1999 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Reviews

1999 Mercedes-Benz S-Class S320 SWB 3.2L inline 6 from North America

Year of manufacture1999
First year of ownership2009
Most recent year of ownership2009
Engine and transmission 3.2L inline 6 Automatic
Performance marks 8 / 10
Comfort marks 10 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
9.0 / 10
Distance when acquired67000 miles
Most recent distance67000 miles
Previous carMercedes-Benz W116

Summary:

This is the last year of the best built cars

Faults:

Dash light bulb for odometer burned out.

Suspension clunk in front right.

Tire noise when turning tight at speed.

General Comments:

I just got this car two days ago. After researching various makes and models for 6 months, I decided that the six cylinder S Class, without all the gadgets associated with the V8 cars, was a fine option, except for continuous comments that the 238hp i-6 was underpowered for the car.

I drove home 400 miles from Los Angeles to northern California, over the Grapevine and Tejion Pass at ~4200 feet. At a constant 70 mph, the and the air conditioner running (it was over 100 deg f) the car never even shifted down for the climb, and the temperature stayed in the normal range. The final climb from sea level to my home at 2650 feet was the real test, with many of the climbs at 9 percent grade. The car performed well, again, without shifting to a lower gear. The gas mileage for this drive was 26.5 mpg. This is not an underpowered car. If you want to race from a dead-stop, this isn't for you, but then why would you be reading this if you wanted to drag race?

The dash bulb needs replacement, and after spending a couple of minutes searching around, I see it's a pretty easy do-it-yourself task. I have also found the suspension clunking is also most likely an easy fix, and I'll be ordering the parts (under $100 US) to fix it myself (probably a shock or stabilizer link).

For the price, I could have had a 5 yr old Accord, Camry, etc. but I wanted something safer than those, with larger size, quieter ride, rear wheel drive, and still have reasonable gas mileage. Perfect choice.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 13th September, 2009

1999 Mercedes-Benz S-Class S500L 5.0 V8 from UK and Ireland

Model year1999
Year of manufacture1999
First year of ownership2008
Most recent year of ownership2008
Engine and transmission 5.0 V8 Automatic
Performance marks 8 / 10
Reliability marks 6 / 10
Comfort marks 10 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 5 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
7.3 / 10
Distance when acquired104000 miles
Most recent distance104600 miles
Previous carHonda Accord

Summary:

Awesome

Faults:

After new rear brake pipes fitted for MOT - Airmatic warning lights stays on. Suspension can still be raised and lowered via dash mounted switch, but the ride is very harsh.

Electrical burning smell when blower motor turned on. Suspect the blower motor may have seized as no air blowing from the vents.

Car due to go to workshop tomorrow for diagnostics.

General Comments:

Only owned it for 1 week, and apart from mentioned faults, this car is awesome.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Don't Know

Review Date: 7th August, 2008

1999 Mercedes-Benz S-Class S320 LWB 3.2 DOHC I-6 from North America

Model year1999
Year of manufacture1998
First year of ownership2007
Most recent year of ownership2007
Engine and transmission 3.2 DOHC I-6 Automatic
Performance marks 8 / 10
Reliability marks 9 / 10
Comfort marks 10 / 10
Dealer Service marks 10 / 10
Running Costs (higher is cheaper) 5 / 10
Overall marks (average of all marks)
8.4 / 10
Distance when acquired72800 miles
Most recent distance77500 miles
Previous carCadillac DeVille

Summary:

Definitely happy with my purchase!

Faults:

Ummm let's see here. The only thing that broke so far was the Mass Airflow Sensor. It didn't really brake, I mean it worked fine, but it was throwing a trouble code, so I replaced it.

- Intermittently, the passenger side blinker will stay on for an undetermined amount of time. Happened 3x since I bought the car 3 months ago. Not a big deal.

Other than that, that's it! I'm off to a pretty good start.

General Comments:

I've always had big luxury sedans. The cars I owned prior to this were a '95 Buick Roadmaster Limited and a 1992 Cadillac Sedan deVille. But this Mercedes, by far, beats them both out overall. Sure, it may not have the power of the 350 LT1 in the Roadmaster, or the classic luxury feel of the deVille, but it's an amazing machine.

Anyways, back to the S320.

