pick a fight with an old man. If he is too old to fight, he'll just kill you."--John Steinbeck