It was just over a year ago I had to replace my daily because of a catastrophic failure, the frame around the right rear suspension had rusted away. As detailed in a post about auto journos not heeding their own advise (buying a German car out of warranty without a PPI) I acquired a 2007 Mercedes E350 4Matic wagon which had a few issues I found out after the fact.
For the last twelve months, I’ve driven the wagon with almost no issues, a flat tire and I had to replace the front brakes. Other than that it had been mint. I’d taken it on several trips over 500 miles and it was fantastic. The car was quiet, comfortable for those long trips, and it returned 24mpg on the highway. It hauled my Mastiff around, swallowed all kinds of items from Home Depot, in other words, it was exactly the vehicle I had hoped it to be.
Then, it all went pear-shaped.
I was coming home from an event two weeks ago when coming off the freeway the car felt like it was running only five cylinders. I didn’t give it too much of a thought but then I had a warning come up the display about the stability program having an issue. This came along with what felt like a dead accelerator pedal, I’d press it, but there was no additional forward motion.
I was now on a surface street so I pulled into a parking lot, shut the car off, pulled the key and opened the driver’s door. For many cars this is the equivalent of Control-Alt-Delete. I waited about thirty seconds and started the car up. Whatever the problem was seemed to have reset and I was off again. That lasted for about half a mile when the problem reoccurred.
Once again I pulled off into a parking lot and tried to reset the system, but it was to no avail. Thankfully I was less than 10 miles from home and I was just able to limp the car home, the top speed was about 20 miles an hour, and it was a little stressful. In the last mile or so the car started jerking badly, and I had to pull off to the side of the road to let some cars go buy as the two-lane street I was on was a 40 MPH zone.
Monday came and I had the Benz on a flatbed to a local independent shop that specializes in Mercedes and BMW’s. I got the call on Tuesday that I didn’t want to hear. There were multiple problems and one of them was going to be rather expensive to repair. Problem one was I needed a new intake manifold. The valve mechanism for the variable intake track had failed and it was almost fully closed. So, new manifold installed, $1,900. OK. Now, the owner said, that’s not the real problem. I can replace the intake, and take your money, but you have another problem where the engine may completely fail. The dreaded balance shaft issue was an issue.
By mid-2007 Mercedes had addressed an issue with the balance shafts in their V6’s and for those that were affected they had extended the warranty. Well, my car was early 2007 model year, and the previous owner either didn’t know or didn’t take advantage of the extended warranty to have the issue addressed. The cost to fix this, $4,700!
So to have both items fixed would be about the entire worth of the car.
Now, the reason older Mercedes and BMW’s tend to be inexpensive to purchase is the cost to fix them when they go bad. You are buying at a discount and gambling that you just end up with “standard” running costs. I gambled, I lost.
There is a minor upside to the story, the mechanic at the shop who was working on my car just had a second child and was looking for a wagon. He offered me $1,500 for my car, I got him up to $1,700 and we shook hands on the deal.
I am now looking for another vehicle, and yes I am looking for a wagon. I have found that for me, and my lifestyle, for a daily, I MUCH prefer a wagon to a crossover or SUV. Will I be buying another Mercedes wagon? Yes, but not right away. Give me a year or so to get some things sorted, we had to have the drain tiles done in the basement this year, those that own your own house and have had to deal with it will know the cost of that, and I will again look for a Merc wagon. This time though I will get one that is a CPO, even if that costs more money up front than I’d care to part with.
You see, for a vehicle I will drive on a regular basis, the E-Class Merc wagon is perfect size, it handles very well, has plenty of acceleration to deal with the daily grind, and when you need to pound out the miles, you can do a 400-600 mile day and not feel worn out when you arrive at your destination.
Yes I still want a “fun” car, and I will get one as soon as I can sell my Mustang. I’ll move on to something else, a Lotus Elise is a leading contender right now, but for a daily, give me something that doesn’t cause me pain and suffering. Been there and done that for way too many years, and to paraphrase Detective Murdock in Lethal Weapon, “I’m getting too old for that shit”.