Cars & Bids Bargain of the Week: 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG

Looking to buy a Mercedes but want to save some cash? Consider hopping into a used Mercedes-Benz instead of a new one. Although a secondhand Benz won’t have all the latest tech, it won’t necessarily be any less luxurious. Or, in the case of a used AMG product, it won’t necessarily be significantly slower. And this week on Cars & Bids, you can go like schnell without blowing your budget thanks to a 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG.

2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG: the former fastest sedan in the world is still fast—and luxurious—today

A silver 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG in the desert
2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG front | Mercedes-Benz
2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG
Engine5.4-liter supercharged ‘M113K’ V8
Horsepower469 bhp
475 hp (MotorTrend)
Torque516 lb-ft
TransmissionFive-speed automatic
Curb weight4243 lbs
0-60 mph time4.5 seconds (Car and Driver)

When it debuted in 1998, the W210-gen Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG was already a fast car, especially for a luxury sedan. However, for its 2003 update to the W211 E-Class, Mercedes decided to pick a fight. Or rather, start a war—a horsepower war, that is. And its opening salvo was the 2003 E55 AMG, the quickest production sedan in the world.

Today, a 450-plus horsepower luxury sedan is practically ho-hum. In 2003, though, it was downright ludicrous. True, Mercedes-Benz limited the 2003 E55 AMG to 155 mph, which is still standard procedure for German performance cars. But this two-ton luxury sedan hit 60 mph only 0.2 seconds slower than a Dodge Viper RT/10. Oh, and its 5.4-liter supercharged V8 makes more horsepower and torque than the Viper’s 8.4-liter V10.

Also, fun fact, the E55 AMG wagon is 0.4 seconds faster to 60 mph than the sedan. And that makes it faster than a first-gen Viper. Little wonder why MotorTrend called its modern descendant, the E63 S wagon, a “bloodthirsty animal.”

To keep all that speed in check, the 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG has ventilated and slotted Brembo discs, AMG-tuned adaptive air suspension, and recalibrated stability and traction control. Also, active bolstering in its sport seats, a subtle AMG body kit, and a re-tuned automatic transmission. However, it’s still a luxury sedan. So, you have features like leather upholstery as well as optional adaptive cruise control and GPS navigation.

Add all this up, and you have a comfortable, “utterly stable” sedan that surges forward with “effortless speed,” Car and Driver says.

You can bid on a W211 E-Class AMG right now on Cars & Bids

A silver 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG on a wharf
2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG | Cars & Bids

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The 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG currently listed on Cars & Bids is well-equipped for autobahn duty. Its active-bolstering front seats are heated, for example, and it packs an upgraded Harman Kardon audio system. Also, a power-operated sunroof, rear sunshade, wood interior trim, and automatic climate control. And while it doesn’t have adaptive cruise control or navigation, it does have an Alcantara headliner and variable-ratio power steering.

There’s something else this 2003 E55 AMG doesn’t have, or rather, doesn’t have anymore. Because the air suspension is known to fail, the seller converted it to coil springs. However, apart from the replacement transmission—from a 2005 E55 AMG—and 19” Rennen International CSL-3 wheels, that’s the only modification.

The black-leather-upholstered front seats and wood-trimmed dashboard of a 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG
2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG front interior | Cars & Bids

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Admittedly, this 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG has some scratches, scuffs, and paint chips scattered throughout. But it only has about 100,800 miles on the clock and a zero-accident history. Also, the seller says that the previous owner was a Mercedes-Benz technician, so presumably, the sedan was well-cared for.

Speaking of care, the seller replaced more than the transmission and suspension recently. Since 2020 they’ve replaced the radiator, alternator, upper ball joints, tires, brake pads, and both batteries. Also, the transmission has a new filter, harness plug, fluid, and mounts. In addition, this E55 AMG has a new oil pan and gaskets, air filters, spark plugs, crankcase pressure relief valve, and engine mounts. Finally, the seller replaced a few additional O-rings and gaskets as needed.

If you take care of it, this 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG should be a solid luxury super-sedan bargain

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As of this writing, this 2003 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG is listed at $7360 with three days left in the auction. That’s a considerable drop from its original $74K MSRP. And considering the cheapest W211 E55 AMG with similar mileage on Autotrader costs about $17K, it’s a real bargain.

Given that this is a used high-performance Mercedes, a pre-purchase inspection is recommended. However, this example’s seller has already addressed some of the potential long-term problems. Namely, age-related gasket failures, engine mounts, and the air suspension, MT notes. Also, while spark plugs are regular maintenance items on every gasoline-powered car, note that the E55 AMG has two per cylinder. But that’s been taken care of, too.

And apart from these issues, the only real problems are rear main seal leaks and intercooler pump failure, Tuning Pro says. However, the latter is only an issue with modified or tuned M113K engines. And the former problem crops up in other cars, including several contemporary Porsches. Furthermore, while early W211s had some quality problems, the E55 AMG doesn’t appear to be included among them.

In short, this 2003 E55 AMG sounds like an affordable way into some speedy supercharged luxury.

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