The W220 is one of the lesser quality Mercedes built, but still is far better than other luxury sedans during that period!
W140 and other previous S class are for people over 50 years old, but the W220 (1998 to 2006) can be good for younger drivers (even early thirties) and petite ladies! The way it looks and the way it rides are really making big steps for MB!
The face lifted models (2003 to 2006) have much better built interior and pre-safe features, but cost so much more! For the money 2001 & 2002 V6 are the best overall winners!
They do not last as long as the old S class (meaning only 15 to 20 years!!!), but will easily out last the life time of the 7 series BMW!
The latest S class is far improved, but overpriced! Buy a used W220 (2001 or after), and you will feel like a smart shopper! The BMW 7 Series fans will dump their 7 bought brand new before you trade in your used W220!
My advice is to have this car checked every 6 months. Even a little inexpensive replacement part can affect the ride & the performance. Do get a good garage that can give you personal attention to look after yr S. Some minor parts are so inexpensive to replace (such as A/C sensors under US$ 20/pc) and make a big difference in performance. Do not get ripped off. As for the same problem, the garage can easily charge you 10 times more to fix (by asking you to replace 5 more items), simply because it is an S class!
Get a newer model (at least 2001) if you have enough budget, as the air conditioning & air suspension (the most troublesome parts) are upgraded. Pay a little more, and it could be cheaper to own this car (if you plan to keep it for a few years).
This is a car that will not have much wear out after 3 years, meaning after 3 years of ownership (w/ all minor replacement), it will remain the same condition for another 10 to 12 years easily.
The built quality is below average compare with other S Classes. This is true for any MB made during the same period.
This can be a smart looking car for younger owners.
Unlike the previous S Class, the W220 might only last for 15 years or 250,000 KM without any major repairs. Still it can easily outlast the BMW 7 or Audi A8 by 50%!
Just bought a 2008 S500L, and it is much nicer & much more expensive, but I plan to keep my 2001 S320L as my second car for another 10 years!
1999 & 2000 S models can be troublesome. 2001 or newer are far better in terms of quality & built. 2003 facelifted models are even better, but are generally more expensive. 2001 and 2002 S320L are the best buy to keep for years! S500 & 600 could be costly to keep.
If you can get a good condition 2001 or 2002 and spend about US$ 4,000 for the 1st time repair. You can get 90% of a new car feel, and use it for another 10 years with regular maintenance (about US$ 500 each time & twice a year). The replacement parts are getting cheaper, and OEM components (make sure they are German made) are easy to get.
You cannot believe the good expressway mileage from the S320. The trip computer always shows about 10L/100 KM for freeway driving. This is no much higher than a 2.4 Camry. City mileage is another story. It gives 20L/100 KM.
I suggest you keep 2 cars. The S320L for the long trip, and a little 4 cylinder car for your city driving!
The S 320 L car is the perfect car to drive inside and out side the city.. its the tittle for comfortable and luxury car... but the 1999 and 2000 models have troubles usually in their A/C compressors and the air pumper which make the car higher or lower... it's a car which you can sleep in it full options leather, sunroof, sensors, telephone, system direction and many many more options.. am 28 years old but this is my best car, I've owned it for 3 years and I don't want to change..
This S320L is a good car. It is big and comfortable, and very economical to run (compared with other full size German sedans)
The only shortcoming is the relatively noisy engine at high rpm, since this is a first generation three valve per cylinder V6 eco engine. I have done a lot of research, and spoke with my German friends. The easiest way to make the engine more quiet for MB engines is to use fully synthetic ester based motor oil, such as Voltronic 5W40. I have used it the first time and for over 15,000 km, and the engine is still smooth and quiet, and the oil temperature is very low.
Another problematic part is the airmatic, which is very expensive to replace. But I hear now you can buy the re-manufactured ones made in China, but I am not sure how long they will last. If you plan to keep this car for another 5 years, I suggest you use original struts or OEM Bilstein.