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Overview Mercedes-Benz E-Class 1996-2002 W210 In-Depth Review

German automaker Mercedes-Benz (MB) has been known for its luxury cars. W210 is one of them. Also known as Mercedes-Benz E-class, W210 it was produced back in 1996 and also won Motortrend Import car of the year. It was manufactured from 1996-2002 and has been the epitome of radical yet sleek and timeless designs MB is known for today, particularly the oval headlamps.

The Good Side
w210 mercedes

  • Looks. As previously mentioned, W210 is the beginning of the new look for Mercedes-Benz cars, getting rid of the slab sides older models used to carry. The 2000 model was given a facelift specifically in the front part and the interior: the front end and dashboard were changed, the air dam and front grille were given a more aggressive look, and the side-view mirrors included turn signal blinkers. Other modifications include multifunction steering wheel controls, an emergency communications system, touch-shift—transmission, stability control, fiber optic audio connection between the stereo and amplifier, and an updated instrument cluster.
  • Because of its balanced handling, Mercedes-Benz W210 provides a pleasurable, comfortable, and quiet ride yet it feels solid and safe to drive. Its engine—3.2L six M112—is powerful plus it has a small turning radius, which makes it easy to drive and park in urban areas.
  • 4Matic All-wheel Drive. MB’s four-wheel drive system makes driving on a slippery road much more manageable. W210’s 4Matic uses ESP or an electronic stability program that is partnered with ETS which controls the torque at each wheel. It means differential locks are no longer necessary. This means that when sensors detect that one of the wheels is spinning more than the normal speed, because of an unstable road condition, the ETS applies the necessary brakes on the wheel having trouble and adds drive torque to the wheels that are functioning normally. This stabilizes the car and reduces skidding and cornering.

Cons / Concerns 

  • Luxury cars usually entail high maintenance costs as oil changes and other routine maintenance costs for this type of vehicle. Also, since luxury cars are recognized for their aesthetic features, maintaining or upgrading their looks also costs more.
  • Body corrosion. Some owners have reported experiencing such within a year of purchasing the car. Since some of the W210 models were produced nearly 20 years ago, you should inspect for corrosion if you are considering buying one. The common areas complained about that are affected by rust are the trunk lid (the one near the latch), the emblem on the front, the doorframes, and the front fenders.
  • Harmonic balancer. Some V6 E320 and V8 E420 E430 E55 AMG models are reported to have this pulley deteriorate over time, which may cause exorbitant damage to other parts of the car. Hence, it is recommended that its harmonic balancer be regularly checked approximately every 60,000 miles.
  • Other problems. Some of the other problems known about W210 are leaks—in the head gasket, A/C receiver drier, compressor, wet transmission control module, and evaporator—broken windows due to poorly designed windows regulator, squeaky and/or rattling seats, power steering and sunroof, warping rear brake rotors, and burned-out lights.
  • Interior leather can look extremely worn and dirty if not cared for.w210 interior

Overall, Mercedes-Benz W210 is a decent luxury car in terms of prestige, design, comfort, reliability, and performance. In fact, it is considered one of the best-midsized luxury cars. However, it can be expensive to maintain especially if you are still a student. However, keep in mind that you have to either do all the necessary repairs and maintenance checks on your own or spend some more money for all of those.

Before deciding to splurge on the MB E-class W210, it is better if you look at other options albeit unnecessary if you’ve already decided. Nonetheless, comparing it to other cars is not a bad idea. Who knows if you may be getting a sweeter deal from other carmakers. Or having some sort of option may also lead you to decide that you already did the perfect choice of opting for a used E320 or E430 W210.

Two of the closest competitors of the W210 are the BMW 5-Series and the Lexus GS. The former was manufactured around the same time as the W210 while the latter started in 1991, known as Toyota Aristo, and is still in production at present.

All three have a number of variations in engine type, transmission, horsepower, torque, etc. Hence, for the sake of simplicity, MB W210 E55 AMG, BMW E39 M5, and Lexus GS 400 will be compared here as they seem to be the latest models and of similar categories.

  MB E55 AMG BMW E39 M5 Lexus GS 400
Production 1998-2002 1998-2003 1998-2005
Fuel Gasoline Gasoline Gasoline
Body style Sedan Sedan Sedan
Layout Front engine, rear wheel drive Front engine, rear wheel drive Front engine, rear wheel drive
Engine 5.4L V8 4.9L V8 4.0L V8
Transmission 5-speed auto. 6-speed manual 5-speed auto.
Maximum Power 354 PS 400 PS 304 PS
Maximum Torque 530 Nm 500 Nm 427 Nm
Power/liter 66 PS 82 PS 76 PS
Top speed 155 mph 155 mph 150 mph
Acceleration times (0-100 mph) 11.7s 11.3s 14.7s

The Lexus GS 400 also seems to be a big bang for the buck, considering that it does not differ much, in terms of performance, from its other two competitors. However, the GS 400 has been criticized for its lack of personality, which the two other cars have. But if that doesn’t bug you at all, by all means, get it. Otherwise, choose the MB for a luxurious feel or the BMW for the sporty touch. Buying a used W210 is definitively a good choice. We have seen several of these cars clock well over 200k miles on the original engine and transmission. Expect

Buying a used E-Class W210

Buying a used W210 is definitely a good choice. We have seen several of these cars clock well over 200k miles on the original engine and transmission. Expect small issues such as harmonic balancer, window regulators, brake light switch, and lower ball joints.

If you do decide to buy a used W210 there are a few recommended upgrades (See Top Upgrades for MB) that you can do to make your Mercedes-Benz E-Class look newer and stand out from the rest.


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