SOTW: Mercedes E300 Turbodiesel

Pride, so they say, comes before a fall. That motto pretty much sums up Mercedes' fall from grace at the turn of the millennium.

We'll leave the fine detail to the automotive historians, but nobody - not even Mercedes - disputes the Chrysler alliance went badly wrong. Coincidentally or otherwise, a nosedive in Mercedes quality kicked in shortly after the 1998 merger/takeover, blighting Benzes for years after. Indeed, many Merc diehards have foresworn the brand for ever as a result of their experiences in the early 2000s.

Not exactly racy but frees funds for a toy too
Not exactly racy but frees funds for a toy too
This week's Shed, a W210 E300 Turbodiesel, was born in that troubled year of 1998. Fear not, though. By the looks of it, this one came off the line before the accountants replaced 'only the best' on the material procurement sheets with 'Borat grade'.

Superseding the oblong-headlamped W124, the four-light W210 was launched in 1996, facelifted in 1999, and succeeded by the more slope-fronted W211 in 2002. This classic three-boxer reeks of respectability and solidity. It is a saloon, full stop. The only hatch you'll find here is a square hole grudgingly cut into the middle of the back seat for ski toting.

Even before the Chrysler debacle, Mercedes electrics were showing signs of weakness, so the best W210 Sheds are the ones with the lowest toy count. Being an Avantgarde, which (outside of AMG models) was top spec if you ranked its sportiness above the Elegance's comfort, this one does have a few features, but none of them are mission-critical. The absence of the potentially troublesome sunroof is a particular relief.

It's all very sober ... apart from the upholstery!
It's all very sober ... apart from the upholstery!
Two more plus points about the Avantgarde are its firmer suspension and slightly less urgent cabin wood. The original buyer didn't specify moo for the seats, which means it is blessed with a fabric design so abstract a painter and decorator could do a rolling programme of improvements on it just by throwing his cans and brushes straight in there at the end of a day's hard graft.

As you'd expect, it does have automatic climate control, which can fail, as can diesel injectors and glowplugs. A weird one to look out for is the transmission cooler housed inside the radiator, perhaps not the smartest piece of engineering design in M-B's history.

But can't you just taste the potential smugness of being behind the wheel of such a beast for under a grand? For a feel of what you'd be in for, here's a video walkround and 0-60 run up the road in an American one of the same vintage.

Shed does 'sensible transport' shocker
Shed does 'sensible transport' shocker
As you can see, hear, and possibly even feel depending on the quality of your speakers, that 3.0-litre TD lump isn't the last word in refinement, but you can expect 30mpg-plus, 135mph and 0-60 in under nine seconds - all very decent numbers.

Digital images can flatter to deceive, but those shutlines look bankvault-tight and there's no sign of wheelarch or wing rust. OK, so it's not an estate, and the wheels will need a refurb, but once that's done you're all set with a one-owner, low mileage, Mercedes exec from the good old days (just), with FSH, a semi-desirable reg number, £220 road tax, and a Shed price. Surely worth a gamble as a relaxed daily smoker.

Advert is reproduced below.

300E Avantgarde Turbodiesel Salon (£995)
Parktronic, Rain Sensor, Electric Folding Mirrors, Headlight Washers, Automatic Climate Control, Memory Power Driver Seat and Steering Wheel, Blaupunkt radio/CD player, Ski Hatch to Boot, Avon tyres, Serviced May 2012, MOT to April 2013, FSH, Two keys, One driver from new



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Comments (169) Join the discussion on the forum

  • GranCab 05 Oct 2012

    Nice shed - but I spotted an E430 V8 on Autotrader for the same money ...

  • court 05 Oct 2012

    Weren't late 90's seat fabrics awful? They're almost as bad as the ones on sporting Peugeots of the same era.

  • LaurasOtherHalf 05 Oct 2012

    Semi desirable reg number confused

  • CampDavid 05 Oct 2012

    From the good old days? This ones a poster child for the worst of Mercedes build.

    Still, great shed and a cheap way to get to work

  • Bargenosenti 05 Oct 2012

    Now where near exciting enough, head more left of field next time!

    Given that PH Sunday Service is a Benz world, I wonder how they treat the 1998-2000 era in the 'collection'!

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