RE: Mercedes E55 AMG: PH Used Buying Guide

RE: Mercedes E55 AMG: PH Used Buying Guide

Wednesday 31st October

Mercedes E55 AMG: PH Used Buying Guide

The E55 AMG had the muscle to take on genuine sports cars. Now it's a serious performance bargain



Back when 400hp seemed like an awful lot of power for a saloon car, Mercedes upped the ante by a big margin with its E55 AMG. The muscular four-door packed the same 476hp supercharged 5.4-litre V8 motor as the SL55 drop-top and created a saloon or estate that could crack 0-60mph in 4.6 seconds - identical to the 997 Porsche 911 Carrera of the time.

Top speed was buffered at 155mph, but that was easily circumnavigated and 180mph was reckoned to be within reach, which left AMG's brute just a couple of miles an hour down on Stuttgart's more focused sports car. For a five-seat family car to keep up with an entry-level 911 was impressive, but that it was priced at an almost identical level made it an even more compelling package.


Despite coming with all that talent, Mercedes stuck with its policy of the time of making its AMG models very hard to distinguish from the mainstream versions they were based on. You had to look hard to spot the four tailpipes and subtle 'V8 Kompressor' badges on the front wings, because otherwise, it looked largely like a regular E-Class.

Step inside and it was equally low-key, even if Merc had raided the options list of just about every conceivable extra to cram into the E55. As a result, this AMG came with heated leather seats, CD autochanger, Harmon/Kardon stereo and Dynamic seats with active bolsters that inflate automatically as you corner to keep the front occupants held in place.


Appealing as all this was (assuming it's in working order) it's what's under the bonnet that makes the E55 special. The supercharged 5.4-litre V8 came with colossal torque, which not only helped acceleration off the line but made the E55 a formidable point-to-point machine. And it was no crude dragster as AMG had worked its magic on the suspension by tuning the air springs to resist body roll better than the in other W211 E-Class models. Still, the E-Class rode the bumps with more supple control than an Audi RS6 and, like this rival, the AMG was available in saloon and estate forms. So the dogs could come along, too.

Early cars have been known to rust around the wheelarches, but most E55s have led charmed lives so you should avoid anything that's not perfectly straight and clean. From 2004 onwards, Mercedes got on top of its troubles with tin worm, so any later E55 should be completely solid.


You'll also find plenty of E55s that have been modified in some way. This is not necessarily your cue to run for the hills so long as the work has been carried out by a recognised tuner and there are receipts to back up the seller's claims. It's relatively easy to free up 600hp from the 5.4-litre engine with an exhaust, supercharger pulley kit and remap. With that sort of power, there are W211 E55s capable of 200mph. The brake by wire SBC (Sensotronic Brake Control) system is up to the job, though some find the pedal doesn't have the feel and progression of earlier AMG models.

Actually finding an E55 AMG may well be your biggest problem with the car. There are only ever a handful for sale at any time, so it's worth making friends with specialists and forums to find out when good cars do come up. Stick to the classifieds and W211 E55s start at £8,000 for early saloons. Budget £12,000 for a good saloon or estate with average miles, while the best examples of either will nudge towards £20,000 as the car is now gaining classic status.




Buyer's checklist

Bodywork and interior
Cars made from 2004-on have better corrosion protection, but it's still worth looking for rust around the wheelarches.
The sat-nav and infotainment screen is outdated by modern standards and is also prone to failure. It's expensive to fix, so many owners just live without it.

Engine and transmission
Higher mileage cars can suffer from crankshaft position sensor failure, which can force the computer to prevent engine running.
The seal around the oil level sensor can also perish and lead to minor oil leaks if not addressed.
Intercooler pumps can fail, requiring replacement
Gearbox cooler pipes can corrode where they join the radiator.


Suspension and steering
E55's come with Airmatic suspension, so make sure it works by changing the suspension settings several times during a test drive.
If there is an issue, it could be related to a leak or failure of the pump itself.

Wheels, tyres and brakes
Replacement discs and pads are quite reasonable from specialists at around £450 for a full set of discs and pads. However, if the fluid has to be changed it requires the car being connected to a computer with the relevant software because of the SBC (Sensotronic Brake Control) pump.
The SBC pump has a service life and costs around £1600 to replace. It can be rebuilt, though, for around £400 by Sinspeed.
A set of four tyres will cost around £800.


