My wife just sold her 1998 E300, and she's driving our 'ol reliable 1990 190E 2.6 until she finds a suitable SLK.
The 190E 2.6 has been in our family for years (I owned it, sold it to Dad, and now I've bought it back) and has been a solid car, never once leaving a driver stranded.
The engine is still strong and tight. The AC blows cold (though not like a "current" car, but enough for even hot days) and the car drives great.
190E vs C-Class? Well, I do like the C much better, mainly due to it's better handling and better ACC, but otherwise the 190E is still a great car.
One caveat with the 2.6 is the crowded engine bay making DIY repairs a little tougher than on the four banger versions.
1998 C230 "Black Betty"