Mercedes-Benz enjoyed a pioneering role in the development of the modern motorcar. Their leadership in terms of technology and engineering acted as a guiding light not only to other European car companies, but also to manufacturers in the United States, who could look across the ocean at the enormous strides made by the company in terms of styling and design and set their own sights a little bit higher.
The German automaker has always been known for their solid, safe and impressive sedans. The four-door automobiles in the current Mercedes-Benz lineup can be effectively traced back to the 1950's, when the company was forging their post-war image and attempting to get back on their feet on the world stage. The most exclusive sedan in Mercedes-Benz showrooms would bear the S designation, eventually becoming known as the S-Class. This automobile would be used to showcase not only the company's impressive engineering in terms of performance, but also the new technologies that Mercedes-Benz would gradually roll out to the world such as air and hydraulic suspension systems, anti-lock brakes and dry-sump oiling systems.
While the S-Class might have flown the Mercedes-Benz flag high, the company also realized that those priced out of the ultra-luxury market could be served by a comfortable and well-built saloon car. This lead to a succession of smaller cars bearing a number of different alphanumeric appellations, with both compact and mid-size vehicles providing diesel options, sporty variations intended to get the blood flowing, and entry-level automobiles meant to introduce first-time buyers to the Mercedes-Benz brand.
By the 1990's, these varied offerings coalesced into the form that they are sold in today, with C-Class vehicles targeting luxury buyers on a budget, and E-Class automobiles providing classy mid-size transportation to the well-heeled. Of course, the S-Class still reigns from the top, and this four-door has been transformed into a technological tour-de-force that uses the latest in design in order to help it perform and handle like a vehicle half its size. Mercedes-Benz is the undisputed leader in terms of ultra-high class automotive development, and this glossy sheen trickles down into each of the automobiles to wear their badge.
This article examines each of the 3 best used sedans available from Mercedes-Benz and touches on their key features and specifications in order to help buyers decide which of these vehicles would be the better choice in terms of meeting their driving needs.
2001 - 2007 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Throughout the 1990's, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class was an also-ran in the minds of many entry-level luxury buyers when compared to the BMW 3-Series. To be sure, the C-Class was a comfortable and competent automobile, but its dull styling and reputation for middling performance often failed to catch the eye of the younger drivers shopping in the compact market segment. Mercedes-Benz addressed both of these concerns with the 2001 - 2007 C-Class, a vehicle which captures the spirit of the Mercedes philosophy both in its new sheet metal and its improved powertrains.
Base 2001 C-Class sedans are powered by a 2.6-liter V-6 engine that generates 168 horsepower and comes with a 6-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission. The C320 upgrades drivers to a 215 horsepower, 3.2-liter engine and removes the manual option. The following year a 1.8-liter 4-cylinder supercharged engine would offered in the C230, along with the 349 horsepower C32 AMG edition of the car, and this lineup would endure until 2005 when the C32 was replaced by the more feisty 362 horsepower C55. 2006 would see a wide range of engine upgrades that would increase both engine displacement and horsepower slightly across the entire product lineup, dropping the 4-cylinder engine completely and introducing a new 7-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is also available to buyers willing to shop carefully for the 4MATIC editions of these compact sedans.
Despite its lower price tag, inside the 2001 - 2007 Mercedes-Benz C-Class' luxury provenance is clearly evident. Features such as dual climate control, power leather seats, and a full range of comfort accessories can be found in the automobile. The C-Class is not loaded up with gizmos like some of the larger Mercedes-Benz sedans, but it does offer the restrained German styling and functionality that many European car buyers prefer.
The 2001 - 2007 Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a mature used sedan that is more than capable of meeting the needs of demanding luxury car buyers searching for that first premium vehicle.
2003 - 2007 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Unlike the C-Class, when Mercedes-Benz elected to improve the E-Class in 2003 the changes they felt were most important occurred underneath the sedan's skin. Preserving as much of the vehicle's distinct styling as possible while still modernizing its look through subtle tweaking, Mercedes focused on bringing the E-Class' chassis and engine choices up to the expectations of the market. Long criticized for being a sheep in wolf's clothing, the E-Class was given a new lease on life through careful attention to its driving dynamics.
The E-Class makes use of both 6 and 8-cylinder engine options. To start with, the entry-level vehicle is matched up with a 221 horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6. Upgrading to the E500 adds a 302 horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8 to the mix, and speed demons can elect to go for the gold with the 469 horsepower E55 AMG model. A turbo-diesel engine producing 201 horsepower would be added in 2005, and in 2006 the vehicle's V-6 would be upgraded to 268 horsepower and 3.5-liters, with a similar bump in performance and displacement hitting the V-8 the following year. 2007 also saw the replacement of the E55 AMG with the much wilder, 507 horsepower E63 AMG, a true rocket ship of a sedan. Depending upon the model year, each of these vehicles can usually be had with the option of all-wheel drive, and each uses either a 5 or 7-speed automatic transmission to handle gearshifts.
The interior of the 2003 - 2007 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a happy medium when it comes to balancing the excessive amounts of comfort found in the S-Class with the simpler trappings of the C-Class. The vehicle's climate control system provides much greater levels of fine-tuning for individual passengers than would normally be found in a luxury automobile, and great care has been taken to ensure that every touchable surface inside the vehicle invites repeated contact. An LCD screen helps keep track of various vehicle functions as well as controls the automobile's navigation system, and a panoramic glass roof and adaptive cruise control that automatically keeps the vehicle a safe distance from the one in front of it are attractive options.
The 2003 - 2007 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a true road warrior that sacrifices nothing in its quest to bring mid-size luxury excellence to used sedan buyers.
After decades of writing its own ticket in the hearts and minds of both automotive journalists and distinguished car buyers alike, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class stumbled somewhat after the year 2000. While the vehicle maintained its same attractive styling and powerful array of engine choices, reliability issues made ownership of these sedans troublesome and did serious damage to the reputation of the company. Determined to set things right, Mercedes-Benz accelerated development of the next generation S-Class, which debuted in 2007 and which immediately quelled fears that perhaps the luxury giant had lost its touch.
The 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class keeps things simple, with only 3 models on tap. The S550 features a 382 horsepower, 5.5-liter V-8 engine, while the S600 adds 4 additional cylinders to bring the power count up to 510 ponies. AMG is of course called upon to provide a sport-tuned suspension and race-bred engine for the S65, and this monster of a full-size sedan features a 604 horsepower 12-cylinder mill that displays some of the most incredible engineering in the world of automobiles. Each of these vehicles is backed by a 7-speed automatic transmission, and the base model S550 can be had with all-wheel drive.
A drastically revamped interior has helped to once again vault the S-Class to the top of the luxury sedan class in terms of elegance and fit and finish. Every aspect of the vehicle's functionality has been re-designed in order to improve ease of use, although changes are not so radical as to confuse those familiar with the previous generation sedan. Seating is well above par, and passengers front and back will be ecstatic about the level of comfort they are provided with. The 2007 S-Class uses an intuitive system called COMAND to operate the vehicle's myriad special features and functions, and its nerve center is an LCD screen mounted near the top of the center console in the dash.
The 2007 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is a used sedan that strikes fear into the hearts of automobiles like the Audi A8 and the BMW 7-Series, and it is sure to gather respect on the road from anyone who can appreciate the relentless pursuit of quality and luxury.