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BMW 735iL, Future: 91 300E 4MATIC
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi all! I'm a BMW person at heart but I'm looking at purchasing a 1991 300E 4MATIC. I'm not knowledgeable about Mercedes at all but I've heard good things about w124s. I've been driving an 89 735iL, which is a very pleasurable car to drive but expensive and rather unreliable to own. Upcoming maintenance has exceeded what I'm willing to pay and after 7 years of ownership, I think it's wise to move on.

A local dealer has a 91 300E 4MATIC for sale for $5800, 150,000 miles. I took it for a drive around the city and it rides nice but the accelerator felt very stiff, and had a rear axel clunk but I was promised it will be fixed before it's sold. There was a slight vibration during coasting and deceleration. The A/C works but not well and that will also be addressed. Looks like it has new belts, hoses, battery, and a radiator as well. I was also told the center bearing on the drive shaft was replaced when they got it in. It's in remarkable condition for the year, no stains or marks on the interior and no rust. Everything works except for the relining of the passenger seat. There's also no spare or jack but it has brand new all seasons. I'll most likely switch over my snow tires from the BMW for the winter months.

My question is who has a 300E 4MATIC and how reliable are the AWD vs RWD? How is the 300E as a daily driver? I'm a college student, almost done with undergrad, and I need a reliable, comfortable car. I average about 7-8000 miles per year and have a couple 3 hour drives per year. I tend to drive rather conservative than aggressive, so the car will be seeing a relatively easy life.

Thank you for your input and I hope to have a Mercedes in my garage soon.

Nick
 

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1990 Mercedes Benz 300E
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If this is going to be your daily ride I would stick with RWD. The early 4MATIC system can be very problematic to deal with if it fails.
 

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1993 300E, 2003 996 Turbo X50
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I don't think you are going to come out too far ahead on reliability with the w124 vs. the e32. Just my thoughts, having owned 4 bmws of that era and 3 124s.
 

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80 280SL, 85 300SD, 87 300TD, 90 300TE 4Matic, 90 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300TE 4Mat
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If this is going to be your daily ride I would stick with RWD. The early 4MATIC system can be very problematic to deal with if it fails.
X2 There are also few really knowledgeable service technicians around for the system. The failure of the system and expense of keeping it up results increasingly in abandonment of the cars. You'll find well-meaning best-effort support here and a few other forums to keep you going if you're a DIY type.

That said, I absolutely love the performance when it is working. $5,800 though seems a tad steep unless you are getting an ironclad warranty on the 4matic function through at least one winter season. In fact, for that price with those miles it better come with some warranty. So if a 4matic is what you really want it might be worth shopping around. The W124 interiors are very durable and easily spruced up, so don't limit yourself to a perfectly clean 4matic. You can always make the inside shine again without difficulty.

As to the no-load vibration, it could be something as simple as a bad differential pinion bearing or axle shaft carrier, but if it is a problem in the 4matic transfer case then it is a big problem. Those are extremely expensive. Actually, just about any 4matic unique parts are going to be a lot more expensive with few aftermarket alternatives.
 

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BMW 735iL, Future: 91 300E 4MATIC
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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the relies. The price seemed reasonable to me only because it's through a used car dealership and not a private party. $5800 is after plate transfer, tax, and registration. He agreed to go a little below the KBB prior to the additional fees. As for a warranty, their website lists a 4 year/50,000 mile coverage on this particular Mercedes but in NY, dealerships can't give a warranty for vehicles over 100,000 miles. I'll be sure to stop back in and ask more questions and have at least a 1 month on anything.

They ran a carfax and from what I can tell, it's a two owner car, last owner bought it in 1996 and traded it in at the Mercedes dealer about 4 or 5 months ago. I'll see what they say about the 4MATIC. They specialize in Mercedes as well as exotics so I'll ask and see.

I've been doing a bit of research about the 4MATIC and the w124 in general and have one additional question. I read that there is a 'test lever' for the 4MATIC that essentially turns the car into a 2wd. I'm sure Mercedes added this to assist owners with getting to the dealer with a bad system, but is it alright to drive the car like this for some of the time? I'm not planning to do so but if it could save wear and tear in the summer months, it might not be a bad thing.

