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Home » Mercedes-Benz E-Class [W211](2002-2009) Problems, Review, Faults and Information

Mercedes-Benz E-Class [W211](2002-2009) Problems, Review, Faults and Information

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 came on the market in 2002, when it replaced the previous Mercedes-Benz E-Class W210. This is the third generation of the model which took the code W211 for the sedan and S211 for the Station Wagon. In 2006 it underwent a restyling which solved many problems, improved reliability and introduced technical and design innovations. In 2009 it was replaced by the next generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class W212. Let’s see the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 review with the most important information, faults and common problems.

Table of Contents

Review of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 S211 with all the information, defects, issues, faults, weaknesses, problems and maintenance costs.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211

Impressions, Interior and Comfort

Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 is a high-end car designed by the German manufacturer that belongs to the so-called E-Class. This generation has not got the best reviews from the owners. This happened not because the car has become less luxurious or less comfortable than in the past, on the contrary, in these respects it has taken a big step forward.

The owners’ complaints mainly concern the reliability of the model and the large number of weaknesses it had at the start. Fans of the brand were accustomed to cars that combined luxury with reliability, but the situation has changed here.

Of course every used car (especially a premium one) has its problems and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 is not an exclusion. However, here the defects already appeared at a young age and the cars of the first years of production (from 2002 to 2004) were particularly problematic. This is actually a characteristic of most German manufacturers of the period, the cars became more complex, new technologies were introduced and all this did not always perform very well.

Luckily, most of the initial defects have already been resolved within the warranty period. After the restyling in 2006, reliability has improved significantly. In this article we will see if the maintenance costs will not be exaggerated to use a similar car.

Platform and Body

The platform of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 is the same one presented a year earlier on the Mercedes SL R230. It is a platform that allowed the installation of many modern systems (for that period), but the basic structure remains the same: engine installed longitudinally and rear wheel drive. Optionally it was possible to mount the 4MAtic all-wheel drive.

The front suspensions are with high wishbones with a semi-virtual steering axis by splitting the joint of the lower triangle with two separate arms, the rear ones are multilink with 5 links. Optionally, the Airmatic Dual Control air suspension could be installed.

The body design of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 respects the same style seen on the previous Mercedes-Benz E-Class W210, but has become softer, less angular, more modern and more elegant. The front maintains the tradition of double ellipsoidal headlights, the rear instead gets the triangular taillights as on the larger Mercedes-Benz S-Class W220.

Review of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class S211 with all the information, defects, issues, faults, weaknesses, problems and maintenance costs.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class S211 (Station Wagon)

Aesthetically, the car is attractive, both before and after the restyling, especially in the more equipped versions.

The third generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class is available in two body styles: sedan (W211) and Station Wagon (S211). For the Coupé and Cabriolet versions, the CLK class has been dedicated.

The German car has a length of 4852 – 4884 mm, a width of 1822 mm and a height of 1483 – 1506 mm. The wheelbase is 2854 mm. The weight of the car varies from 1525 to 1990 kg depending on the version.

Comfort and Practicality

There is enough interior space for both front and rear passengers. The previous generation already offered a good result in this respect and here the situation has improved further. Even 5 adults will be relatively comfortable, but for long journeys it will be better to leave in 4.

The trunk/boot has a volume of 520 l in the sedan and 690 l in the station wagon (by completely folding down the rear sofa, it can reach 1990 l).

Even if the new Mercedes has lost in terms of reliability compared to previous generations, it has at the same time gained in terms of ride comfort and control on the road. The E-Class W211 manages to combine good road control with the typical smoothness and softness of the German manufacturer. The seats are not suitable for active driving, they offer a comfortable and relaxing position, but the highlighted lateral supports that keep you immobile in the curves are absent, as we can see on the BMW or Audi of the same class.

The level of comfort (already good with standard suspension) increases considerably if the optional Airmatic air suspension is fitted.

Interior and Equipment

in this photo you can see the interior compartment of the mercedes-benz e class w211 s211 with the steering wheel, the stereo radio, the seats and the dashboard central panel cockpit

The interior of the W211 E-Class has significantly improved compared to the past. Now the design is very elegant and harmonious, the lines are soft and welcoming. The cabin has a feeling of great luxury. Everything is pleasant to the touch, the ergonomics are excellent. The time spent inside this car gives a lot of satisfaction.

Thanks to the good quality and great resistance of the internal materials, there may be few differences between a car with 100,000 km (60 k miles) and one with 200,000 km (125 k miles). Of course it depends on the driving style and attention of the owner.

