As we are now into a new decade, I figured now is a good a time as any to remind you to never buy the car I’m looking at today. What is it? The 2001 Mercedes-Benz S600. Not just the 2001, but any vehicle that comes with one of the worst engines ever made, the M137. This engine was so bad, that it only lasted three model years the US spanning from 2000-2002 in the S600 and CL600. Mercedes quickly admitted their errors and switched to the M275 in 2003, and that was so durable that iterations of it are still in production today. Why exactly was this thing so bad? Lets refresh our memory.
What to know how professional athletes go broke? This is how professional athletes go broke. Among many other ”investments” professional athletes dump their playing salaries into during their careers that suck all their bank accounts dry, buying six-figure cars that turn into four-figure cars is a great way lose a bunch of money. You might think doing this isn’t such a big deal and isn’t a big piece of their net worth, but you have to realize that it’s never just one time or one car. Even worse, it’s not even just the car they blow money on. You need to buy the rims and the stereo systems too. You sign a professional contract and go buy a car you’ve always wanted. No big deal. Well, your mother and father needs a car too. Don’t forget your wife. Oh, her parents need cars? Your brother could use a new car too, he’s been there since day one. Same goes for your cousin. How about your two best friends you grew up with? They’ve supported you the entire way. Grandma’s Buick and your aunts old Ford Explorer are on their last legs. Now take all those scenarios and do all that three or four times over after that. All of a sudden you’ve blown a literal fortune on cars. Today’s car is an example of that.
This is a 2001 S600 that was bought and owned by former NBA player Anthony Carter. You probably don’t know who that is and neither did I, so let me explain who this guy is. Carter was an undrafted point guard that played an impressive 13 seasons in the NBA for six different teams before retiring after the 2012 season. He was mostly an off the bench guy for the majority of his career with his contracts usually being only for a year or two at most that paid him around a million dollars a year. Good work if you can find it and easily enough to buy a W220 S600 for over $100,000 then dump a bunch of other money into thanks to custom paint and a crazy stereo system. Now let me be clear, I am not saying that this car somehow made him broke, but this is merely an example of how it can happen and still continues to happen to this day. Although one thing is clear, the current owner of this car is asking entirely too much money for it.
Very rarely do the fine people at Mercedes-Benz perpetrate a major mistake. But when they do, oh boy. Maybe it’s just the nature of the beast of car manufacturing that when mistakes do happen, it’s usually of grand proportion. Today’s car, a 2002 S600, is one of those mistakes. It’s not the sub-par build quality and lack of longevity that makes this car an absolute nightmare, it’s what is under the hood they makes this W220 almost radioactive to any buyer.
Engine: 5.8 liter V12
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Mileage: 138,599 mi
Price: Buy It Now $3,445
2002 S600 Mercedes that runs and drives but has an oil leak from the top of the motor in back. The motor has 389 horsepower. It delivers it very smooth. The transmission shifts so nice through all of the gears. The wheels are correct factory S600 wheels wrapped in as new Michelin tires. The brakes stop this heavy car easy. The exhaust is all in good order. The battery works just fine and is the big battery. The car goes down the road so smooth. The inside is loaded up with heated, cooled massage front seats, wood all over the place, Suede headliner, leather dash, steering wheel. Heated power back seats with lumbar. The navigation and Bose system is great!! The car has a clean clear title in hand ready to transfer. No extra fees in my auction. The 2 coil packs and the set of xenon headlights are worth $3000 alone!! Make me a fair
This problem with this W220 is the 5.8 liter M137 V12 engine. There is a reason why this engine only lasted for two years in the United States before moving to a 5.5 liter twin-turbo M275. The M137 is notorious for out of round cylinder walls and oil fouling basically making the engine a giant paper weight. The excessive blow-by oil fouls all of the downstream oxygen sensors. So you say, “what’s one or two O2 sensors?” Except there are eight on this S600 which adds up to a total cost of $1,600. What if you damage the cats too? There are six of them at a cost of $8,000. At this rate, you’ll be living on the street with a bunch of real cats.
For this specific S600, the seller comes out and says this car leaks oil from the top of the motor towards the rear. This the dreaded M137 oil cooler issue. There is a long metal plate in the middle of the oil cooler. You need to access this to install new o-rings to fix this leak before you fry your transmission control unit with hot oil also turning the transmission into a boat anchor. The oil leak isn’t something minor when this happens, it goes from a few drops to a quart rather quickly. This job doesn’t sound so bad until you hear that you need to pull the heads to access the oil cooler. It’s only a $350 part but the killer is the many many hours it takes to pull the heads on a Mercedes V12. This entire repair basically starts at a few thousand dollars and only goes up if they find vacuum or breathers hoses that need replaced.
So should you buy a reasonably clean 2002 S600 with runs and drives just fine for $3,500? Of course not! You are signing up to spend thousands of dollars and be potentially be left with parts and scrap value once something catastrophic happens. If I was forced to buy own this car as-is, I would drive it until the inevitable happens then start cannibalizing it, because there are plently of rusty W220’s out there looking for parts.