But like I said, I couldn't find much about it yet. I'm planning to look more into everything w124 related this weekend.

Thanks again for everyone's input. I appreciate it a lot.

Nick
 

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1990 Mercedes Benz 300E
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From my limited understanding the test lever is only meant to be used temporarily to get a malfunctioning 4MATIC car to the dealership for repair. Its not meant to be used like a 2WD/4WD transfer case shifter. Later versions of 4MATIC were much simpler and just as effective.
 

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93 300E 2.8
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101 Posts
Presently owning a BMW and a MB 300E, I think you'd be a lot happier in a 5 series BMW than a 300E. I really not terribly impressed with the Benz, other than long distance cruising. Parts are more expensive, and MB puts things together in a way that makes maintenance more difficult/expensive.
 

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'92 300TE 4matic 280,000miles, '92 300TE 4Matic 'Ice Blue Metalic' 101,000miles
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It's nowhere near a fair price for the car. First gen 4matics have less value in the market place right now than their RWD counterparts. The reason for this is that the system is defunct, not supported by the factory anymore and just the TC new will run you $5k.

And you WILL get TC failure if it hasn't been replaced already...guaranteed. I could write a white paper on living with a 4matic since new. The price of the car should be $2,500 TOPS....and you can lever the fact that it's a 4matic against the dealer's outrageous price. Many of these cars wound up in salvage yards because the various owners refused to have them repaired. I would guess that about half have been wrecked and/or salvaged by now. But since the market is catastrophically low, there's no 'bonus' for the 4matic models. As I said earlier, just the 4matic feature alone drags the price down in honest negotiations. If the dealer has such a high opinion of the 4matic feature, get them to warranty it.:thumbsup:

You can drive the car indefinitely while being in 'Test' mode. You can even take the 4matic brain out of the car altogether....however the ABS light will come on. It feels like it brakes the same and my theory is that it's just a break in continuity with the ABS system. However, you'd need to verify that and oil needs to stay in the TC. If for whatever reason the TC failed, there could be catastrophic drive line failure.

The vibration could be a lot of things....more than likely the flex discs and/or the transmission mount. Some 4matic cars have some vibration from having the wrong fluid in the TC...it happens, but it's a long shot. As Paul said, if you determine there's TC trouble, RUN screaming to the nearest door. Honestly, if money is tight for you for a few yrs yet, this isn't the car for you unless you steal it.

Kevin
 

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80 280SL, 85 300SD, 87 300TD, 90 300TE 4Matic, 90 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300TE 4Mat
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Don't talk yourself into this car. Don't let the dealer talk you into this car. Be objective and don't limit yourself. Pretend it is not available and ask yourself if you had the $5,800 to spend on one car is this what you would be out searching for. Ask yourself if $5,800 is what you want to spend on a car altogether.

The test lever (actually a valve for 90 and 91, and an electronic switch for 92 and 93) is there so you can dyno or emissions check the car with the rear wheels only on rollers without the front wheels engaging and pulling the car off the testing rack.

As far as what the "dealer" or KBB price is, just forget that line of thinking. Buy a car based on its worth, i.e. what you are getting, and don't let whoever is selling it influence you. Why should you pay a dealer more for an exact same car for which you would pay a private party less. If a dealer gives you a warranty, then calculate a reasonable value for it and add it to what you would otherwise pay.

As to a warranty, I'm not a NY lawyer, but it seems odd to me that there would be a law prohibiting anyone from independently contracting for a warranty on a car over 100,000 miles. It sounds like it might be bunk. If there is such a prohibition, have the salesman provide you with the citation to it and post it here. I'd be interested in reading it. A one month warranty is NOT enough to discover a problem with the 4matic system. I would give such a warranty no value on a 4matic.