On some elements, serious signs of wear may appear at high mileage. First of all, of course, the most used elements wear out: the steering wheel trim, the gear knob, the climate control buttons and more. At high mileages, wear and tear on the seat upholstery is also unavoidable.

The good part is that all traces of wear and tear present in the cabin can be eliminated if desired. Some pieces can be replaced, others can be repainted or restored.

The soundproofing is very good and the interior remains silent in any situation.

In addition to the pleasure received from the great quality of the materials, there is also the pleasure received from the large number of options. The E-Class W211 is not badly equipped already in basic trim, but generally there are many additional options that bring the level of comfort and hospitality to very high levels. Among the most interesting we have: webasto (autonomous heating), seat heating and cooling, ILS adaptive lights, light and rain sensors, parking sensors, automatic mirror dimming.

The multimedia system is now old, so it cannot fully satisfy modern needs. However, it offers all the basic features. The systems could be different, the simpler ones have no display and have limited functionality, the more expensive ones have a display with navigator and offer more services. The audio quality of the system is quite good.

Safety

In the EuroNCAP safety test, the Mercedes-Benz E Class W211 got 5 out of 5 stars. Crash safety is quite good, but to decrease the risk you need good tyres. Tires are almost the most important thing for safety on the road.

Reliability and Issues

There are major differences between the pre-facelift and facelift Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211. Before restyling, the car had the same engines and gearboxes as the previous generation. They were similar in many technical respects, but the new generation was obviously a little better.

After restyling the situation has changed a lot. Some serious weaknesses have been eliminated, but due to major technical changes, others have also appeared. It is not possible to say which of the two is better, the initial version or the facelifted one. Later we will talk in detail about all aspects by listing pros and cons.

For now we can anticipate that the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 can no longer be treated like the indestructible old Mercedes of the 90s. This car needs some care and sometimes big investments to stay in good condition.

Gearbox and Transmission

On the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 you can meet both manual and automatic transmissions.

Manual transmission

The manual gearboxes are reliable and give no problems over many miles. Flywheel and clutch have a good life, but it all depends on the driving style. At high mileage, the gear selection mechanism loses accuracy.

5G-Tronic automatic gearbox

The old 5-speed automatic transmission is the 5G-Tronic of the 722.6 series. It is a very interesting and widespread automatic transmission. On the pre-facelift E-Class W211 you could only meet the 5G-Tronic automatic transmission. This in the first years of production gave problems due to “childhood” problems. Fortunately, the modernized versions were fitted to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 and proved to be quite reliable.

Due to the partial lockup of the torque converter, the lockup system of the converter can already be found worn out at 150,000 km (95 k miles) on some cars. At this mileage it usually happens on cars with powerful engines or those used aggressively. With quieter use, the torque converter will fail no earlier than 250 thousand km (155 k miles). The first signs of wear will be rough gearbox operation the inability to engage mode “D” until the car warms up. At first the problems only show up when the gearbox is cold, but as the situation gets worse they will also feel when the gearbox is hot.

After 150 – 200,000 km (95 – 125 k miles), in addition to overhauling the torque converter (due to the wear just mentioned), it may be necessary to change the solenoids and clean the hydraulic block where accumulations of dirt could be found if the oil has not been replaced regularly. For the same reason, the control board can also suffer and the speed sensors can fail. Many do not replace the gearbox oil at all and as a result its life is shorter than in gearboxes on which it is replaced regularly.

One of the most important things is to change the oil every 40 – 60,000 km (25 – 35 k miles) together with the filter. This will improve the operating conditions and therefore lengthen the life of the unit. If the gearbox breaks down, the cost of repairs will be large. If treated very well, it can even go 200 – 300,000 km (125 – 185 k miles) without major problems.

Other things that could break are the selector and the gearbox control unit. On car built up to 2004, the coolant could mix with the transmission oil due to a defect in the transmission cooler.

7G-Tronic automatic gearbox

After the restyling came the 7G-Tronic (722.9 series) 7-speed automatic transmissions that can be found on some versions.

With the arrival of the 7-speed automatic transmission (722.9 series), performance and fuel economy improved, but additional problems appeared. Even this gearbox in the first period of production suffered from many “childhood” problems. Over the years, it has been repeatedly modernized and improved, so over time it has become more reliable.

One of the most famous weaknesses of this gearbox is the flimsy hydraulic block. Furthermore, these units can tend to overheat and the torque converter could not last very long. High operating temperatures ruin the electronics, solenoids and hydraulic block. The first interventions may be necessary even after 100,000 km (60 k miles).

