well...i'm not entirely sure that you need to be too worried about the 500E. those m119 engines are pretty close to bulletproof. the tranys and the running gear as well. Remember, all that stuff came off of the R129 and the 500E is 10% lighter than that car is.
true, they can be expesnive to maintain, but that's only if you need engine or tranny work...and regardless of what car it is, that sort of thing is ALWAYS expensive. Regular maintenance is quite reasonable...in fact, the routine maintenance schedule is not very different than that of the 300E. and don't forget...ALL of the parts are standard MB parts and are available through the dealer.
When considering the purchase of a 500E check all of the regular things to determine what kind of care (or neglect) the car has been subject to. All of the usual caveats apply.
The timing chain isn't a huge concern with these cars...unless they've been abused. after 100,000 miles they MAY have worn to the point on needing replacement, but that is not common. the only other thing that MAY need checking would be the suspension bushings.
If you want a good guide on how to pick a 500, pick up the June 1999 issue of european car magazine. it's the first of 5 "ultra buys" and it covers the 500E in pretty good detail, and tells you what to look out for.
the only thing the article DOESN'T mention is that some people have had problems with the brakes on '92 and early '93 cars. initially the 500E was equipped with aluminum 4 pot calipers by Brembo and 295mm rotors. in some cases, this combo would warp rotors under heavy use. also this system was prone to making excess noise because of the flexing of the calipers. later models used 500SL brakes which are cast iron 4 pot calipers made by ATE mated to 300mm rotors...and even later models used 600SL brakes...same calipers, but the rotors were 320mm.
One of our cars has the original aluminum calipers and the other has the 600SL brakes on it. neither of them have been problematic, but this varies from car to car, and it seems that the dealer's respose was at each dealer's discretion. some dealers warrantied the brake upgrades while others would not admit that there was a problem with the early brakes.
Again, evaluate each car individually as these things vary from car to car.
hope this helps.
'93 500E black pearl/black leather; 89,000km; 245/45-ZR17 Michelin Pilot SX; 17x8.25 factory EvoII
'93 500E bornit(blackberry)/black leather; 69,000km; european delivery; 245/45-ZR17 Michelin Pilot SX; 17x8.25 factory EvoII
'88 560SL desert taupe/dark brown leather; 89,000km; Euro headlights
'87 190E 2.3-16 black pearl/black leather; 55,000mi; Euro headlights
'70 280SL white/red; 135,000mi (original); factory alloys; Euro headlights
[This message has been edited by yhliem (edited 10-17-2000).]