While the dealer may specialize in Mercedes and exotic, that does not mean they know diddly squat about W124 4matics. Ask him how many W124 4matics they have serviced or sold. Ask him to be specific: when was the last one through the door. Talk to their mechanic who works on them. Ask how many transfer cases he/she has changed out. How many inner front axle boots they replace (because they are so unique, it costs over $250 for the boot alone). Ask to see the 4matic service manual, or whatever reference they use to understand the system. If you get BS answers then you are probably otherwise getting BS'd. Do not be satisfied with vague answers: drill down until you get what you need to hear or until they say they don't know anymore. Make getting your money something that they will have to work to get.

Bottom line I hope I am conveying to you is that, while I sense you are perhaps infatuated with this car you must not let that cloud you judgment. Evaluate this purchase from an objective view.
 

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80 280SL, 85 300SD, 87 300TD, 90 300TE 4Matic, 90 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300TE 4Mat
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Based on the information in the thread I suspect this is the subject car:

1991 Mercedes-Benz 300 Series 300E

I does not look like anyplace that specializes in W124 4matics.

Here are the VIN particulars:

fin WDBED30E3MB498274
vin WDB1242301B498274
whc WDB
chassbm 124230
chass_ident 1B498274
type 124
subbm1 230
subbm2
auxiliary_drive
body 00423
body_code
delivery_date
engine 103985 12 016166
front_axle1
front_axle2
heater
interior 268
lights BOSCH
model_idx 2
odometer
order_num1 0070443325
paint1 199
paint2
paint3
paint4
paint5 68
platform
production_num1
production_order_ref
rear_axle1
rear_axle2
release_date
retarder
rims
service_num
steering
trailer
transfer_case
transmission 722342 03 531635
vin_dc ED30E3MB498274
vinwhc
winch
wiper BOSCH
Code Текст
222 RIGHT FRONT SEAT, ELECTRICALLY ADJUSTABLE
240 OUTSIDE TEMPERATURE INDICATOR
241 FRONT SEAT LH ELECTRIC ADJUSTABLE WITH MEMORY
291 AIRBAG FOR FRONT PASSENGER
300 Unknown
340 ADDITIONAL 3RD STOP LAMP
412 ELECTRIC SUNROOF WITH TILTING DEVICE
430 HEADREST IN THE REAR, LEFT AND RIGHT
443 Unknown
461 INSTRUMENT WITH MILES IND. AND ENGLISH LEGEND
491 USA MODEL
524 PAINTWORK - PRESERVATION
531 AUTOMATIC ANTENNA
543 SUN VISOR WITH MAKE-UP MIRROR L. AND R., BE-
551 ANTI-THEFT/ANTI-BREAK-IN WARNING SYSTEM
570 FOLDING ARMREST, FRONT
588 CODES 581 (ACC) AND 584 (ELECTRIC WINDOWS)
593 ALL-ROUND WD-GREEN GLASS,HEATED REAR WINDOW-ESG,BF
600 HEADLAMPS - CLEANING EQUIPMENT
611 EXIT LIGHTS FOR DRIVER DOORS
639 Unknown
640 15-HOLE LIGHT ALLOY RIMS
757 Unknown
801 AEJ 06/1/M/X
199 APPLICATION CODE FOR COMPONENT PROCESSING
68 Unknown
268 WARNING BUZZER FOR PARKING BRAKE
 

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80 280SL, 85 300SD, 87 300TD, 90 300TE 4Matic, 90 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300TE 4Mat
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Here are the other cars the dealer is selling. It looks like the 300E has been siting on the dealer's lot for at least a month as of today. It looks nice though. I'd want to see 150K miles worth of service records from a Mercedes dealer to get me anywhere near the asking price.


