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'92 300TE 4matic 280,000miles, '92 300TE 4Matic 'Ice Blue Metalic' 101,000miles
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10,298 Posts
I think if you're handy and you like the challenge to fix things, the first gen 4Matic is a great car. Paul and I love ours and drive them through snow like a snow plow.

My original white TE when sorted gave me yrs & yrs of trouble free 4Matic service. The 'bucking' in parking lots while turning was addressed in the FSM and there was a factory fix. MB only stopped making the first gen 4Matics because of the failure inside the TC of the aluminum piston & seal. They wouldn't stand behind the system, leaving the dealers to decide your fate. We got a new TC installed for about $1,500 through the dealer, out of pocket. Some dealers were charging as much as $5,000 to replace the OE TC with a factory reman. That was the reason so many owners bailed on their 4Matics......many did so with a tear in their eyes. It's a phenomenal system when working....I'd stake my life on it in bad road conditions.

It really wasn't the system itself that got that bad rep, it was the way MB dealt with 4Matic owners and the fact that all the OE TC's failed over time.

Once you sort these cars you don't have continuous problems with the 4Matic. In fact when I retired my original TE, the 4Matic system was working perfectly. That TC is going into this car when I take the time to do it.

Kevin
 

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Registered
04 E320 4M Wagon, 90 560SEC, 14 VW Sportwagen TDI
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1,067 Posts
Hello all,
I'm looking to get out of my 5 series wagon, I'm just looking for something that's a little easier to work on, gets better fuel MPG, and maybe the cost of operating isn't too much

Thanks,
Andrew
E34 or E39? Honestly your MPG's will be the same in the W124, I felt the E34 was in some ways easier to work on but i think the W124 is better built overall, No stupid Suspension and cooling system components failing on a semi regular basis, Overall fit and finish of the W124 is better also. E39 is also a decent car, Same BMW trait with Suspension and Cooling but the 530 with the M54 is a good unit, Not as reliable as the E34 though. I have never owned a W210 but have friends up there in the 200K+ Mile range on both M104 and M112 engines without any major issues. I don't think they have the same Bank Volt quality of the W124 but they are simple reliable cars.

I have a 2004 W211 Wagon with just about every breakable option you can imagine, Air Suspension, SBS brakes, millions of computers, electronics etc so its a ticking time bomb BUT.......... its a beautiful car to drive and own, Amazing refinement and modern luxury features and quite frankly about the same price now as a sorted W124 ($4-5K) I decided i was willing to play and pay but these are pretty solid cars with the M112 engine and 5 speed trans. Mine is a 4matic also but the updated reliable version. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the W211 very much, The wagon aspect is amazing to me, 7 seats and HUGE capacity but i do and quite often actually miss having a W124. There is just something about that car.

As with everything, Service Records and low owners is key, Don't buy off anyone Younger than 30 :) PPI would be a good idea too as others have stated. Avoid earlier models 1986-1992 with the M103 gasser unless its Mint, The M104 from 1993-1995 is a much more modern engine to live with.The M119 V8's are great too but expect maintenance to go up a little. Never owned a Diesel MB but take a look online and the countless
E300 examples with 350-400K on them is testament to Just how good they can be, Only major issue with Inline 6 Motors listed above is they have weak Head Gaskets (All of them) and transmissions that fail at 150-250K miles but i don't consider that a weak point. V8's do not suffer with Head Gasket issues. Make sure the air conditioning and heating system is functioning flawlessly too or your in for a big job.

W124 for the Win if you pick up a well cared for example
 

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Premium Member
'92 300TE 4matic 280,000miles, '92 300TE 4Matic 'Ice Blue Metalic' 101,000miles
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10,298 Posts
E34 or E39? Honestly your MPG's will be the same in the W124, I felt the E34 was in some ways easier to work on but i think the W124 is better built overall, No stupid Suspension and cooling system components failing on a semi regular basis, Overall fit and finish of the W124 is better also. E39 is also a decent car, Same BMW trait with Suspension and Cooling but the 530 with the M54 is a good unit, Not as reliable as the E34 though. I have never owned a W210 but have friends up there in the 200K+ Mile range on both M104 and M112 engines without any major issues. I don't think they have the same Bank Volt quality of the W124 but they are simple reliable cars.

I have a 2004 W211 Wagon with just about every breakable option you can imagine, Air Suspension, SBS brakes, millions of computers, electronics etc so its a ticking time bomb BUT.......... its a beautiful car to drive and own, Amazing refinement and modern luxury features and quite frankly about the same price now as a sorted W124 ($4-5K) I decided i was willing to play and pay but these are pretty solid cars with the M112 engine and 5 speed trans. Mine is a 4matic also but the updated reliable version. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the W211 very much, The wagon aspect is amazing to me, 7 seats and HUGE capacity but i do and quite often actually miss having a W124. There is just something about that car.

