While necessary emissions regulations are starting to thin its lineup, AMG has always offered high-performance Mercedes models. Sedans have been especially well-represented in its history. Today, BMW offers several 600+ hp sedans, and Dodge has one with over 700 hp. And, as Doug Demuro recently explained, it’s thanks to the 2003 Mercedes E55 AMG.
How the 2003 Mercedes E55 AMG started a horsepower war
In the early 2000s, Car and Driver reports, 350-400 hp was a fairly large output for a sedan. This is when the 444-hp Porsche 911 996 Turbo was fighting supercars, remember. The BMW M3 didn’t make 400 hp until 2008. So, in 2003, when Mercedes debuted the E55 AMG, based on the W211 E-Class, it caused quite a stir.
Under the hood, the Mercedes E55 AMG has a hand-built 5.4-liter supercharged V8, rated at 469 hp and 516 lb-ft. Rear-wheel drive, and linked to an upgraded 5-speed automatic, the sedan went 0-60 in 4.5 seconds in Car and Driver’s testing. At the time, that made it the quickest production sedan in the world.
And, as Demuro explains, the powertrain was just the start of the Mercedes W211 E55 AMG’s offerings.
Features and driving experience
To help keep the E55 AMG stable, and improve handling, it came standard with adaptive air suspension, Motor Trend reports. This was tuned by AMG, DriveTribe reports and offered 3 different driving modes. AMG also retuned the rest of the sedan’s suspension and fitted slotted front and rear Brembo brakes.
Then there are the Mercedes W211 E55 AMG’s quirks. For example, the center cupholder unfolds in a 2-step process that evokes a jack-in-the-box designed by a luxury watchmaker. The center console also hides a 6-disc CD changer. And the sunroof has built-in slats to let in sunlight, even when the sunroof cover is in place.
But the high-performance sedan has some practical features. The front seats have under-seat storage, and you can drop the rear headrests with one button to improve rear visibility. Those front seats are also heated, with active bolsters. In addition, the E55 AMG is fairly subtle for a high-performance sedan, giving it Q ship vibes.
On the road, Car and Driver reports the E55 AMG’s steering wasn’t as sharp as the contemporary M5’s. Also, the brakes weren’t as easy to modulate. But Demuro reports the sedan still feels fast, even today. And while the steering isn’t sharp, it’s extremely stable, even at speed. This is a car you could cruise on the highway for hours on end. Plus, if the sedan isn’t practical enough, there was also an E55 AMG wagon.
Buying a 2003-2006 Mercedes W211 E55 AMG
Overall, the W211 Mercedes E55 AMG is a fairly reliable luxury performance car. Early 2003 models are best avoided, Carscoops reports, as their radiators can fail. However, the car’s air suspension is less of a headache than the contemporary S55 and CL55 AMG models, Jalopnik reports. And the E55’s engine is robust enough, Autoweek reports, to make almost-new power even after 400,000 miles.
That being said, r/Cars sub-Reddit users report parts can be rather expensive if bought directly from Mercedes. However, there are websites that sell OEM parts at a discount. Changing the brake pads also requires plugging the car into a computer, Autocar reports. But, the W211 E55 AMG’s powertrain and drivetrain can be maintained with everyday tools.
There was also a rather serious recall for all W211s regarding a potential fuel leak. It was so bad, Jalopnik reports, a $5 million class-action lawsuit was leveled against Mercedes. However, after Mercedes extended the warranty for 2003-2009 models, the NHTSA closed its 3-year investigation, AP News reports. At this point though, afflicted models should have had the parts replaced. As with any used car, we recommend a pre-purchase inspection by a trusted mechanic.
Overall, 2003-2006 Mercedes E55 AMGs are fairly affordable. Especially considering the original MSRP was the equivalent of $107,500. Today, a reasonable-mileage example goes for $20,000-$30,000 on Bring a Trailer. And as of this writing, there’s a 2005 wagon listed on BaT for $21,500.
Follow more updates from MotorBiscuit on our Facebook page.