The Mercedes W211: A taste of post 2000s elegance

Thursday February 6 2020


By Mark Kawalya

A certain Mercedes model has become all the rage on Ugandan roads right now. Selling for about Shs40m, the car is loved by many that are looking for luxury within that price bracket.

General design
Bigger and more luxurious, the third generation to the E class was launched in 2002. The car is a noteworthy addition to the E Class nameplate that was popularised by its legendary grandfather, codenamed the Mercedes W124.

Positioned as a mid-sized luxury vehicle, the E Class has an elegant curved design with dual circular headlights. These lights are similar to the ones on its predecessor (W210), although with the W211, the lights are larger and styled more aggressively.

The shape of this E Class further cemented Mercedes’ move away from the boxy design philosophy that the 90s Mercedes models were famous for.

As is the case with the outer shell, elegant curves grace the interior, running from the dashboard onto the door panels making one uniform unit. Part of the dashboard is accentuated with glossy wood trimmings, which are also incorporated into the centre console housing the radio and gearshift.

You have the option of a supple leather seats although a cloth option is also available. The cabin is beautifully noise insulated which is handy when driving through noisy areas. Ride quality is very good with the standard suspension at both fast and slow speeds.


Engine and transmission
The W211 comes with either petrol or diesel engines. The petrol is a preferred choice with Ugandan motorists although a few drivers like the diesel option. The petrol engines had 10 different capacities running right from 2000cc all the way to 6200cc for the AMG models. M engines such as M271, M272, M112, M273 and M113, M156, were used for the petrol variants.

The M113 and M156 engines had both standard and more powerful AMG developed variants.
On the other hand, the diesel engines run five capacities from 2200cc up to 4000cc. These used the OM engines, which are the OM646, OM647, OM648, OM642, OM648, OM629.

Common problems
According to Hussein Sekitoleko, a Mercedes mechanic in Lungujja, one of the issues with the earlier W211 models was a troublesome fault with the radiator. Since the transmission fluid is cooled by a process that is linked to the radiator, the fault would lead to mixing of coolant with hydraulic fluid leading to transmission failure.

The engine and transmission mounts are also filled with oil and when they are not replaced on time, they may leak oil leading to engine vibrations.

However, it takes about 100,000km for the mounts to need replacing. Another issue with the earlier models was with the Sensotronic Brake Control (SBC), which led to one of the biggest Mercedes recalls of all time.

The pump used had a finite lifespan characterised by limited number of braking cycles. When these cycles are achieved a dashboard warning will pop up alerting the need for replacement. Replacing the pump costs about Shs5m for a new one although used options can also be got for about half of that cost.

General use and maintenance
Parts for the Mercedes W211 are readily available from trusted dealers. There are a number of garages that are able to facilitate repairs for the cars. However due diligence is required before trusting any mechanic with your car.

General service parts are reasonably priced with air filters costing Shs90,000 for a pair and Shs40,000 for an oil filter. Spark plugs will cost you Shs35,000 each. Break pads are priced at Shs350,000 for a complete set for both the rear and front.

However, other repairs will have you digging more into your pocket. A good fuel pump for example costs Shs1.2m, an Air Mass sensor costs about Sh900,000 and a set of rear and front shock absorbers costs about Sh1.8m.

Fuel economy of the W211 varies since there are many different engine capacities to choose from. However the engines with larger capacities such as the 6.2 V8 are thirstier than the smaller capacity engines.
The W211 is a beautiful creation and the car speaks volumes about its owner. However its repairs and maintenance costs need to be put into consideration before the final decision to buy is made.

Purchase options

I would strongly recommend that you import this model or buy one from the bond with reasonably low mileage. Anything between 30,000km to 60,000km would be ideal. A higher mileage will simply cost you more in the long run as the car will be nearer to the replacement threshold of many of its mechanical parts.

If you are going to buy a locally used W211 E Class, do a thorough mechanical check with an experienced mechanic. These cars can be absolute money pits if you get one that was taken through the wringer by its previous owner.