We’ve all heard it: twenty grand just doesn’t go as far as it used to. Well, I beg to differ. While it may only cover about two-thirds of a fully loaded Kia Optima Hybrid (ask me how I know), it will also buy you a supercharged V8 packing 469hp, 512 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 in well under 5 seconds, and a three-pointed star on the hood. Unless, that is, the previous owner – like this one – decided for some inexplicable reason to remove it. Nonetheless, Wrap that powertrain in the sleek W211 Mercedes E-class body, and what you have is a supercar in German taxicab clothing. Find this one
here on CraigsList in Fairfax, VA for a relative pittance.
That is not to say that I don’t like my Kia – quite the contrary. And the Kia does something this car can’t – it gets me into the carpool lane solo. Then again, I suppose with the horses in the E55, I could always just outrun the cops if they catch me in violation of HOV rules. Until something breaks.
And that is the key question: What is going to break? Note, it is not a matter of whether something will break, but rather that something will break and the question of just how crippling it will be. I suppose it should be encouraging that the supercharger was replaced fairly recently. My personal experience with 2005 211-chassis Mercedes, my wife’s E320 wagon, has been very positive with no major failures of anything, apart from cloudy headlights. But that car does not have a hand built performance motor under the hood made of parts that cost double to triple what they cost even for a regular Mercedes. I’ve also heard some horror stories about the airmatic suspension – great when it works but catastrophic when it fails. But really, wouldn’t you expect to pay a little more in average upkeep for a car that can embarrass just about ANY car built prior to 2000, and the vast majority of 4 seaters built since?
I was fortunate enough to own this car’s predecessor, a W210 E55, for about a year some time ago. The beauty of all of these cars is that Mercedes has a formula that makes an obscenely fast car simple to drive. They are really just point and squirt cars. Now, turn off the traction control (at least to the extent you can) and they can be a little more challenging, but only as far as you are willing to push. It is pretty hard to be caught by surprise in one of these. As fast as my E55 was, it basically had the naturally aspirated version of the motor from this car, so was about 1/4 less powerful all around. That point was made all too clear to me one night on a long sweeping on-ramp to I-66 in Northern Virginia where a 211 E55 – perhaps even this one – laid waste to me, despite my best efforts. It was then I knew that I had to have one of these cars – just a matter of when.
This car is appealing on a number of levels: first, they just look good in silver on black. Sure, that’s the scheme that the vast majority seem to be, but for good reason, as you can see. Second, it has heated/cooled/dynamic seats. You will appreciate these in cold weather, hot weather, and diring spirited driving when you are tossing the car from side to side, yet the bolsters move independently to keep you in place. My Kia does a lot, but it doesn’t do that. It also has keyless go, which is convenient in that you keep the key in your pocket and simply step on the brake pedal and push a button on the shifter to start the car. It is, however, a little bit gimmicky and something else to break. Beyond those, it has the delightful AMG E-class sport seats with alcantara inserts as well as the cool alcantara headliner. The period COMAND sat-nav system is starting to age somewhat, but at least this fellow has got the newer cds. The only thing lacking in my book is the panorama roof, which my Kia does have. I could do without it given the price, service history, and overall spec of this car, but it is nice to have, especially if you’re a regular in the back seat.
With prices now creeping below $20K for a nice one, it may be time to pounce. Sure, iffy cars will get cheaper still, but you will find that even the less powerful 210s like mine in comparable condition still go for $12-$15K, so it stands to reason that a car that is 25% better across the board should cost at LEAST 25% more. Even more if you consider the more modern, more competent chassis and the equipment that these came with. What are you waiting for?? Sell your Kia and just go buy it!! Wait, who am I talking to?