With news that Mercedes-AMG has refreshed the current E53 line-up, we thought we’d have a poke into the classifieds to see what its – very different – ancestors were up to. The news is good; very good.
If your penchant is for an AMG-tweaked Mercedes bearing a number that starts with a five, it’s our bet that you’re into superchargers. Most – not all – of the 55-badged AMGs of yesterdecade had one and this 5.4-litre screw-fed engine cemented AMG’s image as the true lunatic of the OEM tuning scene. The E55 was, for a time, the flagship of a model range whose core sales came from saloons.
With 469bhp, 516lb ft and great, cresting waves of torque sent through a strong five-speed automatic gearbox, the E55 obliterated the competition. When it emerged in 2003 Mercedes and AMG confidently called it the fastest production saloon in the world. They weren’t wrong: it was over a second faster to 100mph than the Audi RS6 (9.8 seconds vs 11) and stayed the world’s fastest saloon until Mercedes itself put an AMG-built V12 into the S-Class. And yet the E55 didn’t need to show off.
Take a look at the standard front three-quarter angle of this silver Mercedes and you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just another E220 CDI. It’s got the AMG wheels, naturally, but from this angle you wouldn’t look twice. From the back it’s a complete one-eighty courtesy of four low-slung (and real) exhausts that belch out pure full-throttle fire and brimstone.
It was a very advanced car for its day, riding on adjustable air suspension with three driving modes and the option to lift the car fairly significantly to give better clearance over speed bumps and kerbs. It had to use a narrower, longer exhaust than the one that made it to the SL55 AMG so power is slightly down on that prestige folding hard-top machine, but it still used cross-drilled discs with eight-piston calipers up front.
The kerb-shy wheels hold 245/40 and 265/35 Michelin tyres front and rear, and it should have no trouble smoking those fat rears on demand. It was both aggressive and wafty; ballistic in a straight line and relaxed enough for all-day mile-munching. It was a hell of a car as long as you didn’t expect it to track corners like a Caterham.
This example has done 118,500 miles and comes with a comprehensive service history, plus the seller’s claim that he took it direct from a prestige German brand main dealer, where the previous owner part-exchanged it against something newer. Don’t equate cheap with poorly-equipped. It has cruise control, climate control, a heated windscreen, full black leather upholstery with heating for the front seats and a radio cassette player. Revel in the delightful little clunk as the archaic music box accepts its media.
As for the asking price, it’s just £6995. What a bonkers amount of car for the money. It won’t exactly sip fuel but it’ll sure as hell blow out your cobwebs when you squeeze that right-hand pedal, while making you feel like a junior mafia don without the threat of actual gang violence. What a superb bit of value.