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  #1  
Old 11-03-2003, 04:48 AM
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W210 E320 - Straight 6 or V6?

Hi all,

I am thinking of upgrading my W124 to a W210. There are many low mileage E320 with the straight 6 (M104?) out there that are reasonably priced.

Can anyone comment which is the better buy?

I've read about the seals coming off the balance shaft pulley in the V6 engines. As the in-line 6 has been around for so long, is this the way to go?

Thanks!

franj
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  #2  
Old 11-03-2003, 01:33 PM
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There has been a ton of discussion of this site on the merits of the inline-6 M104 vs. the V6. You might experiement with the search function to dig these up.

The V6's have problems with crankshaft balancers, and hopefully the updated part will solve the problem. Other than this, this engine doesn't appear to have any other systemic problems.

M104's had problems with the original head gaskets leaking oil, but after countless redesigns, the new head gasets apparently don't leak.

In the U.S., the W210 E320's with the M104 were sold in 1996 and 1997. I think they are a good value because of a combination of age and higher mileage. Nothing more. I don't think their values are diminished because of the M104. The 1996 E320's have the four speed transmission used in 1993-1995 E320's, while the 1997 E320 has the new 5 speed transmission. It appears the early 5 speed trannies had some problems, so that might be a consideration, too.

In the U.S. the M104 was last used in 1999 in the W140 chassis S320, while the V6 is still in production. This may or may not lead people away from the M104.
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  #3  
Old 11-03-2003, 06:58 PM
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Thanks for the response Paul. I wasn't aware the earlier E320 were equipped with the four speed box. I thought all W210 had 5 speed.

Do you think it is worth the extra money to go the V6 and also to pick up the tiptronic gearbox and other features found in the later models?

BTW, I presume the 5 speed box is less clunky compared to the four speed?

Thanks

franj
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  #4  
Old 11-03-2003, 08:08 PM
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I don't think the 5 speed transmission is any more or less smooth than the 4 speed. With one extra gear, the ratio between the gears is closer, and the 5th gear is more of an overdrive gear for high speed cruising at low rpm's. I'm reasonably sure the 0-60 mph times are slightly quicker for the five speed transmission in 1997, too. However, the early 5 speeds had problems, so that would be a concern for me.

As far as a newer model, I think it is not a question of V6 vs. Inline 6, but rather a question of value, i.e., paying more money to get a newer car with lower miles, and how much money one should pay for less mileage. In any event, buying a used car is all about three (3) things, in this order: records, records, records. The car must have a complete record of proper maintenance, with receipts to back it up. I'd never take the owner's word for it. If it's a dealer car, get a VMI print out (vehicle master inquiry). Also, if you're going to pay $15,000 - $20,000 or more for a used car, it's a good idea to pay $200 for a PPI (pre-purchase inspection).

Depreciation is the most expensive component in car ownership, so the older the car is, the more depreciation that it has incurred. Having said that, the depreciation curve for cars, at least in the U.S., has pretty much flattened out after 5 years. Food for thought.

As far as the tiptronic transmission, I'm not familiar with it so I can't comment on whether it's worth it or not.

As far as later model having more features, the ony thing I can think of that newer models have is in-dash navigation systems.

Last, the accumulated wisdom on this site is that all these "added features" are in the end, not worth it, as they end up becoming a burden due to added repair headaches. These "add ons" are proving to be a quality problem for Mercedes, resulting in their plummeting ratings in quality servings.

I guess in the end, simpler is better from an ownership context.

Just my $.02 (and another $0.98 will buy you a cup of coffee)...
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2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
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  #5  
Old 11-04-2003, 10:57 AM
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I think that the 5-speed is worth every cent over the old 4-speed. Just the fact that the 5 s-speed auto starts off from standstill in first gear instead of second gear like the 4-speed does is enough to completely dismiss the old tranny.

Second-gear starts are slow and frustrating. Having to select first gear with the shifter is annoying.

In terms of the L6 and V6 engines, many people consider the L6 (including myself) to be smoother running that the V6.
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  #6  
Old 11-04-2003, 11:20 AM
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I consider the inline 6 to be smoother, too. A V6 is inherently unbalanced, and Mercedes resorted to counter-rotating balancing shafts to even out the idle. It's a brilliant engineering solution, but I'll take the purity of the straight 6.

Oh, and the four speed transmissions went to first gear start in 1990 or 1991.
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  #7  
Old 11-04-2003, 07:24 PM
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Yes, I love our W124, but we would like to get into something a little newer, but I hate the way the new cars are heading. Full of gadgets and electronic stuff and they all drive and feel the same.

If I can find a W210 with an in-line six with a five speed box, maybe that would be the way to go. Of course, set a budget for gaskets and possible issues with the gearbox?

Has anyone out there worked out an average cost per year of ownership for one of these cars? I'm not talking depreciation, but running costs.

Cheers!

franj
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  #8  
Old 11-08-2003, 05:49 PM
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You know I used to be a big proponent of the inline 6, but with time my opinion has changed. One thing I didn't like about he newer V-6 is I felt ripped off because one of the motivations for it's introduction is that it was an opportunity for Mercedes to reduce costs. It is a cheaper engine to make than the old inline. However having said that the new V-6 is pretty darn smooth. I am very sensitive to NVH and don't really notice much of a degradation in the engines smoothness. Furthermore the new engine burns cleaner and is more efficient and is lighter. The E320 equipped with the new V6 gets remarkable mileage for a car of it's size. With exception of the harmonic balancer issue it seems to be pretty reliable. Just my $0.02
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  #9  
Old 11-08-2003, 06:13 PM
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MBlovr,

You make very good points, and I agree with all of them.

