Mercedes facelifted the W211 in 2006, with a new even bigger-capacity £68,409 E63 AMG model the headline act. But the E63's new 6,208cc V8 motor did away with a supercharger, relying on sheer capacity to deliver the requisite performance. Power peaked at 514hp, whilst torque was impressive 464lbs ft - despite the lack of forced induction - and both steering, braking and handling were improved.
The E55 and E63 feel very different on the road though - the E55 is the blue-collar W211, more raucous, louder, brasher but less sophisticated. Five speeds are more than enough when you have that much torque at low revs and the E55's brute force is exhilarating. The white-collar E63 on the other hand feels far more refined, smoother, better handling perhaps and definitely quieter - at least from the driver's seat. But although it's just as fast as the E55, it doesn't always feel it - unless of course you're prepared to utilise all the revs and gears available. That said, the E63 AMG's engine is surely one of the most impressive production V8s ever made.
Which W211 is best? Well if you plan to modify the car at all then it has to be the E55. Chetan Sharma at Mercedes tuners CKS Performance is in no doubt. "The W211 E55 is my firm favourite for upgrading, we upgrade many every week - the M113 Kompressor engine works in harmony with the W211 E55 chassis, yet the vehicle is still low-profile," he says. "You could park next to one and have no idea what it is capable of!" Add a full exhaust system, a pulley kit, an air filter and a few other ancillary parts and a remap will see your E55 AMG producing in excess of 600hp - and that's 200mph territory. Oliver Stoner at Prestige Car Service agrees. "In my opinion the W211 E55 AMG is the best buy for performance-per-pound - even in standard trim." E63 AMG owners beg to differ though, feeling the more polished E63 is still a better choice.
Buy if: you want one of the UK's ultimate performance bargains (E55 AMG only)
Don't buy if: you're bothered about running costs, or keeping up with the latest fashion
We found: 2004 E55 AMG saloon, Obsidian Black, full service history, 76k miles, £11,500
Poor: Under £9,000 (E55), under £14,000 (E63)
Good: £9,000 to £11,500 (E55), £14,000 to £22,000 (E63)
A1: £11,500+ (E55), £22,000+ (E63)
Special Editions: E63 Performance Pack can add up to £2000 to the asking price
Photos: Tom Begley