Having kids and a young family meant having to find a super reliable car that I know my wife would be able to drive around with minimal issues. Enter the Toyota Camry Hybrid. Exit driving enjoyment.
With my love for Mercedes-Benz having started from a very young age thanks to my late father, and his canary yellow W114 280 that he brought home one day, I have dabbled in various Mercedes models throughout my life and have thoroughly enjoyed them all. Especially wagons. Don't ask me why but I've always loved Mercedes wagons, having owned a 123 and three 124 wagons. I have however, always ended up with Japanese cars for the ease of parts and perceived reliability.
My mate, Maz and I regularly surf car classifieds sites on the lookout for a cheap (!) Mercedes to fill the automotive voids in our lives. I needed that break from the Japanese mainstream. One day I received the usual link on Facebook Messenger from Maz, pointing to an advert for a 2001 E320 Avantgarde wagon. It was green and black with black leather, 260,000 kilometres on the clock, had its wheels painted with cheap matte black paint, and ugly chrome rings around the headlights. I immediately messaged back and said, "Meh, it looks like crap, nice colour, but."
A few days passed and Maz urged me to look at the ad again. "Read the description" he said. So I did. The owner turned out to be a Mercedes mechanic that he knew, and had listed on the ad exactly what he'd done to the car mechanically over the last year. The list was extensive. My ears pricked up. Maybe, I thought...
Maz being the good mate he is, goes out of his way to go see the car and it turns out to be a pearler. It had some minor paint blemishes such as some rust around the bottom edge of the rear windscreen and a few paint touch ups. Nothing major. He then drove the car. The words that came up were, "Beautiful, tight as a drum, smooth". Two keys, everything worked, no squeaks, no oil leaks and even the original books.
By this stage I thought, what have I got to lose? I've always wanted a Mercedes again, I've never owned a W210 wagon and on top of that, it was a Series 2 Avantgarde of which I had never actually seen one on the road!
The owner and I got talking on money to the point where it seemed like he wanted to sell it to me, maybe due to the connection he had with Maz. I didn't really offer at the end and managed to grab it for $3000, which surprised me because I didn't even try. It all happened so fast that I started to wonder how the hell was I going to get it from Sydney to Darwin.
Plans were made, flights were sorted and two weeks later my 6 year old and I were in Sydney to see the car and drive it back to Darwin. Yep that's right, drive an 18 year old Mercedes I've never even sat in, for 4200km back home. Maz picks me up from the airport and of course says, "You drive!" We jump in, and to my sons delight, the rear had factory in-built booster seats. Of course we had to try them out too.
I immediately felt at home. I adjusted the wide, comfy memory electric seats and we continued our way to his place. I was amazed with how it drove. It was so smooth and quiet, the gearbox shifted perfectly and it rode beautifully. That reassuring thud of those doors welcomed me back. It felt good to be looking out at that 3-point star again.
We stay for a night in Sydney before starting our long trek to Darwin, travelling via Brisbane to say hi to Mum, and to pick up my sister who would accompany us all the way to Darwin.
The drive to Brisbane from Sydney was wonderful. On that drive I picked up many little things that surprised me for a near 20 year old Benz. Rain-sensing wipers. Xenon headlights, Bose sound system, 3 memory power drive seat and steering with reverse passenger side mirror dipping, and a rear vision mirror with automatic dimming and glass sunroof. I was in awe that it all still functioned perfectly.
The way the car drove amazed me as well. The big tiller steered the car in a perfect straight line, the 3.2-litre M112 V6 still felt energetic with a nice subdued growl all the way to the redline, and the 5-speed adaptive automatic still shifted buttery smooth. The car handled well with the factory-lowered Avantgarde suspension combined with sticky Continental tyres and 17-inch rims. The rear had its self levelling suspension changed recently as well, which kept the car nice and flat. The ride was sublime. It climbed those pesky hills just outside Sydney with ease.
We stay 2 nights with Mum, grab my sister and head off on the long trek to Darwin. We drove through heavy rain, swarms of locusts past Longreach, in 43-degree heat and yet she didn't miss a beat. Not once did the Benz give me an inkling of any mechanical impending doom. You might think I'm crazy but I promise she performed amazingly.
We arrive in Darwin after 4200km, glad to be home. I was glad she (and we) made it all safely. She averaged 9.0L/100km which I was pleased with.
The wagon is now my daily driver. Six months later she has remained faultless and I have grown more attached to her after using it to its full capacity as a wagon. Its the little things that Mercedes have done that delight the most such as:
- Awesome rear cargo blind with inbuilt cargo net divider and rear blind that pops up automatically for your shopping
- Ever-so-faint red light under the rear view mirror to light up the console area.
- Thumping factory Bose sound system with subwoofer.
- Ability to drop all the windows and the sunroof with the key outside the car on a hot day.
- Great cruise control, along with speed limiter.
- In-built booster seats which have been so handy with two small kids.
- Self-closing rear tailgate that doesn't require you to slam it shut.
- 3-person memory electric front seats with electric steering column.
- Vents in the sunroof shade so you can have the sunroof tilted without having to slide back shade for fresh air.
- Driver and front passenger airbags, side airbags, front and rear window airbags, traction control and electronic stability control.
- The sound of the V6 when on full song.
I love the shape, I love the fact I don't see Series 2 W210 Avantgarde wagon's around, and for $3000 it drives better than my 2012 Camry and 2008 Prado.
The only thing I wish it had was front and rear parking sensors, but apart from that, we love it!
MORE: Everything Mercedes-Benz