As already mentioned, the complex electronic system suffers greatly due to the high operating temperatures. On the other hand, modern electronics offer the possibility of diagnosing the gearbox well. A good mechanic will be able to discover many problems just by connecting the computer and reading the various parameters.

The torque converter locks up very aggressively (acts almost like a wet clutch) and is almost always at least partially locked. This causes accelerated wear of the locking system. As a result, due to heavy wear, the oil becomes heavily soiled with wear fragments. Dirty oil can lead to the destruction of the oil pump (it can even happen at 100,000 km or 60 k miles) and accelerated wear of the entire unit.

Over time the 722.9 gearbox was updated and the situation improved. There have been recalls intended to fix the problems. Better to buy a car with this gearbox only if it has participated in recalls or the previous owner has already modernized/repaired the gearbox. Otherwise it will almost certainly be up to the new owner to fix the gearbox.

The mechanical parts of this gearbox are well made and shouldn’t cause problems if you don’t drive with damaged hydraulic systems and if you pay attention to the quality and quantity of oil. Mechatronic can break, especially if the oil is not changed regularly. The symptoms of this problem are: difficulty downshifting, error message, gearbox in limp mode or complete blockage of the car.

A modernized 722.9 automatic transmission can live for many miles if well treated. To lengthen life, it is advisable to replace the oil regularly, fit a lower temperature thermostat, add a large heat exchanger and add an external oil filter. These recommendations are ultimately useful for any modern automatic transmission (they are all quite overloaded).

Drivetrain and Transmission System

Rear-wheel drive Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211s are quite reliable. The cardan shaft (drive shaft) lives at least 150 – 200 thousand km (95 – 125 k miles), the rear differential and the axle shafts only need periodic checks, maintenance of the correct oil level and protections in good condition.

On versions with 4Matic all-wheel drive you have to be careful that there are no strange noises. Problems with the intermediate shaft bearings of the front axle may appear. This shaft goes through the crankcase of the engine and because of this the bearings and guards do not live as long. In addition, this shaft tends to oxidize after so many years and miles, so its extraction will be difficult. If excessive effort is applied during disassembly there is a risk of damaging the expensive engine crankcase.

Periodically it is important to check the drivetrain and see if there are any oil leaks. If the quantity and quality of oil in the various mechanisms is in order, everything will work for many miles.

Suspensions, Steering and Brakes

The standard suspension is reliable and long enough. Maintenance prices are high, but not outrageous. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 has aluminum arms installed instead of the steel ones used on previous generations. The rear arms are quite durable, while the front ones last less, especially if you drive on bad roads. The front suspension is slightly different for Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 with all-wheel drive.

As usual, among the first elements to give way are the stabilizers. For the rest, on roads in good condition there should be no problems for at least 200 – 250 thousand km (125 – 155 k miles).

However, the situation is different for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 equipped with Airmatic air suspension. Before a possible purchase, you must check very carefully the functioning of the latter. This applies especially to cars from the first years of production. On these, in addition to the mechanical elements which wear over time, there could also be problems with the control electronics and various sensors.

The air suspension must always be kept under control and possible problems must be anticipated. If, for example, one or more air cushions suddenly start to leak, circulation can become very difficult. Air cushions live approximately 70 – 150,000 km (45 – 95 k miles). It all depends on where and how the car is used. In places with a harsh climate, on dirty roads with dust and chemical reagents, the life of the air suspension will be minimal.

In hot, dry places with clean roads, the suspension will live for many miles. Care also helps a lot to extend the life of the air suspension. It is important to always wash the elements at risk and possibly also lubricate them with various protective substances. It is also possible to mount additional protections.

Even with attention and care, air suspension is unlikely to exceed 200,000 km (125 k miles). When the time comes to replace elements, spare parts from alternative manufacturers can be fitted to save money. Obviously it is better to opt for high quality manufacturers (for example Bilstein).

If there are problems with the air suspension and the air leaks are large (for example if a cushion “explodes”), it will be better to deactivate the compressor by pulling the dedicated fuses. This will save the life of the compressor, otherwise it will run continuously until it wears out. If the leaks are small, you shouldn’t immediately think of a defect in the cushions. In fact, there could also be leaks from the various pipes or from the valve block.

Steering system

The steering system is simple, reliable and pleasant. Only the power steering pump does not live as long. The rack lives about 300,000 km (185 k miles) with standard 16 – 17 inch rims, or 200,000 km (125 k miles) with larger rims.

Brakes system

The brakes are quite reliable and pleasant, the mechanical part is effective and resistant, the original spare parts are of high quality. On pre-restyling cars there is a complex SBC system that can give some problems, but we will give more details later.