As with everything, Service Records and low owners is key, Don't buy off anyone Younger than 30 :) PPI would be a good idea too as others have stated. Avoid earlier models 1986-1992 with the M103 gasser unless its Mint, The M104 from 1993-1995 is a much more modern engine to live with.The M119 V8's are great too but expect maintenance to go up a little. Never owned a Diesel MB but take a look online and the countless
E300 examples with 350-400K on them is testament to Just how good they can be, Only major issue with Inline 6 Motors listed above is they have weak Head Gaskets (All of them) and transmissions that fail at 150-250K miles but i don't consider that a weak point. V8's do not suffer with Head Gasket issues. Make sure the air conditioning and heating system is functioning flawlessly too or your in for a big job.

W124 for the Win if you pick up a well cared for example
Buying from someone younger isn't always a bad idea. A lot of the time they've just driven it and not done much because of a lack of funds & time. In other words the car will be roughly the same shape as when they bought it. If however they are bragging about all the work done to it and what you see looks ratty/ill kept....run.

On the positive side, they'll probably let it go CHEAP.

Kevin
 

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96 E320
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177 Posts
I've owned both generations. Here are some of my observations:

W124: 93 300TE RWD
Pros: Cargo space (wagon), 3rd row seat, durable build, most maintenance is easy, 3.2: i6 quick.
Cons: Wiring harness (engine and tailgate), rear fixed window leak, accumulators, O2 sensors, brake light switch.

W210 96 E320 RWD
Pros: Leather seats, large trunk, OBDII (engine only), most maintenance is easy, 3.2: i6 quick, no sunroof.
Cons: Possible wiring harness (no prob for me yet), AC condenser and line, Rear window regulator, Rust (paint not as good).

I would go for late models in each range (or late models for an engine type). Like most cars, MB usually works out most kinks toward the end of the model range. Some of the items above (like O2 sensors and brake light switch) are wearable items for any car. The older the car, the more emission and suspension items will need to be replaced. If you're looking at later W210 (late 97 an on with the V6), then they have issues with harmonic balancer, rust, and I think rear window regulators. I also have seen some RWD W210s have a rust issue with front lower control arms. Just check them for cracks near the lower ball joint when you do your regular oil change (while the oil pan is draining). A common misconception is that they are expensive to maintain. I'd argue no more than other european makes. Also common items like Hella brake rotors and Akebono pads can be done for ~$200 on all four corners. Like most cars, price really depends on the part. Also no BMW issues like vanos clogging up, plastic water pump impeller, screw falling off oil pickup, etc here. :)
 

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1995 E320
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2,508 Posts
Based on your geography, i'd say maybe a fly and drive might be best for you. I'm not sure i'd want to buy a 30 year old car from an area that gets the roads salted in winter. Lots of Mercedes in Florida, Texas, California. Less likely to be rusty.
 

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6 Posts
Discussion Starter #26
I’ll probably continue looking, but the e320 wagon I went to see turned out to be a Bomb, too many miles, not enough care. Half the windows propped up with popsicle sticks and probably 2/4s, rust all around, 275000 miles, deferred maintenance. I will remain patient until I find a good example, I have a couple thousand miles before my timing chain guides go
 

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Registered
1987 560 SL, 1990 300E 4Matic
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465 Posts
As another gen 1 4Matic owner, I can attest to early examples going through a teething period. Luckily, my '90 300E 4Matic was still under warrantee when the TC engaged itself to the point that the front CV joints were damaged from "wind up" while on a trip to Fla. in 1994. We had the CV joints replaced at no charge in Fla., and drove home in test mode (4Matic deactivated). Our dealer replaced the TC at no charge following our return.

I have not experienced any more problems since, prior to my parking it in the garage 5 years ago.

As for the feeling experienced when turning while at slow speeds (turning into a parking space, etc.), I found that being mind full of, and maintaining identical air pressures in all four tires helped to alleviate any "wind up" that might otherwise occur when turning.

I can also say that these are beasts in the snow. I once had to literally plow our way out of a 200-300 ft. driveway in Vt. while on a ski trip. The snow was over a foot deep. The Nokian Hakka 10 winter tires helped. The plow driver couldn't believe it when he showed up after our returning to the house following our breakfast in town. He had to take a few seconds just looking at the car after my telling him how we drove out, and back in. He told me that he had just plowed another driveway in which a Range Rover had gotten stuck. My guess would have been that it's all season tires were the problem.
 
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