Jul 17 - 2011 Ford BOSS Shinoda Mustang 5.0 GT - (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jul 17 - 2006 Dodge Dakota Laramie - $18995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jul 17 - 2007 Dodge Caliber SXT - $9995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jul 17 - 2003 Chrysler Sebring GTC - $7995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jul 17 - 2005 Cadillac DeVille - $9995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jul 17 - 1979 Buick Park Avenue - $8995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jul 17 - 2003 Buick LeSabre Limited - $8995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jul 17 - 2003 BMW X5 3.0i - $13995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jul 17 - 2002 Audi TT - $9995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jun 28 - 2008 Mercedes-Benz S-Class S550 V8 - $48995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2004 Mercedes-Benz E-Class E500 - $15995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 1975 MG Midget - (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 1997 Mercedes-Benz E-Class E420 - $6995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2003 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 3.2L - $13995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2004 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C230 - $12995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Super Charged - $32995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 1991 Mercedes-Benz 300 Series 300E - $5995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2004 Mercedes-Benz M-Class - $14995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2005 Maserati Quattroporte - $31995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2005 Cadillac DeVille - $9995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2006 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SC - $33995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jun 28 - 2006 Land Rover Range Rover SC - $31995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2003 Chrysler Sebring GTC - $7995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2007 Dodge Caliber SXT - $9995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2006 Dodge Dakota Laramie - $19995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer img
Jun 28 - 2003 Jaguar X-Type with Sport Package - $6400 (Buffalo) cars & trucks - by owner pic
Jun 28 - 1979 Buick Park Avenue - $8995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2003 BMW X5 3.0i - $13995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2002 Audi TT - $9995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2008 Bentley Continental GTC - $149995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2004 BMW 5 Series 530i - $17995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
Jun 28 - 2004 Mercedes-Benz M-Class - $14995 (Buffalo, New York) cars & trucks - by dealer pic img
 

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BMW 735iL, Future: 91 300E 4MATIC
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Discussion Starter #12
PWogaman, that is the car I've been looking at. I'm surprised you found it! I've done more catching up on the w124 4MATICS and I'm going to pass on the car. There are a lot of unknowns with it and I'd rather not face a problem with the 4MATIC. I'm not ruling out mercedes but there's a lot of good info on this site to help along the way.

Thank you everyone for your help.
 

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'92 300TE 4matic 280,000miles, '92 300TE 4Matic 'Ice Blue Metalic' 101,000miles
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10,398 Posts
Don't talk yourself into this car. Don't let the dealer talk you into this car. Be objective and don't limit yourself. Pretend it is not available and ask yourself if you had the $5,800 to spend on one car is this what you would be out searching for. Ask yourself if $5,800 is what you want to spend on a car altogether.

The test lever (actually a valve for 90 and 91, and an electronic switch for 92 and 93) is there so you can dyno or emissions check the car with the rear wheels only on rollers without the front wheels engaging and pulling the car off the testing rack.

As far as what the "dealer" or KBB price is, just forget that line of thinking. Buy a car based on its worth, i.e. what you are getting, and don't let whoever is selling it influence you. Why should you pay a dealer more for an exact same car for which you would pay a private party less. If a dealer gives you a warranty, then calculate a reasonable value for it and add it to what you would otherwise pay.

As to a warranty, I'm not a NY lawyer, but it seems odd to me that there would be a law prohibiting anyone from independently contracting for a warranty on a car over 100,000 miles. It sounds like it might be bunk. If there is such a prohibition, have the salesman provide you with the citation to it and post it here. I'd be interested in reading it. A one month warranty is NOT enough to discover a problem with the 4matic system. I would give such a warranty no value on a 4matic.

While the dealer may specialize in Mercedes and exotic, that does not mean they know diddly squat about W124 4matics. Ask him how many W124 4matics they have serviced or sold. Ask him to be specific: when was the last one through the door. Talk to their mechanic who works on them. Ask how many transfer cases he/she has changed out. How many inner front axle boots they replace (because they are so unique, it costs over $250 for the boot alone). Ask to see the 4matic service manual, or whatever reference they use to understand the system. If you get BS answers then you are probably otherwise getting BS'd. Do not be satisfied with vague answers: drill down until you get what you need to hear or until they say they don't know anymore. Make getting your money something that they will have to work to get.

Bottom line I hope I am conveying to you is that, while I sense you are perhaps infatuated with this car you must not let that cloud you judgment. Evaluate this purchase from an objective view.
+1 on this...great post, Paul.

OP...don't assume that because they are a MB and 'exotic' car dealer they know anything at all about 4matics....my bet is they don't. People who have worked on the first gen 4matics have mostly retired by now or won't work on them anymore.