The life of the discs and pads is good, but it all depends on the driving style. The pads last an average of 40 – 50 thousand km (25 – 30 k miles). The lifetime of the discs can be multiplied by 3 or even by 4.

Over the years, the brake fluid channels wear out. You have to be very careful and carry out periodic checks.

Electronics and Electrical System

The electronics of the E-Class W211 are very complex. Despite this, the electronics work well and shouldn’t cause any particular problems (as long as they’re new). Serious problems are generally caused by external factors: penetration of water that comes into contact with cables and control units, accidents that damage the system and interventions by not qualified people on the electronic system.

The situation is very critical if the water ends up in contact with the SAM control units. These have a central role and allow communication with the other control units and sensors scattered around the car. When a SAM ECU dies, it can also damage the other elements connected to it.

In addition to the SAM control units, there are also many other control units that control the large amount of systems. Virtually everything contains electronics. To understand the complexity, we can give the example of the wiper control unit which can lose its management firmware or be damaged in any other way. After replacement or repair, the ECU must be reprogrammed with the official Star Diagnose tool. The same tool will also be useful for replacing pads on pre-styling cars with SBC electro-hydraulic brakes. The SBC system is also a big weakness, but more on that later.

Other than SAM and SBC there shouldn’t be such expensive electronics problems. But the car is now old and the complicated electronics (especially on highly equipped cars) is starting to “go crazy”. There are many small problems that could appear and they are different on each car. In most cases these do not completely prevent the use of the car, but they can annoy a lot.

Failures of alternators, ignition coils, parking sensors, xenon headlight ignition modules, LED light modules, body level sensors and other “trifles” can happen.

Before a possible purchase it will be useful to carry out a deep diagnostics, check the functioning of all the systems present, check the cables and their integrity (especially in critical points such as the doors) and look at the SAM control units. If you see traces of oxidation or humidity, it’s best not to risk it.

It happens to find the car with a completely flat battery even after a short stop. The reason is again the complicated electronics which could “suck” the current for various reasons.

SBC System

SBC (Sensotronic Brake Control) is an innovative electro-hydraulic brake system. This system is intelligent, it cleans the brakes and maintains them in good condition through various procedures, it emulates the effort on the pedal without transmitting shocks and vibrations, it is pleasant and does not make you tiring while driving, it brakes the car very well, but all this only when everything is in good order. The problem is that this system is not immortal and is designed for a limited number of braking operations. Once the maximum number of brakings has been reached, the system will have to be reviewed.

When it comes time to repair the system the error will pop up on the on-board computer. Initially the message will be written in white. Already here we need to start preparing the money. If you continue to use the car for a longer time, the message will turn red and the use of the car becomes dangerous. In theory the brakes should lock up and the gear selector movement should be blocked to prevent starting.

To replace everything you have to pay a lot of money. Some mechanics can fix it for a good price (hydraulic accumulator and pump repair), but good experts are rarely found. In some cases it is simply the fault of the dead battery. In fact, the operation of this system is ensured by a separate battery and there have been cases of brake system malfunctions due to a flat battery. This is exactly why you need to be careful and replace it in time.

As already mentioned, the presence of this system also makes it more difficult to replace the pads. To perform the work you need a specific tool – Star Diagnosis.

The SBC system was fitted to pre-facelift cars. Luckily after the 2006 facelift the Mercedes E-Class W211 got a classic brake system and thus the problems disappeared. To lengthen the life of this system it is advisable to change the brake fluid regularly.

Other

The previous W210 E-Class had some problems with rust. The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211, on the other hand, is well protected against corrosion. The paintwork is also quite good, but not on all cars. For example, the models from 2002 – 2004 may have problems with the quality of the paint (in those years Mercedes experimented with organic paint). Small traces of rust can be found on cars used in places with a particularly severe climate. If, on the other hand, the traces of rust are large, the car probably suffered some accidents and then was badly repaired.

Over time, the headlights become dull and need polishing. The reflective element inside also burns out after so many years and the intensity of the illumination is lost. Hella Classic projectors or other projectors from alternative manufacturers can be purchased and installed without any problems.

Taillights are relatively fragile, they can crack or break even after light blows. Even the color of the plastic fades over time, especially on cars that are exposed to the sun a lot.

Door locks work well for a long time, but after 250 – 300 thousand km (155 – 185 k miles) they can fail. The same also applies to the power window mechanism. Replacement is difficult and even new spare parts have not too low costs. You can try to fit used parts or parts from alternative manufacturers.

