What to look for when buying Mercedes game-changing super-saloon
14 June 2010

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.

Brakes

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.

See pictures of the Mercedes E55 AMG

Cabin

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.

Chassis

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.

Engine

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.

Bodystyle

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.

Interior

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.

Performance

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.

Verdict

Massive power, pace and noise, but at a price. A super-saloon of exceptional ability; good enough to shade the best in class — just.

See all the latest Mercedes E-class reviews, news and video

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Comments
2

14 June 2010

i always quite fancied the mercs with the V8 supercharged AMG engine

14 June 2010

Having recently driven two E55 as a possible car to replace my family car i have noticed that these are extremely expensive cars to own outside of the mercedes warranty. I viewed both cars at MB dealers.

First car was a 03 plate and the other a 53 plate.

Both had rust coming through at the bottom of the rear arches, the other had rust bubbling coming through one of the front arches. both cars had been in for repair for suspension struts (almost 1K each), and one had been in for supercharger clutch pack repair whilst the other had been in for intercooler pump replacement. The first car I drove had electrical problems.

Both of these cars had less than 60K on the clock. Having looked around on the web cars built 2005 onwards are much more reliable.

I still want a E55 though :)

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