Why this Mercedes-Benz E-Class 1996-2002 could save you

CARPHOTO-4343

The stylish E-class offers a classy interior, good handling and quiet comfortable ride. The 1996-2002 model is the second generation of this premium German cruiser. Inside, the E-Class offers a signature classic style with excellent quality materials and high level of standard features. The sedan has plenty of room for 5 passengers. The seven-seater wagon has two more small seats in the back. The seats are firm, but comfortable on a long trip. The cabin is very quiet and the audio system sounds excellent.
The E-class is well built, but because it’s such a complex machine, it will need some repairs now and then. Non-diesel models require premium gasoline and servicing this car won’t be cheap. Does this mean that you should pass on this car? Let’s look at it closer.

Mercedes-Benz E320 interior
Mercedes-Benz E320 interior. Click for larger photo

Engine: Available as a sedan or wagon, the 1996-2002 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has a classic rear-wheel drive layout. An all-wheel drive model (4MATIC) became available from 1998. The most popular E320 model came with a 3.2L DOHC inline-6 engine. From 1998, it was replaced by a 3.2L SOHC V6. Other engine choices included a 3.0L Diesel (E300), the 4.2L V8 (E420), and from 1998, the 4.3L V8 (E430). The high-performance E55 came with a 355-hp 5.4L V8. Only an automatic transmission was offered.

Handling and ride: On the road, Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a pleasure to drive with balanced handling and very comfortable and quiet ride. Even the 3.2L inline-6 has plenty of power. The vehicle feels very solid and safe on the highway. The surprisingly tight turning radius makes city driving and parking easier.

Safety: The NHTSA did not do crash-tests for the 1996-2002 E-class. The IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) gave “”Good”” overall rating to models manufactured after January 2000.

Pros: Classy elegant look, smooth and quiet ride, rich interior with many features, decent fuel economy for a full-size car (6-cylinder models), tight turning radius.

Cons: Expensive to own, difficult to work on, requires premium gasoline, CD changer is in the trunk, some body panels prone to rust.

Overall: The Mercedes-Benz E-class is one of the best premium cars on the used car market. It’s a well-built luxury machine with many bells and whistles. However, similarly to other European vehicles, it will be expensive to keep. We estimate that driving this car will cost a couple thousand dollars more per year compared to something like a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. If this doesn’t stop you, you will certainly appreciate this car.