If the car is equipped with steering wheel heating, the leather on the steering wheel deteriorates much faster. The reason is the high heating temperature which dries out the leather and it arrives in bad condition already at 100,000 km (60 k miles).

The air conditioning compressor lasts at least 200,000 km (125 k miles), but sooner or later it fails. The windshield wiper mechanism, on the other hand, turns out to be quite fragile, over time, play appears and there will most likely be oxidation which will lead to malfunctions.

Engines and their Problems

Diesel engines list :

Version Engine Power Top Speed Acceleration Fuel Consumption
E200 CDI 2.1 l OM646DE22LA red. 122 hp 205 km/h or 127 mph 12.1 s 6 l/100 km

US: 39,2 mpg

UK: 47,1 mpg

E200 CDI 2.1 l OM646DE22LA EVO red. 136 hp 214 km/h or 132 mph 9.9 s 6,3 l/100 km

US: 37,3 mpg

UK: 44,8 mpg

E220 CDI 2.1 l OM646DE22LA 150 hp 216 km/h or 134 mph 10.1 s 6,3 l/100 km

US: 37,3 mpg

UK: 44,8 mpg

E220 CDI 2.1 l OM646DE22LA EVO 170 hp 227 km/h or 141 mph 8.4 s 6,3 l/100 km

US: 37,3 mpg

UK: 44,8 mpg

E270 CDI 2.7 l OM647DE27LA 177 hp 230 km/h or 142 mph 9.0 s 6,5 l/100 km

US: 36,1 mpg

UK: 43,4 mpg

E280 CDI 3.2 l OM648DE32LA red. 177 hp 228 km/h or 141 mph 9.2 s 7,3 l/100 km

US: 32,2 mpg

UK: 38,6 mpg

E280 V6 CDI 3.0 l OM642DE30LA red. 190 hp 241 km/h or 149 mph 8.6 s 6,9 l/100 km

US: 34,1 mpg

UK: 40,1 mpg

E280 V6 CDI 4Matic 3.0 l OM642DE30LA red. 190 hp 234 km/h or 145 mph 8.2 s 7,8 l/100 km

US: 30,1 mpg

UK: 36,2 mpg

E320 CDI 3.2 l OM648DE32LA 204 hp 243 km/h or 150 mph 7.5 s 6,9 l/100 km

US: 34,1 mpg

UK: 40,1 mpg

E320 V6 CDI 3.0 l OM642DE30LA 224 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 6.8 s 7,3 l/100 km

US: 32,2 mpg

UK: 38,6 mpg

E320 V6 CDI 4Matic 3.0 l OM642DE30LA 224 hp 244 km/h or 151 mph 7.4 s 7,9 l/100 km

US: 29,7 mpg

UK: 35,7 mpg

E400 CDI 4.0 l OM628DE40LA 260 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 6.9 s 9,4 l/100 km

US: 25 mpg

UK: 30 mpg

E420 CDI 4.0 l OM628DE40LA 314 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 6.1 s 9,3 l/100 km

US: 25,2 mpg

UK: 30,3 mpg

Petrol/Gasoline engines list :

Version Engine Power Top Speed Acceleration Fuel Consumption
E200 Kompressor 1.8 l M271E18ML 163 hp 230 km/h or 142 mph 9.6 s 8,4 l/100 km

US: 28 mpg

UK: 33,6 mpg

E200 Kompressor 1.8 l M271E18ML 184 hp 236 km/h or 146 mph 9.1 s 8,2 l/100 km

US: 28,6 mpg

UK: 34,4 mpg

E200 NGT 1.8 l M271E18ML NGT 163 hp 227 km/h or 141 mph 10.7 s 9 l/100 km

US: 26,1 mpg

UK: 31,3 mpg

E240 V6 2.6 l M112E26 177 hp 236 km/h or 146 mph 8.9 s 10,7 l/100 km

US: 21,9 mpg

UK: 26,4 mpg

E240 V6 4Matic 2.6 l M112E26 177 hp 227 km/h or 141 mph 9.9 s 10,6 l/100 km

US: 22,2 mpg

UK: 26,6 mpg

E280 V6 3.0 l M272E30 231 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 7.3 s 9,6 l/100 km

US: 24,5 mpg

UK: 29,4 mpg

E280 V6 4Matic 3.0 l M272E30 231 hp 240 km/h or 149 mph 8.5 s 10 l/100 km

US: 23,5 mpg

UK: 28,2 mpg

E320 V6 3.2 l M112E32 224 hp 245 km/h or 152 mph 7.7 s 10 l/100 km

US: 23,5 mpg

UK: 28,2 mpg

E320 V6 4Matic 3.2 l M112E32 224 hp 244 km/h or 151 mph 7.9 s 10,3 l/100 km

US: 22,8 mpg

UK: 27,4 mpg

E350 V6 3.5 l M272E35 272 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 6.9 s 9,7 l/100 km