$2,500 TOPS or if you just wanted to give a dealer the premium for detailing it-$3,000. Bear in mind though that they usually sell for a lot less...some are even given away, i.e., you want this four wheel POS, here it is. More importantly, you can NOT own this car unless you plan on doing all the work yourself. Or...finding an old 4matic tech and making him your life coach.:D

Kevin
 

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'92 300TE 4matic 280,000miles, '92 300TE 4Matic 'Ice Blue Metalic' 101,000miles
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10,398 Posts
PWogaman, that is the car I've been looking at. I'm surprised you found it! I've done more catching up on the w124 4MATICS and I'm going to pass on the car. There are a lot of unknowns with it and I'd rather not face a problem with the 4MATIC. I'm not ruling out mercedes but there's a lot of good info on this site to help along the way.

Thank you everyone for your help.
Wise man, good choice/thinking. Their inflated, bloated price IMHO is to cover the car's faults. I.e., you think you're getting a sound car because of the high price and the fact its from a MB/exotic car dealer. I call bullshit on their bullshit. Move on, LOTS of nice MB's out there to find still.

If you have your heart set on a MB, find a clean one without the 4matic from a private party. Show us pics and give us descriptions..we'll help ya.:thumbsup:

Kevin
 

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80 280SL, 85 300SD, 87 300TD, 90 300TE 4Matic, 90 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300TE 4Mat
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PWogaman, that is the car I've been looking at. I'm surprised you found it!
Finding it wasn't hard. You appropriately put your location in your signature (thank you very much); I Craigslist search for 300E and clicked on the most expensive one - BINGO! I then used the dealer's phone number in the listing as a search term and got the rest of his inventory (he does not have a web page by the way - a red flag in itself).
 

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1. It is very clean and nice looking car. Makes me miss mine. I owned a 93 wagon and a 91 sedan and generally loved them. Transfer cases (and their associated control modules) are a problem. Though that car looks to be very clean $5800 is a rip off, it's not worth more than $2500 as stated above, maybe $3000 with clean Carfax and paperwork verifying proper maintenance. I probably would buy it for that, but that's me.

2. Don't buy a RWD if you live in Buffalo NY, you guys gets lots of snow. Were I you I'd go for a w210 4matic and put Nokian WR G2s on it. It's a totally different and very reliable 4matic system that works better, is lighter and less complicated, and as a result the cars get much better gas mileage. $5800 should buy you a nice one. I happen to think that the w124 is one of the best MBs (and one of the best cars) ever made, but my 1998 w210 4matic is great, and has been very reliable over its life and 178k miles.
 

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'92 300TE 4matic 280,000miles, '92 300TE 4Matic 'Ice Blue Metalic' 101,000miles
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1. It is very clean and nice looking car. Makes me miss mine. I owned a 93 wagon and a 91 sedan and generally loved them. Transfer cases (and their associated control modules) are a problem. Though that car looks to be very clean $5800 is a rip off, it's not worth more than $2500 as stated above, maybe $3000 with clean Carfax and paperwork verifying proper maintenance. I probably would buy it for that, but that's me.

2. Don't buy a RWD if you live in Buffalo NY, you guys gets lots of snow. Were I you I'd go for a w210 4matic and put Nokian WR G2s on it. It's a totally different and very reliable 4matic system that works better, is lighter and less complicated, and as a result the cars get much better gas mileage. $5800 should buy you a nice one. I happen to think that the w124 is one of the best MBs (and one of the best cars) ever made, but my 1998 w210 4matic is great, and has been very reliable over its life and 178k miles.
Good call...even I have stepped over into 'the dark side' and recommended a w210 with second gen 4matic. If you're hellbent on having a 4matic, the w210 is still a decent chassis series.

Kevin
 

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80 280SL, 85 300SD, 87 300TD, 90 300TE 4Matic, 90 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300D 2.5 Turbo, 92 300TE 4Mat
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Thanks for all the great pub on four matic, f u all!! Any tips on maintenance??? /:•).
I'm not sure I understand your point.
 
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