SPECIFICATION- MERCEDES-BENZ E55 AMG

Engine: 5,439cc, V8, supercharged
Transmission: 5-speed auto
Power(hp): 476@6,100rpm
Torque(lb ft): 516@2,650-4,500rpm
MPG: 21.9
CO2: 310g/km
Price new: £60,640
Price now: £8,000 upwards




Author
Discussion

gstubbs010893

Original Poster:

12 posts

37 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
My old man had one of these when they are new, I was around 12-16 during his ownership. It was an effin' rocketship.

He's subsequently had some cool cars, 911's, M6 GC and currently a 991 GT3 but nothing quite sucked in the kidneys like this did, nor sounded as naughty (especially given the exterior demeanor of the car)

That said, it broke A LOT. And I'd still have a wagon in a heartbeat if I had the cash to run it and needed the big boot.



Edited by gstubbs010893 on Wednesday 31st October 10:51

Alex_225

2,915 posts

137 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
I absolutely love these but then I own an E320 CDI of the same era and despite it's near 130k mileage, is one of the best overall cars I've owned.

I can only imagine it being much the same but with more power and a decent chunk of torque, plus the sound. A bit of tweaking to 600bhp would make it all the better.

Absolute bargain of a car now although as with any older V8, potential for expensive bills.

rtz62

1,550 posts

91 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
Sorry guys at PH Towers, but I can't help but think that these 'buying guides' have become little more than a vague description of the car and a few brief pointers.


Ok, I appreciate that people who are genuinely interested would probably join the appropriate owners forums, but I much prefer the old buying guides seen on here. They had some depth of information and a brief synopsis from owners on each part of the guide.


How about shaking the buyers guides up, get them back to what they once were, and perhaps a brief video highlighting each part of the guide, as in drivetrain, interior etc etc?

Back to these, I love them but would I own one? Hmmm, as petitioned on Fifth Gear a week or so ago, they compete with the M5, and both have such potential to empty your wallet faster than an ex-wife that I'd have to think twice. Or thrice....

Krikkit

13,497 posts

117 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
rtz62 said:
Back to these, I love them but would I own one? Hmmm, as petitioned on Fifth Gear a week or so ago, they compete with the M5, and both have such potential to empty your wallet faster than an ex-wife that I'd have to think twice. Or thrice....
I'd have one of these over an E39 M5 - it won't appreciate as much, but to me it looks better, sounds much better with a supercharger, and doesn't attract the slightly yobbish image that a sporty E39 does.

cb1965

2,576 posts

81 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
Krikkit said:
rtz62 said:
Back to these, I love them but would I own one? Hmmm, as petitioned on Fifth Gear a week or so ago, they compete with the M5, and both have such potential to empty your wallet faster than an ex-wife that I'd have to think twice. Or thrice....
I'd have one of these over an E39 M5 - it won't appreciate as much, but to me it looks better, sounds much better with a supercharger, and doesn't attract the slightly yobbish image that a sporty E39 does.
Crikey, it's funny how we are all different.. I'd have an E39 M5 every single time over one of these for just about every reason imaginable.... better handling, better looking, more reliable, better built, appreciating asset, more dynamic etc. etc. It's just an all round better car in every way. The E55 is a one trick pony and that trick is the engine!
Advertisement

ZX10R NIN

12,267 posts

61 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
cb1965 said:
Crikey, it's funny how we are all different.. I'd have an E39 M5 every single time over one of these for just about every reason imaginable.... better handling, better looking, more reliable, better built, appreciating asset, more dynamic etc. etc. It's just an all round better car in every way. The E55 is a one trick pony and that trick is the engine!
I'll give you most of the positives but more reliable, that's one I'm not having E39 M5's are not more reliable than the E55 (I speak from experience having a potentially more ruinous SL55 while my brother had an E39 M5) they're far from a one trick pony but the engine does dominate.

Caddyshack

1,092 posts

142 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
I had one, it changed up in to top gear at 153mph and had the limiter removed.

It went wrong in expensive ways...Abc pump, Torque Converter, 3 ECU controllers for heated seats, Supercharger clutch, Supercharger cooling pump and they always struggled to get it to track in a straight line.

Very fast car though, loads of torque and put the power down really well.

WCZ

6,004 posts

130 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
Alex_225 said:
I absolutely love these but then I own an E320 CDI of the same era and despite it's near 130k mileage, is one of the best overall cars I've owned.

I can only imagine it being much the same but with more power and a decent chunk of torque, plus the sound. A bit of tweaking to 600bhp would make it all the better.

Absolute bargain of a car now although as with any older V8, potential for expensive bills.
I had both, the 55 was so much better than the 320cdi! both were decent though

the following e63 was one of the best cars I've ever owned - also an insanely good second hand buy today @ ~£15-20k!