US: 24,2 mpg

UK: 29,1 mpg

E350 V6 4Matic 3.5 l M272E35 272 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 7.1 s 10,4 l/100 km

US: 22,6 mpg

UK: 27,1 mpg

E500 V8 5.0 l M113E50 306 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 6.1 s 11,5 l/100 km

US: 20,4 mpg

UK: 24,5 mpg

E500 V8 5.5 l M273E55 388 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 5.3 s 11,5 l/100 km

US: 20,4 mpg

UK: 24,5 mpg

E500 V8 4Matic 5.0 l M113E50 306 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 6.3 s 11,9 l/100 km

US: 19,7 mpg

UK: 23,7 mpg

E500 V8 4Matic 5.5 l M273E55 388 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 5.5 s 12,3 l/100 km

US: 19,1 mpg

UK: 23 mpg

E55 AMG Kompressor 5.4 l M113E55ML 476 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 4.7 s 14,3 l/100 km

US: 16,4 mpg

UK: 19,7 mpg

E63 AMG 6.2 l M156E63 514 hp 250 km/h or 155 mph 4.5 s 14,3 l/100 km

US: 16,4 mpg

UK: 19,7 mpg

problems and issues with petrol, gasoline, LPG, CNG, methane and diesel engines mounted on Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 S211

Diesel Engines

The diesel engines fitted to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 are reliable and durable.

3.2 l CDI OM648 diesel Engine

The 3.2 l CDI engines fitted to this car are from the OM648 family.

The OM648 series diesel engines are 6-cylinder in-line, perform very well and are reliable. The possible problems are relatively few, are well known and are not too serious.

At large mileage there will be problems with the Common Rail injection system. Injector washers do not have a long service life, mechanics recommend replacing them every 60 thousand km (35 k miles). If these burn out, harmful accumulations of soot will form. Problems with the intake manifold also happen, sometimes it is enough to clean it, other times the damage is bigger. There can be problems with the cooling system, it is important to keep it in good working order to not overheat the engine.

The Mercedes Benz E-Class W211 in the E280 CDI version with 3.2 l diesel OM648 engine and 177 hp power are equipped with a DPF filter. The latter brings many problems, especially on cars produced between 2004 and 2007. The E320 CDI OM648 version does not have a particulate filter, so it is better to opt for the latter.

2.7 l CDI OM647 diesel Engines

It is an engine that is rarely encountered in general, but it is interesting and pleasant. The 2.7 l CDI OM647 is a 5-cylinder in-line engine which is very reliable and resistant. It is very similar to the larger 3.2 l, so the main problems are about the same as we already listed above for the 3.2 l CDI. Electronics problems can be added with some sensors or with wiring (for example the injector cables).

3.0 l V6 CDI OM642 diesel Engines

The OM642 3.0 L CDI V6 engine is a well made engine, it has been produced for many years and has received great popularity.

In 2005 – 2006 the engines of the ОМ648 and OM647 series were replaced with those of the OM642 series. This 3.0 l was Mercedes’ first diesel V6. It is a modern and complex engine, with an aluminum cylinder block and cast iron liners, aluminum heads with hydraulic compensators, a complex Common Rail injection system with piezoelectric injectors, a turbine with variable geometry and much more.

Of course, the great complexity also increases the number of possible problems and defects. At large mileages you must be prepared for the expensive repair of the injection system, turbine and intake manifold. Timing chain lengthening is almost inevitable after 200 – 250,000 km (125 – 155 k miles).

Among the most famous problems that can happen at smaller mileages are leaking heat exchanger gaskets. New parts are cheap, but due to the inconvenient location, replacement work will be expensive.

Engines with heavy oil leaks are encountered. Plus, the oil pump isn’t too reliable. Both of these aspects must be kept in mind, the engine cannot handle oil pressure losses well and in these conditions the bushings can fail.

Otherwise the OM642 engines are still very reliable. Thanks to their good characteristics in terms of power, reliability and consumption, they have been mounted on many models of the brand. Knowing the weak points and taking care of these units, it is possible to reach even 450,000 km (280 k miles) without fatal defects. Badly treated engines, on the other hand, will give serious problems already at 200,000 km (125 k miles).

4.0 l CDI OM628 diesel Engines

You could have serious problems if you decide to buy a Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 version E400 CDI or E420 CDI with 4.0 l OM628 engine.

