No, I actually prefer the W124 chassis over the W210 chassis.
I think you'll have trouble finding a '97 E420 within your budget.
'97 E420's start at about $25,000 with high mileage in Southern California.
If you buy a '95 E420 for around $19,000 with a Starmark Warranty, you're going to pay about $20,900 out the door including sales tax, license and registration.
You could easily afford a C280 sport model or a '96-'97 W210 chassis E320 with around 100,000 miles within your budget.
2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".