DKL

3,280 posts

158 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
They're superb machines. 7 seater estate with nearly 500bhp. Ok fuel consumption isn't great but who cares.
I might have a 5.5 turbo e63 but I'm not sure it will be any better than what i have.

rtz62

1,550 posts

91 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
Just re-read my post, and it sounds a little harsh, which was not my intention at all!

I just feel that if it is a buyers guide then perhaps we should be looking at content that is a little more forensic in detail and that gives you a 'one-stop shop' to examine all the pro's and con's of ownership, reliability and costs etc?

Still think an embedded video to sit within or alongside the guide might be good too.


As for this or an M5, I always feel the M5 is the more 'hardcore' car and the Mercedes is more the cruiser in a Hugo Boss suit.

Krikkit

13,497 posts

117 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
cb1965 said:
Crikey, it's funny how we are all different.. I'd have an E39 M5 every single time over one of these for just about every reason imaginable.... better handling, better looking, more reliable, better built, appreciating asset, more dynamic etc. etc. It's just an all round better car in every way. The E55 is a one trick pony and that trick is the engine!
Better looking is a bit subjective, to me both are very nice examples of a muscular saloon without being too shouty like the moderns.

I'm sure the M5 is better down a tight road, but there's a fluidity and capability with the 211 airmatic cars that really suits A-road cruising, even before AMG had their tinker with it. It handles very well, all things considered.

In terms of an all-round car, imho it has the M5 beaten - it's got an auto box which means it's effortless in traffic, pottering and general duty unlike the M5. It's also got more creature comforts to make it more usable on longer journeys etc, and it's available as an estate.

As for reliability there are many, many horror stories about both. At least in the E55 the engine is pretty much unburstable which can't be said about the S62B50. The rest of the build is again, quite variable - the E39 is one of BMW's best efforts, but it does have its problems (and rust!), as does the E55. There's a lot of tech in the E55 to go wrong, but most of it is either easy to fix with a bit of patience or can be ignored.

The M5 will appreciate if not really used, but I'd proffer a good E55 will also go up soon, prices have firmed up even over the last 12 months or so, and are stubbornly refusing to drop below £8k for anything other than a shed.



Edited by Krikkit on Wednesday 31st October 13:44

TheAngryDog

8,280 posts

145 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
Had one, after 2 E39 M5's. I would have another, but I'd also have another E39. Great cars, monstrous In a straight line but I did feel that it did not offer the same driving dynamics as the M5. The E60 M5 (when it was working) put that right, but much less reliable. My E39's weren't the most reliable, but had rust but they had a soul. The E55 didn't stir the same. But imo they're different cars built in slightly different times and with different objectives. The E39 had a manual 6 speed box, the E55 a 5 speed auto. It was a great cruiser and I haven't owned anything that was as effortless and could get you places as quick in the same level of comfort.

Gerradi

434 posts

56 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
Caddyshack said:
I had one, it changed up in to top gear at 153mph and had the limiter removed.

It went wrong in expensive ways...Abc pump, Torque Converter, 3 ECU controllers for heated seats, Supercharger clutch, Supercharger cooling pump and they always struggled to get it to track in a straight line.

Very fast car though, loads of torque and put the power down really well.
they don't have a ABC pump, thats on the SL/CL for the Suspension & brakes & steering, these have air suspension & (what you may be thinking of) a SBC pump for the Brakes. I have not really heard of many of them breaking (?), they are supposed to have a counter but that would take a lot of miles or a decade plus, mine was @127k when I sold it & no problems ...in fact a very reliable & comfortable.
The G/box & T/converters are reknown to be very robust & reliable, the supercharger clutch may chirp so what ? The Intercooler pump is a self fit 20mins job ,fit an uprated Johnson pump or a later Bosch job, changing spark plugs is more difficult than this....




Edited by Gerradi on Wednesday 31st October 15:06

WCZ

6,004 posts

130 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
DKL said:
They're superb machines. 7 seater estate with nearly 500bhp. Ok fuel consumption isn't great but who cares.
I might have a 5.5 turbo e63 but I'm not sure it will be any better than what i have.
tighter handling on them and better steering imo

nicfaz

234 posts

166 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
These were rated as 469bhp just because Merc wanted some distance between the cheaper E55 /SL55 and the top of the range S55/CL55. They should all have 500bhp+ from the factory if fit. This means that a standard E55 is close to cracking 200mph without mods (apart from de-limit), maybe even would on a cool day given enough road. They will run mid 12s quarter mile without mods too. Seriously fast cars.