The V8 diesel engines fitted here are notorious for the large amount of problems they can have. The main weakness is the sensitive injection system. Both the injectors and the high pressure pump can fail even at relatively low mileages, especially if the diesel used is not of the highest quality.

They also have problems with the timing system, the EGR valve and the turbine. In the event of overheating, the cylinder walls will almost certainly be damaged. The worst part is that all repair work will be very expensive.

We also have to acknowledge that with time the manufacturer fixed some issues and the newer versions perform better but still cannot be called reliable. Furthermore, these engines have large torque and easily ruin the gearbox if you have aggressive driving.

2.1 l CDI OM646 diesel Engine

The 2.1 l CDI engine (also known as 2.2 l CDI) featured here is from the OM646 family.

The 2.1 l diesel engines fitted to the E200 CDI and E220 CDI versions are quite reliable. Although basically they don’t have any particular weaknesses, the fact is that by now they are all of a great age and generally also great mileage, so it is almost inevitable to encounter some annoying problems as well.

At high mileages the injectors and the high pressure injection pump could cause problems. There are cases where it is difficult to disassemble the injectors if this work has not been done for a long time. Sometimes, to take them apart you have to damage the cylinder head. A faulty pressure regulator in the injection system can also lead to misfiring or erratic operation.

On cars with a manual gearbox, the engine often spins at low revs under load, so difficulties may appear with insufficient oil pressure. This can lead to the failure of the bushings with subsequent deformation of the cylinder block and other similar problems. It happens more often on commercial cars with this engine, but here, too, it cannot be ruled out.

You may encounter engines with oil leaking from under the cylinder head. The EGR valve and intake manifold can become clogged with soot and this will lead to a loss of power and increased stress on the engine.

Otherwise, these are very robust aggregates. Paying attention to the aspects indicated above, the engine can even reach 500,000 km (310 k miles) without fatal failures.

Common problems of diesel Engines

Modern diesel engines equipped with anti-pollution systems can have the usual problems with the EGR valve getting dirty and stopping working and the DPF filter getting clogged and giving problems.

Petrol/Gasoline Engines

Before the restyling the V6 and V8 petrol engines fitted were the same as on the previous generation W210 – M112 and M113 series. Later came the new engines of the M272 (V6) and M273 (V8) series. Only the larger 6.2 l V8 AMG is from the M156 series. The 4-cylinder engines are from the M271 series also seen on the Mercedes-Benz C-Class W203 and Mercedes-Benz C-Class W204.

1.8 l M271 Engine

The 1.8 l M271 engines are modern and complex, with an aluminum cylinder block and cast iron liners, they are equipped with an Eaton mechanical compressor, timing chain, phase variators and balancing shafts. They are compact, lightweight aggregates that consume little and offer relatively good power. The bad part is that complexity can lead to big maintenance costs.

The timing chain and camshaft gears almost always wear out already at 100 – 150,000 km or 60 – 95 k miles (in some cases even at 60,000 km or 35 k miles).

The signs that the chain has stretched are: loud noise for a few seconds when starting the engine, irregular running of the engine and engine failure warning light on. Camshaft sprockets generally wear only if you continue to drive with a stretched chain, so you can avoid this problem by replacing it early. The replacement of the gears also involves the replacement of the phase shifters and the costs are very high. Even the phase shifters themselves do not demonstrate great reliability, have a fragile structure and are particularly sensitive to poor maintenance.

A chain that is too stretched could also slip and cause pistons and valves to crash. If this happens, in the worst cases the damage is so serious that it is now advisable to change the engine. A used engine in good working order may cost less than repairing the defective engine.

The mechanical supercharger, due to the large noise, could hinder the diagnostics of the stretched timing chain. Unfortunately the chain stretch problem occurred on both newer and older cars.

The mechanical compressor itself has a good life. If it starts rattling, it’s most likely time to change the bearings. Better not to wait too long, otherwise you risk breaking the compressor itself.

On these engines of the first years of production, there may also be problems with the crankcase ventilation system (the valves of the system get stuck and the pipes get dirty). It is a defect that should not be underestimated, in the worst cases it can lead to serious damage. It has been improved over time, so you can also fit the modernized system which is much better.

For the rest it can be said that the 1.8 l M271 are quite reliable and robust. With correct use, they can live even more than 300,000 km (185 k miles) without fatal failures.

M112 and M113 Engines

Of the large M112 family, only the 2.6 l and 3.2 l engines are mounted here. The 5.0 l and 5.4 l are mounted from the M113 family. The problems are about the same for all of these engines.

