Much obliged. I got pretty much all the info I needed. For reader's future reference, the 14-year overview is a selection under "Features" in the page that opens after you select E-class from the home page models menu.
Performance - the numbers explain a lot, with 194 hp - it's ok by current standards although it is porky at 3450lbs - but that's how you get that rock-solid feel right? That explains how it felt on the test drive - can't work miracles with a 4 speed auto. I wonder what the actual 0-60 was for this model. Subjectively, I think it was in the 9-10 second range, but then I don't know what state of tune the car was in. I would at least do the fluid replacements + spark plugs routine anyway.
Head-gasket - augghhh!!! So much for that mystery - I hadn't heard that about the 300e series but since this was a new head design (4V DOHC) - oh well!
Wiring harness - hmmm - how does that manifest itself?
I am hoping to drive this for at least the next couple of years, which would have been equivalent to leasing (buying on loan even worse) than an entry level luxo sedan for that period of time but then I would have 100% equity at the end, unlike the other setups. What had attracted me was the reputation of the 300e for being relatively trouble-free.
Question for the sages - is this particular year model more problematic than any of the other years due to these two problem areas?