Let me pipe in here.
My brother is a Mechanic on european cars for an independent shop. I talked to him about various cars. And he did advise about staying away form the 140 style. Not that it was not a fabulous car but the few things that were going wrong with the car were very expensive to repair.
What I wanted was a 126 style diesel. We had a 86 300SDL and loved the car. I got to a perfect 350SDL 20 minuted to late. I wish I could have bought that car. Our 300SDL has issues but in general it has been a reliable car. I wanted a replacement. we were looking at a new injection pump, rebuilt tranny and the compression on #1 cylinder was dropping. We bought the 99 E300. I intended to keep the car untill I retire in 2014. I purchased the Starmark Premium warrantee, 8 year 100,000mi. My son was just getting his license and my wife asked do you want him to wreck your new car. So we kept the 300SDL for him to drive. Now my daughter drives it. It has been since the summer of 1999 that they have been driving it, about 5000mi a year, and I have not put a dime into the car except fluid/filter changes, a $0.20 repair to the cracked fan shroud and the plastic window slide on the passenger door. The car has not cost me anything.
The 99 E300 has not had the reliability that I had hoped for. the more bells and whisles you put on a car the more you have to go wrong. My concerns about the glow plug reliability ( which is an expensive repair, especially removing the intake manifold to do it), the electrical snafus, the expense of replacing the whole climate control panel beause a bulb burns out. Just makes me wonder about the long term cost of the vehicle.
Has the auto industry created such a complicated piece of equipment that maintaining them is accelerating tremendously.
Technology causes certain methods of design which causes certain mantainance headaches. Luxury causes optional equipment that years ago, think of my 1982 300TD, that you didn't have. of course its easy to maintain the 300TD. No auto windows, electric seats, electronic temp controls etc. etc. This produces a vehicle that is easy to maintain and with the engineering of Mercedes it produces a quality, long lasting vehicle. But what has happened in the last 10 years?
The Mercedes vehicle has be come extremely complicated and I sence a change in the service product that is provided by Mercedes dealers. This I sence everywhere in the US service sector. Not just cars.
I will keep the 82 300TD, they are starting to become a little rare and I like the idea of keeping it. I will keep the 88 560SL that is my baby. And for the present time I will keep the 99 E300. But if it starts becoming expensive I will get ride of it. Because of it's service history the car is sort of on "probation" with me. I have the starmark warrantee, but over the next 2 years if its going to the shop to much I will get rid of it. And I'm afraid I will lease a Honda/Acura or Toyoto/Lexus. I had a 86 Acura legend. It was in the shop 1 time in 5 years, plus normal service. The reliabilty and expense of cars and car repairs makes me seriously look into the lease option. Lease it 3 years while its under warrantee and then give it back to them before it runs out of warrantee and get another one. Additionally you can learn about the cars reliability and if its a good one, buy it out of the lease. If its not give it back.
The problems with the E300 May be dealer related. I have left the dealer I was using and returned to ******** in Dallas. I went to them for 17 years and was very happy with them. I left due to the other dealer opening closer to my house. BUT, I just had the car in for A service and they replaced the serpentine belt. The mechanic did not torque the fan clutch bolt and we had some damage to the car. Broken fan blades and damaged fan shroud. The difference is that my service rep was right on top of it. Sent a tow truck and had it fixed in 1 day. The bad repair should not have happened but how they handled the situation was much better then the other dealer.
Cars need work, But over the 22 years I have owned Mercedes I have seen a change in quality and service. The largest change came when Schrempp took over and he wanted to become this worldwide conglomerate. I owned Mercedes ADR stock and kept a keen eye on the changes that have occured since the merge. When he bought Chrysler, they did not bring Chrylsler up to Mercedes levels. I think Chrysler dragged Mercedes down. Schrempp turned Mercedes into a fad car not one of extreme reliability. That's what it used to be.
1970 220D, owned 1980-1990
1980 240D, owned 1990-1992
1982 300TD, owned 1992-1993
1986 300SDL, owned 1993-2004
1999 E300, owned 1999-2003
1982 300TD, 213,880mi, owned since Nov 18, 1991- Aug 4, 2010 SOLD
1988 560SL, 100,000mi, owned since 1995
1965 Mustang Fastback Mileage Unknown(My sons)
1983 240D, 176,000mi (My daughers) owned since 2004
2007 Honda Accord EX-L I4 auto, the new daily driver
1985 300D 264,000mi Son's new daily driver.(sold)
2008 Hyundai Tiberon. Daughters new car