Mercedes’ E55 AMG was a game-changing super-saloon. And at under £20k, a used one offers incredible value. Here, we reveal what to look out for when buying one used, and we also look back at the car's original road test from 2002.
Discs and pads are reasonable, totalling around £450 for a set. Fitting will add quite a bit, especially if the fluid is being changed. This generation of E-class has a complicated SBC brake/stability system that requires you to plug it in to a computer while you change the fluid. No jam jar and length of hose here.
A high-spec E55 (and many of them do have the kitchen sink) contains lots of gadgets. Many of these systems — the infotainment unit, for example — are costly to fix and are therefore sometimes ignored by owners. Quality is better than on the W210, so there should be no squeaks or leaks.
Mercedes has always built cars that have very tough chassis components. There are no weak bushes or joints on the W211 E55 that are likely to fail within a few years.
Very reliable, hand-built, and you can see the name of the person who put it together. The V8’s supercharger, squeezed between the cylinder banks, should give you no trouble.
Your choice is really limited to saloon or estate, as gearboxes and engines are fixed. The estate will be easier to sell on and you’ll get a premium price for it. We’d always choose the wagon.
Wheels and tyres
Tyres will cost you around £200 a corner. Avoid aftermarket alloys if possible because of doubtful quality. A nice set of chip-free originals indicates a careful owner who either had good judgement when parking or was willing to spend cash keeping the car in fine fettle.
What we said then - original road test 27/11/02
Design and engineering
One of four production AMGs to share the same all-alloy 5439cc V8, complete with IHI supercharger. Although the CL55, S55 and SL55 have 493bhp, the E55 makes do with 469bhp, but has the same 516lb ft of torque. Power goes to the rear wheels via a five-speed auto ‘box, an open differential and standard ESP and traction control.
The E55’s interior shares the standard car’s generous rear knee and headroom and big boot. Translucent, white-faced AMG instruments have orange needles and the driving position is good, if a little high. Dynamic seats, with active pneumatic bolsters, are a boon.
Our best acceleration run from 0-60mph, achieved with the ESP on, was done in just 4.6sec, while 100mph was reached in 10.4sec and 150mph in 24.4sec. Only Audi’s RS6 can get close to these figures, aided by its quattro drivetrain. BMW’s M5 and Jaguar’s S-type R are fully two seconds slower to three figures. Titanic performance.
Ride and handling
AMG-tuned air springs strike a convincing compromise between body control and comfort. The chassis feels purposefully firm but not hard; body roll is well contained and grip strong, if you’re sensible with the throttle.
Buying and owning
The cabin quality of our test car felt a little shy of Audi’s lofty recent standards. Standard kit includes bi-xenons, heated leather, a CD changer and AMG bodykit. Looks steep given that rivals are up to £13k cheaper; depreciation is likely to be fast too.
Massive power, pace and noise, but at a price. A super-saloon of exceptional ability; good enough to shade the best in class — just.