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2002 E320 4Matic Wagon
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118 Posts
Discussion Starter #1
Advice please: I'm looking at an '04 S500; about 90K miles, 2WD, AMG package, clean, and asking ~$16.5K.

First, is this an OK model year? Price in the ballpark?

Having studied the W220 archives a bit, I'll have the car inspected, and will especially check the airmatic system (compressor and front struts?). Any other trouble spots? Is the 7 speed(?) automatic trouble free?

Bought an '02 E320 4matic wagon for my wife about 3 years ago (with advice from this forum), and it has turned out to be a truly marvelous car. Recently sold my M5, with the idea of buying another E class (sedan), but find that sub $20K W211's (eg, E500) have atrocious reputations. So, I'm looking at an S500, and need some go in advice.

What is actual freeway MPG like? My M5 was 22 - 24MPG; the E320 is 27 - 29 MPG

I've always done all my own mechanical and maintenance work. I really don't mind it, as long as the the car is fundamentally reliable. I've been able to get by with a genaric OBDII scanner (or VAG COM in the case of our previous A8 Audi). Is DIY also possible with the '04 S500?

Many thanks, John
 

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2004 S430
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75 Posts
Having owned a 2004 S430 for a few years i can say that as long as you take care of it, it will take care of you. It is a car that is very straight forward to work on and when i took mine on a 5000 mile road trip last October i held about 24 mpg on the interstates going around 80mph.

Out of most of them i have found the 04's to be a good model year as they had worked a lot of the kinks out of them. My transmission had 167,000 miles on it when i sold it and it never once hesitated of made me think twice about it.

As you said you have looked at the forums and know the common issues like the airmatic compressor and struts, these are obvious. One thing i would check is for leakage around the valve covers (the air filter hides it).

All in all it sounds like a good car, the price should be a little lower but that is negotiable
 

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2002 E320 4Matic Wagon
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118 Posts
Discussion Starter #3
Thanks!

Car's in Charlotte; a bit of a drive. Trying to round up a couple of others on the same trip.
S430's seem more common; I may include these (vs S500).
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
2013 S550
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10,979 Posts
I don't agree that the '04 and '05 S-Classes are the same. Mechanically they are very similar; but assuming that both vehicles have phone systems, the MHI phone system in the '05 is much more flexible. On the other hand, if both lack an installed phone system, the '04 is much less expensive to install one than the '05.

If you plan to use Tele-Aid or MBRACE (similar to OnStar), the '05 already has the digital system one would need; the '04's system is analog and would require an expensive upgrade.

See a more complete description of the differences at differences between 2004 S 500 2006 S 500 - MBWorld.org Forums - and keep in mind that except for a phone system harness that was standard in '05 and optional in '06, the '05 and '06 are truly identical.
 

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W221 & Audio Moderator
2013 S550
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10,979 Posts
Yes. However, that encompasses both the difficulty and expense of equipping the cars with a phone system if they don't already have one, and the fact that the MHI pucks for '05 and later (including MB OE as well as ViseeO) are compatible with more phones than the V60 pucks for the '04 (and earlier).

An '04 with no phone can be equipped with a Bluetooth system for the cost of a "puck with tail." - somewhere around $500 (less on ebay). However, to upgrade the emergency phone system to digital for optional Tele-Aid or MBRACE (competing services) runs an additional $1000 or so.

An '05 with no phone can run approximately $1500 (through 3rd party suppliers of MB equipment; more through a dealer) if one has to start from scratch. On the other hand, if the electronics of the system are present and all that is needed is a Bluetooth puck, the cost is approximately $500 (also less on ebay). The digital system needed for Tele-Aid or MBRACE is already present as standard equipment. In addition, if one drives in an area with relatively poor cell phone reception, the MHI system offers cradle options that allow a limited number of phones to be connected to the car's external antenna (these options can be very expensive).

They are factors a buyer may want to consider, especially in a state that requires that phone use be hands free.
 

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330 Posts
I had an 06 S500 that I let go at 120k miles. I bought it as a CPO car with 60k miles on it. It was in the shop a lot between 60k and 90k, fortunately mostly warranty work.

When I bought my current 04, I had the dealership run my entire service history on the 06 to get an idea of what I might be in for. The 04 wasn't a CPO car, so everything is on me. The total repair and service expense on the S500 was a little over $13,000 retail. Add to that the cost of a reman tranny that failed outside of warranty ($6000) and it was closer to $20,000 for the three years I owned it.

With all that, I still absolutely loved the car, but I wouldn't buy another S with mileage over 50k. These cars are well built with very high grade interior materials. They hold up well and most owners are good about care, so you'll find very clean looking 100k plus cars. Clean doesn't change the fact that its a car with a lot of complex electronic and mechanical systems with staggering repair costs as the miles add up. There are low mileage W220's to be had (my 04 had 35k on it, and I paid $21k for it in January of this year). You might need to compromise on color or options, or drive quite a bit, but for an S, I firmly believe the fresher the better.
 

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13 Posts
S500, great car!

I have a 2002 S500 non 4-matic car. The car currently has 207,000 miles on it. This car has been amazing. Yes there have been some issues but all have been minor and the car is very easy to service yourself, for the most part. I have had the dreaded suspension squat. Mine was falling in the front overnight. Replaced the air ride valve block myself $300, and the top strut caps $200 (borrowed tool from dealer parts guys), problem solved. The reputation of the air ride suspension does make one pause, but that is the reason we want to own this car! That ride is the worlds best. I have a feeling that many struts have been replaced due to bad diagnostics and were probably not bad at all. I found the leaking valve block and caps all by myself after a garage quoted me almost $3,000 to replace two struts and the comressor (which were all fine!). Have had no problems with engine, transmission, a/c, power equipment etc. Cleaned up the car looks new. Benz quality is amazing, but remember how much the car cost new. I drive around in this car every day, look forward to it. it makes me feel like a big shot. :)
 
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