I can remember going to the Minneapolis/St Paul auto shows back in the late '90s, when these cars were new, and I always loved seeing and sitting in them. The memory that's most prevalent in my mind is seeing those windshield wipers on the headlamps, and thinking that was the coolest thing ever. Of course, I was like 11 back then, so my automotive priorites have changed between then and now.

This car has an aura of elegance, confidence, power, wealth and a little bit of cold indifference and arrogance. It looks expensive without trying very hard or being overly flamboyant. In my honest opinion, I think this is one of the best looking cars ever produced. It's like M-B got everything right when they did it, and they should have considering the budget (or lack there of) when designing the car. M-B spent over $1,000,000,000 back in the late '80s, early '90s on the W140, and it really shows. This was the last model they did that "money is no matter" theory with. Everything that came afterword was budgeted, and honestly, it shows. Like M-B used to say, "the most overengineered cars on earth".

The interior is fantastic also. It carries the same theme as the exterior... elegance, confidence, wealth and a bit of coldness and sterility. It's not as flamboyant, plush or baroque as interiors in Cadillacs or Lincolns, but that's the way the Germans do it, and it took me a long time to adjust to that. The seats are very comfortable, yet firm. I didn't like that at first, but after 5000 miles, I really like them. There's loads of room everywhere, it's got more backseat space than anyone could ever need. The gauges are all straightforward and there's plenty of info to be had, even with the lack of a trip computer or any sort of a driver's information center. We've got a Speedometer, Tachometer, Oil Pressure gauge (in bars, not PSI), temp gauge (C, not F), analog MPG indicator, fuel gauge and analog clock. Nothing says class like an analog clock!

Let's see... what else..the leather is firm and of a high quality... no tears and very few creases. The Bose 11 speaker stereo system sounds amazing, but I cannot understand why I can't just crank the volume while on the highway. I can spin the knob to my hearts content, but it won't go past a certain point.. which isn't very loud, at least to me.

It's got dual front heated seats and dual rear vanity mirrors. Dual front automatic HVAC..love that feature. Warms up quickly and leaves me always comfortable, it's an incredibly complex system. For example, it will blow air out of the dash vents, windshield vents and floor vents, all at the same time, automatically. Or if you want to shut off individual dash vents, you can do that. Or perhaps if it's cold out, and you want a blast of warm air in your face (the system won't let you put it entirely to your face in the winter for whatever reason), you can push a button on the dash, separate from the rest of the HVAC controls, and it'll bring either hot or cold air through the two middle dash vents. Neat!

When they designed the car, M-B saw that the newly introduced LS400 and Q45 had a lot of neat features that the public loved, and those cars, especially the LS, were selling like hotcakes and taking away from the S Class. And they couldn't have that! This was one of the causes of the way over budgeted development costs. Mercedes realized their supremacy was in danger and they realized they had to have one of the best cars out there, hence the neat features they offered in the W140. I mentioned a lot of them, but things like the soft close doors (will shut themselves once they get into the last 1/4 inch) and dual paned glass were introduced with the W140 and "stolen" by other manufacturers.

One of the reasons I went with the S320 versus a S420 or S500 (or god forbid an S600), was I heard that the 320 is the "cheapest" to own and maintain, and for the most part, it's probably not cheaper to maintain than the V-8 models, but definitely more so than the V-12 S600. For example, at the dealer I go to, they charge $99.95 for an oil change on the six or eight cylinder cars, and $279.99 for the V-12 models. So I didn't save any money there, at least when compared to an S500. But the S500s, with similar miles, were $3-4000 more than my S320, and I couldn't justify buying an S420 when the performance isn't that much better than the 320. But, I'd heard that the 3.2 I-6 was one of M-B's best motors, and I gotta believe it.

The M-104 3.2 DOHC I-6 is a trooper. It's torquey (well, relatively, it does well for only being 3.2 liters hauling 4500 lbs of car), it's got a great powerband, wide torque peak and is pretty fun to wind out and it gets great mileage, 18 city, 26 highway. It's not the quickest car out there, but it's not bad considering what sort of weight it's pushing around. The power at lower speeds is decent, but as speeds increase, the acceleration and "feel" increases. Mercedes quoted the 0-60 at 8.8 seconds and I've timed it and it's always come close to that. If I punch it from a stop, it sort of bogs out until I get to about 3200 rpm (25 mph), then it really opens up and pushes you into your seat pretty decently. It's best acceleration happens from a 80mph roll. I'm not sure why, but at those speeds, WOT acceleration is almost fierce (for a 6 cylinder). It's actually downright quick! Mercedes quotes the top speed at 140, which is downright impressive for the tiny little six, and I've had it at 132 once before I backed off.