Among the 6 and 8 cylinder petrol engines, the most reliable are those of the M112 and M113 series. They are robust and long-lived units, but obviously they are not ideal. Over time, the extended timing chain and the intake manifold will need to be changed (around 200,000 km or 125 k miles). The same goes for valve stem seals and other worn seals. Crankshaft pulley failures are frequent.

Engines may have problems with crankcase ventilation and piston rings. These little problems can lead to an increase in oil consumption. Also there may be oil leaking from under the valve cover and from the oil cooler. To have a leak-free engine it is important to periodically replace the gaskets and clean the crankcase ventilation system. Furthermore, it is advisable not to increase the engine revs up to the red zone of the rev counter.

These engines generally do 250 – 300,000 km (155 – 185 k miles) without major problems (when used and treated correctly). Among the weakest parts we can mention the catalytic converter which over time could cause problems and need to be replaced. For the long life of these engines it is advisable to change spark plugs and oil regularly.

M272 and M273 Engines

The 3.0 l M272 and 3.5 l M272 engines are mounted from the M272 family. The 5.5 l is mounted from the M273 family. The problems are about the same for all of these engines.

After the restyling, the reliable M112 and M113 engines were replaced by the new M272 V6 and M273 V8. In theory, the engines of the new series should have been better, but in fact they turned out to be just as greedy in terms of consumption, they have a little more torque, but at the same time they are much more expensive to maintain and have many weak points.

These engines may have problems with the ECU. The reason for the malfunctions of the control unit are the high temperatures under the hood which lead to a loss of impermeability and consequently oxidation. Driving with a malfunctioning control unit can also cause damage to the mechanical parts of the engines which are quite fragile. A new control unit can cost a lot. In addition, the price of the work for the reprogramming will have to be added.

Other weak points of the petrol engines of the M272 and M273 series are: small longevity of the mechanical parts, short-lived timing system and its high cost, problematic intake manifold, weak catalytic converter, occurrence of oil leaks and the risk of occurrence of scratches on the cylinder walls. These units also gave problems to the owners of Mercedes-Benz S-Class W221 and Mercedes-Benz ML W164.

If the timing chain is not changed at the right time, there is a risk of damaging the balancer shaft on V6 engines and the chain pads on V8 engines. To change the balancer shaft, the V6 engine will have to be extracted. To replace the pads on the V8, you will need to disassemble the cylinder head. In both cases the cost of the works will be very high.

The entire timing mechanism must be replaced if there is wear on the balancer shaft gears on V6 engines and on the idle gear on V8 engines. On some engines this can happen as early as 100 thousand km (60 k miles).

Furthermore, overheating can occur due to a dirty cooling system and broken fans. All of this can lead to detonations and damage to the cylinder walls which in turn lead to oil consumption. A consumption of around 1 – 2 liters per 1000 km (600 miles) can be reached. This consumption is also accompanied by a more or less evident smoke. The easy appearance of scratches is given by the use of Alusil as a material for the surface of the walls. Alusil does not tolerate any kind of dirt. To avoid problems you need to change the oil often, avoid overheating and avoid driving with dirty air filters, worn catalytic converters or intake manifold.

They don’t have only negative points though. They are more ecological (they comply with the Euro 5 and some even Euro 6 regulations), they have slightly better performance and the newer (more modernized) engines, if treated very well, can also reach large mileages without major problems.

M156 Engines

The M156 series engines are those mounted on the E63 AMG sports versions. They are sports engines that are not exactly without problems. In fact, American buyers have reported the manufacturer twice, complaining of the insufficient reliability of these aggregates. The material of the camshafts is unsuitable and scratches on the cylinder walls are possible.

Conclusions and Advice & Tips for buying used

Before buying a used Mercedes Benz E-Class W211 you must understand that it is a type of car generally bought to do many miles. So many of the cars on the used market are in a not particularly good state. In addition, being a car in the premium segment, it won’t be so cheap to maintain.

On many E-Class W211s the miles have been lowered (on this model it is not such a difficult procedure), so don’t rely too much on the miles marked on dashboard. You have to look at the general condition of the car.

So which version of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 to buy? You can immediately exclude from the list cars with 8-cylinder diesel and petrol engines of the M272 and M273 series (especially from the first years of production). Less problems will give cars with standard suspension and not too equipped (less electronics – less problems). Here you have to find a compromise between luxury and reliability.

The main competitors of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 are: BMW 5 Series E60, Audi A6 C6, Volvo S80, Peugeot 607, Lexus GS and other similar cars.

The most important thing is to find a car in good general condition.

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