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Used Mercedes E-Class review: 1996-1998

Looking for a used Mercedes-Benz?

Buy with confidence; all Mercedes-Benz Certified Pre-Owned vehicles come with a factory backed warranty, 100 point safety check, comprehensive service history and 24hr roadside assistance.

There are bigger and more expensive Benzes and there are smaller and cheaper ones, but the mid-sized E-Class is what the star marque is all about.

MODEL WATCH

The E-Class was one of the new generation of models that helped Mercedes regain much of the ground it lost to the first Lexus.  The previous W124 E-Class was a resounding success so the new W210 had much to live up to.

At first it seemed it might struggle, with traditional Mercedes owners horrified at their first sighting of the bug-eyed front-end styling. It doesn't rate a second glance now, but back then it was regarded as radical.  Beyond the front end the styling was smooth and typical of Benz: strong and substantial.

There were two models launched in 1996 – the four-cylinder E230 and six-cylinder E320. Both were available in Classic and the more luxurious Elegance versions.  All had better crash protection than the previous model.

There were refined crumple zones, stronger passenger cells, new load-sensing seat belts, dual airbags and optional side airbags for front-seat occupants.  Active safety systems included ABS and traction control.

The E230 was powered by a double overhead cam 2.3-litre fuel-injected four-cylinder engine, pumping out 110kW when working at its peak, and 220Nm. For performance there was the E320, which had a 3.2-litre straight six. With double overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder and fed by fuel-injection, the smooth six boasted 162kW and 315Nm.

A smooth five-speed auto was the choice when it came to transmission. The suspension was independent front and rear, steering was power assisted, brakes were powerful discs all round, with the assistance of ABS.

The E230 Classic came with full wheel covers, cloth trim, cruise control, airconditioning, remote central locking, power windows and mirrors, immobiliser and radio-cassette sound. Step up to an Elegance and you got alloy wheels, leather steering wheel, 10-stack CD sound and auto-dipping interior mirror.

When you ordered an E320 Classic you got all of that, plus 10-stack CD sound, multifunction instrument display and an illuminated vanity mirror.  In July 1997 Mercedes moved to a new generation of V6 engines and a 164kW 3.2-litre version replaced the 3.2-litre straight six in the E320. The E230 continued until January 1998, when it was replaced by the E240 with a 125kW 2.4-litre double overhead camshaft V6.

IN THE SHOP

Most Mercedes are well looked after in their first years, usually by people who can not only afford to buy them, but who can also afford to service them.  After that they tend to be sold off to people who sometimes struggle to keep up the maintenance. That's where they can have trouble, particularly if service is done by people who aren't familiar with the car and generic parts are used.

If you want all the E-Class can give, look for one with a genuine Mercedes service history, if not by a dealer, then by a recognised specialist with a Mercedes background.  The E-Class stands up well to the rigours of daily life on the road. They are tough and reliable. Go for a E320 if your budget will stand it, otherwise try a later V6 rather than the small E230 four.

Look for evidence of an uncaring owner – scratches down the sides, scarred bumpers, damaged alloy wheels. Also do the usual checks for evidence of a crash: uneven panel gaps, mismatched paint and doors, or a boot lid or bonnet that doesn't open smoothly.

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
1998 $5,800 $19,360
1997 $5,300 $20,680
1996 $5,000 $20,680

View all Mercedes-Benz E-Class pricing and specifications

Pricing guides

$12,840
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$5,000
Highest Price
$20,680

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
E220 CA 2.2L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $14,700 – 20,680 1996 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 1996 E220 CA Pricing and Specs
E220 C 2.2L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $7,300 – 11,330 1996 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 1996 E220 C Pricing and Specs
E36 3.6L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $11,100 – 16,280 1996 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 1996 E36 Pricing and Specs
E320 Avantgarde 3.2L, PULP, 4 SP AUTO $7,600 – 11,770 1996 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 1996 E320 Avantgarde Pricing and Specs
Graham Smith
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$5,800

Lowest price, based on third party pricing data

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