I have read articles in The Star Magazine that point out how smooth and quiet the V6 is compared to the straight 6, by objective standards of measurement.

My boss at work has a 2002 E320, and I have driven in it numerous times, and I am always astonished at how quiet it is. I definitely can notice a difference, but it is hard to quantify. I would guestimate at maybe 10% smoother and quieter, but it is hard to distinguish how much is due to the engine itself, and how much is due to better sound deadening and noise isolation between the engine bay and the passenger compartment. It also goes without saying that the M104 first appeared in the early 90's, which means that it is an engine that can trace its engineering to the 1980's. Even still, the powerplant is refined enough to continue without updating until 1999 in Mercedes' premier chassis, the W140, in the S320.

The V6 is definitely lighter because it is an all aluminum engine. It is also cleaner burning, due to not only better engine control management, and improvements in fuel injection, but mainly due the single overhead cam design with two spark plugs / 3 valves per cylinder. And this, I have read, is the other primary reason for developing this engine - having one cam, instead of two, produces significantly less smog emissions at start-up. It is a shame that reduced cost and lower emissions were the primary reasons for developing this engine, instead of things like more hp or greater longevity.

Last, other than the harmonic balancer issue, which is a relatively inexpensive repair if caught early, there are no other problems I can recall reading about this powerplant. The M104's are highly reliable, too, with the only problem being head gasket failures. However, I'd call it a wash for reliability though, if you believe that the last harmonic balancer update and the latest head gasket update fix the problem(s) forever.

Thus, it's not that Mercedes couldn't continue to refine and update the inline 6 ad infinitum, like BMW. It's just that an inline 6 didn't fit into their long-term goals of reduce size (to fit into smaller and smaller chassis, like the current C class sedans, coupes, and hatchbacks); modularity, and reduced manufacturing cost.
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2001 E430, Bourdeaux Red, Oyster interior.
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1973 280SE 4.5, 170,000 miles. 568 Signal Red, Black MB Tex. "The Red Baron".

Last edited by suginami; 11-08-2003 at 09:14 PM.
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  #10  
Old 11-08-2003, 06:24 PM
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One more important issue about the V-6 engine that fits the new money saving attitude at M-B (replacing the previous motto of "top engineering regardless of cost") is its modular capability.

It is relatively simple and cheap for Mercedes to manufacture a V6 / V8 and V12, all under the same basic design structure (just add or substract cylinders as you need them).

That is why I like much better the M104 engine on my E 320 T and much better the M119 on my S 500 L.

These engines were especifically designed to be an L6 and a powerful V8, not a cheap to manufacture formula of V6s, V8s and V12s.
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  #11  
Old 11-10-2003, 08:38 AM
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The V-6 is not lower cost, per se. The use of three valves per cylinder allows room for the two spark plugs per cylinder. The construction of the block is technically superior to the inline M104. The emphasis for this engine series was to preserve existing power, increase torque and flatten the torque curve, reduce emissions, reduce fuel consumption, reduce the overall size of each engine compared to it's predecessor and control rapidly rising costs. While it is true that the 90 degree design allows for the use of the same tooling as the V-8 and that reduces cost, the main reason for the V-6 as compared to the I-6 is to lower the hoodline and shorten the engine for better packaging, both for safety reasons and aero reasons. The latter engines take up a lot less space in the engine bay, which makes service easier. Believe me, an M119 in an E-Class or SL really makes for access difficulties. Also, the V-12, while sharing the cylinder head concept with the V-6 and V-8, is an entirely different engine. The vee angle is 60 degrees, so the block tooling is unique, among other things. The problems M-B addressed with the M112 V-6 and the M113 V-8 are clearly illustrated by the BMW engines. BMW is having trouble packaing their engines. Their V-8 is a very tall engine, resulting in some curious styling to mask the high hoodline (besides the general weirdness of Chris Bangle's styling). As for longevity, there is no reason to expect the later engines to be shorter lived than the previous engines.
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  #12  
Old 11-12-2003, 06:56 PM
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I wouldn't want to do plug replacement on one of the newer V6, V8, or V12's.

That's 12, 16, and 24 plugs respectively to be exchanged when the time comes. The platinum plugs do not last as long as 100K, either. Just like the transmissions don't last 100K for servicing.
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  #13  
Old 11-13-2003, 08:21 AM
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DslBnz. Actually, the plugs a pretty easy to do. I did them at the 4 year mark (the interval is 100,000 miles or 4 years). Access was good without special tools, at least on my E430. Gilly wrote up a few tips a while back that were quite helpful. The plugs looked like new at 38K, and looked as though they might well go 100K.
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  #14  
Old 11-19-2003, 12:38 AM
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Any comments from the techs regarding the gearboxes?

Or anyone who would like to comment or give their feedback.

Thanks for all the replies so far !!

franj.
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  #15  
Old 10-15-2014, 11:45 AM
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Old post but just wanted to add...

I have had some Mercedes with the older 4 speed gear boxes
93 190E 2.6, 90 300CE, 91 300TE 4MATIC, 93 400E,
and 92 500SL (even after a new tranny install)
and the 5 speed is definitely better

Also having a 96 C280 and currently own a 97 E320 and my sister has a 00 E320 4MATIC and I feel no different between the tiptronic one.
Though the M104 L6 engine in the 97 @ 90k miles seems a little smoother than the M112 V6 in the 2000 @ 130k miles.
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