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I apologize in advance if these questions have been asked a million times. I did do some searching and lurking but couldn't find responses that fit the bill.

I am in the market for a used car, looking to spend under $15k(US) and have been searching Autotrader & the like for a Mercedes that fits the bill. I've previously owned Audis and there are some around that fall into the categories I'm looking for but the reliability of their newer models makes me nervous.

So in the course of searching for a suitable car I've noticed that options abound, which leads me to some questions;

I am leaning toward the V8 models (either the 420 or the 430). Because I haven't had a chance to test drive many examples (they tend to be rare compared to their 6 cylinder brethren) I'm wondering if the difference in performance is that pronounced between the 320 and 420 models? Since I don't plan on racing stoplights with it, I guess I'm more concerned with highway pickup and on-ramp abilities. The fact that one might do better 0-60 in a car magazine test doesn't much matter to me as much as overall pep when doing daily driving. The car I'm driving right now is a flat out sports car so I really don't want to go to something that will feel underpowered, hence the interest in the V8.

I've learned through my searching that going back a year or two puts some S-class cars into my price range. On the face of it, the thought of driving an S420 is incredibly tempting, but I'm trying to be practical, especially in terms of cost of ownership compared to a regular E-class. Will any repairs I face driving an S-class be significantly more than comparable repairs needed for an E-class? Am I better off in terms of longevity in purchasing a two year newer E-class versus the S?

Thanks again for any info you can provide.
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