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1997 Mercedes-Benz E300

I’m sure I’m not the only person who wants both an analog experience in my car along with having the ease of DIY on most everything, but also wants modern tech and these crazy new safety features called airbags. Case in point, my Mercedes-Benz W116 and W123 are both simple enough that I can diagnose and fix almost anything on the entire car in my home garage, but their main safety features are headrests and a padded steering wheel. If you go to the other end with a newer Mercedes-Benz diesel, you see cryptic messages on your infotainment screen saying the car isn’t going to restart unless you fill the tank up with AdBlue fluid, but hey, at least the car will literally steer itself in between the lane lines while you are frantically Googling on your phone what the hell AdBlue fluid is. So is there a happy medium? Well, I think I have one option.

The W210 is a very fine chassis in my eyes. Granted, I’m biased as I own one, but they are seemingly sturdy cars as long as you keep them away from constant moisture and salt. All the gas engines in car are equally as fine, but thankfully the US market was blessed with a gem of a diesel, the OM606. This 3.0 liter inline-six replaced the OM603, which replaced the OM617, so we have good lineage here. It was available in turbo and non-turbo, with today’s car I want to look at, a 1997 E300, being the non-turbo. Much like Mercedes diesels of past, this one has a lot of miles, but probably also has good years left in it as well.

CLICK FOR DETAILS: 1997 Mercedes-Benz E300 on eBay

Year: 1997
Model: E300
VIN: WDBJF20F9VJ031329
Engine: Diesel 3.0 liter Inline-6
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Mileage: 211,886 mi
Location: Crozier, Virginia
Price: $3,990 Buy It Now

E-Class Diesel
3.0L DOHC 24-Valve In-Line Diesel 6-Cyl Engine

The OM606 is certainly a more modern and sophisticated engine than the old iron lung OM617, but a power house it is not in naturally aspirated form. Just 134 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque motivate a lot of sedan, but the name of the game here isn’t speed, it’s efficiency and reliability. Seeing over 30 miles per gallon on the highway is very doable in these, and even high 20s around town. The turbo OM606 bumped up power significantly with 174 horsepower and 243 lb-ft of torque if you can’t stand slow. One of the not-so-fun things about these is the glow plugs are hidden under the intake manifold, so replacing them isn’t as easy as the OM617 and they do like to snap off in the head, but it isn’t something you are doing so often anyway. Everything else is pretty straight forward, just stay up on your routine maintenance and you’ll be fine.

This example in Virginia comes in well used with 211,000 miles, but the most important thing is it doesn’t look rusty. If it had any kind of rust scabs on it, it’d run away, but I can’t see any from the photos. The interior isn’t torn up either, which is always nice, and looks like it just needs a heavy cleaning. The asking price is just $4,000, which I think is pretty fair for what you are getting. This can be a work horse commuter car without a doubt and cost you very little money in the process. Not a bad deal at all, and it probably has another 211,000 miles left in it. That is, as long as it doesn’t see salt.

– Andrew


  1. LWB250
    LWB250 October 21, 2019

    The W210 chassis cars, while hardly exciting from a design standpoint, are great values if you are looking for a “gas and go” sort of vehicle. As the owner of both pre-facelift (1996-1999) and facelift (2000-2002) models I can’t say enough about the reliability and economy of the W210. Mine are both M112 powered gassers, but the diesel model, only offered the first few years, is an even better version due to its economy and simplicity.

    However, the first couple model years are also a bit hinky in some respects relative to their systems, so that’s a strike against them.

    My 2002 sedan, purchased south of the Mason-Dixon Line, a must to avoid the tinworm that goes berserk on these cars when released, has performed flawlessly for several years and over 20,000 miles, needing only a crankshaft position sensor for repairs during this time.

    The facelift models have nicer amenities, too, like steering wheel mounted controls for the telematics, for example.

  2. Fossilpowered
    Fossilpowered October 22, 2019

    I ran a 1997 E300 diesel for several years and from 92K to 260K. I did an EGR bypass early on in order to help with engine internal life extension.. I also had an interesting “peeling the onion” experience in going after the under-coating corrosion in the front rockers and especially under the front bumper cover and spring pans. Northern cars just plain suffer. Mechanically outstanding until my mechanical vacuum pump let go and nearly spilled it’s guts into the timing chain case (a known engine showstopper). I retrofitted an electric vacuum pump which worked pretty well and allowed me to avoid the risk of timing chain failure..

  3. ian
    ian October 25, 2019

    I swapped a turbo OM606 along with a 5sp manual into my 1987 300TD W124 wagon and it is the perfect car in my eyes. Roomy, good looking, efficient (I average 28/34mpg) and it does everything I need it to. Drive 30k miles a year in it!

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