High speed is something this car was designed in mind with... and it feels completely competent at speeds over the triple digit mark. The ride is always smooth and silent, with very little intrusion into the cabin, whether it be from noise or vibration.

Handling is great too. It goes through turns like not many other full sized sedans can. It gives a feeling of complete confidence when manuvering through a tight turn at higher speeds. It's probably not as good as a contemporary 7 series or XJ8, but still very very good. Miles ahead of that deVille I had, and that was 900 lbs *lighter*! But again, I'm comparing apples to oranges.

I like the transmission. It's a driver adaptive 5-speed automatic. That means if you feel like being lazy and driving casually, it'll upshift without you even knowing it and do it at the first possible chance. Now if you feel like really getting into it, it'll hold the gear for as long as possible (reaching redline if it has enough time) and shift quickly and smoothly. Love it! My only pick against it is sometimes it can really hesitate to downshift during moderate acceleration.

The steering is brilliant also. It's light, like a Cadillac, but communicates superbly. There's no play in the steering at all. It's a great mix of luxury and sport.

As far as maintenance and repair costs go, remember, this is a Mercedes. For example, I'm a huge believer in preventative maintenance, so shortly after I purchased my car, I had all the fluids flushed. The oil change was $118 after tax, the transmission flush and filter was $371, the coolant flush was $150 (actually, not too bad) and to have a new serpentine belt installed was $238. All of this work was done at the dealer. And in the oil changes' defence, M-B recommends to do a change once every 12 months or 12k miles, but the dealer says to do it every 6 months or 6500 miles. For safety's sake, I'll go with the dealer's recs, but still though, $240 for a year of synthetic oil changes at the dealer isn't too bad. It takes 8 quarts of Mobil-1 and a $28 canister style filter, so even doing it at home is expensive.

The repairs are going to be expensive too, but only because of the parts prices. The labor rate is very comparable... $115 an hour. For example, when my MAS was on it's way out, they quoted me $790 at the dealer to have it done, and that's only with .5 hour labor. Luckily, I found one online (the exact same Bosch model that it had) for $205 and scored that one.

So it's not a cheap car to own, but then again, it was $70,000 new.

Overall, I'm extremely happy with the car and would highly recommend one to anyone who wants one of the finest luxury automobiles ever made, and the last of the "old school" of Mercedes design and engineering.

Hope my review has answered any questions anyone might have if they're looking at buying one of these W140s.

Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes

Review Date: 18th November, 2007

19th Nov 2007, 19:57

Nice review. I am now interested in looking further into W140 Benzes. Keep updates coming as more miles are driven. Thanks.

25th Aug 2008, 17:20

I have to add that the '99 S320 that I purchased about a month ago is just wonderful. I just love driving the car. It's quiet and smooth. It gives me the confidence that I'm more likely to survive an accident versus being in any other car. Having just survived a terrible bicycle accident, I've become painfully aware of the fragility of the human body. I consider this car to be my "insurance" policy.

I've had no problems so far and am learning as much as possible about the various systems. I just received the Mercedes Maintenance CD ROM. A must-have. I want to be prepared for the eventuality of a problem.

14th Oct 2009, 05:38

Of all the reviews that I've read, I think this is probably the greatest review ever. It is precise and neutral, not biased. I have a 1998 C Class Elegance which I would buy all over again a thousand times if I had to because of the built quality. After reading this review, I'm now really interested in buying the bigger S320 MB. Keep us posted on your review mate cheers!

9th Apr 2011, 16:45

I am buying a 1999 MB S320 from a guy who is very VERY particular. He bought it new and it only has 83,000 miles on it. It really looks great and rides extremely smooth.

I think the only problems I will need to fix are: a slight seepage of oil in head gasket and someone vandalized the mirrors. They still work, but have some problems. I think this vehicle has depreciated to the level where it will stay for a while, and the repairs should be ~$2000.00.

Nice vehicle.

Average review marks: 8.1 / 10, based on 5 reviews