Caddyshack

1,092 posts

142 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
Gerradi said:
Caddyshack said:
I had one, it changed up in to top gear at 153mph and had the limiter removed.

It went wrong in expensive ways...Abc pump, Torque Converter, 3 ECU controllers for heated seats, Supercharger clutch, Supercharger cooling pump and they always struggled to get it to track in a straight line.

Very fast car though, loads of torque and put the power down really well.
they don't have a ABC pump, thats on the SL/CL for the Suspension & brakes & steering, these have air suspension & (what you may be thinking of) a SBC pump for the Brakes. I have not really heard of many of them breaking (?), they are supposed to have a counter but that would take a lot of miles or a decade plus, mine was @127k when I sold it & no problems ...in fact a very reliable & comfortable.
The G/box & T/converters are reknown to be very robust & reliable, the supercharger clutch may chirp so what ? The Intercooler pump is a self fit 20mins job ,fit an uprated Johnson pump or a later Bosch job, changing spark plugs is more difficult than this....




Edited by Gerradi on Wednesday 31st October 15:06
My honest ownership experience seems to have offended your experience.

Sorry, it was a while ago, it was SBC, it ABC, silly me. It also made an annoying buzz through the brake pedal even when fixed (yes, they all do that sir was the reply) Mine failed at around 85,000 miles and AMG / Merc put in some good will on many issues as my friend owned a dealership group of 4 sites. I sold mine at around 150,000 miles but most isssues were before 100,000.

The torque converter went on mine and a friends went on his sl55 AMG at a very similar time, one drive of my car and the tech knew what it was, it felt like a misfire when changing between 3rd and 4th.

The squeak / chirrup from the supercharger clutch was loud and annoying especially for a car where part of the ownership experience was the sound.


Edited by Caddyshack on Wednesday 31st October 17:09

midenginedcoupe

3,737 posts

68 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
These are just wonderful cars. I’ve had mine for maybe 5 years or so and it still makes me grin every time I get in it.

You’ll need a couple of grand a year to run it though, all it’s parts seem to be made of unobtanium and you pour petrol through it rather than in it, but it’s all worth it for the combination of beautifully refined cruising and savage acceleration.

There’s genuinely not a car on the market for <£100k that I’d rather have instead.

Chris944_S2

1,395 posts

159 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
I have a Brabus tweaked version of one of these, because 476bhp clearly isn’t enough.
Fantastic piece of kit, and yes it is a one trick pony but what a trick biggrin
As for the reliability issues well I’ve had the crank position sensor die and had to call the AA, but it’s a simple fix so I’d advise any owner to do as preventative maintenance. I’ve also had the fuel pump short out and die, that was a bit more costly but it’s not a known fault on these as far as I’m aware.

J4CKO

25,723 posts

136 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
Came very close as the next logical step from a CLS 500 of the 5.5 variety, they share a lot of underpinnings, I had to change the suspension pump, cost me £104 plus £20 to get the codes read to confirm it was the pump, then an hour and a half to swap it. Apart from the engine on these, most of it is non AMG specific, unlike the E63 the brakes are cheap.

The engines themselves tend to be as tough as they come, only the odd supercharger cooling thing as mentioned, the airmatic suspension units themselves are available for £400 a corner, but really you shouldnt be terrified of Airmatic, its really not that bad.

Watch out for a bit of rust and cars that have been run on the cheap, ditchfinders on a circa 500 bhp super saloon.

Its a buyers market as they are still at the cheap old fast Merc phase, they havent ascended to the dizzy heights that some cars do, despite being a bit of a monster, its not that they dont handle well, but they are a bit of a E320 diesel with a party piece of instant and pretty impressive acceleration, the auto box is the old 5 speed and seems a bit slow and dumb compared to newer types.

As ageing super saloon go, its probably the least likely to bankrupt you (E60 M5 I am looking at you....) especially if you dont buy a hound and can do bits yourself, never read of anyone killing the actual oily bits of the engine. most are pre the £555 VED, not a huge saving int he scheme of running a car like this but it all helps.

You can have the same mechanical package in the CLS body in the shape of the CLS55 as well, ostensibly the same car more or less.

Ten grand will get you something half decent, dont pay over the odds, they tend to hang round for a long time based on my long search that I eventually decided not to bother with, mainly as was being made redundant.

Be interesting to see if these ever get collectible.


Francis85

160 posts

4 months

Wednesday 31st October
quotequote all
Gerradi said:

Edited by Gerradi on Wednesday 31st October 15:06
Yours looks great.

The pics in the main article are horrible. Make the car look awful.