Much like Takeshi’s Castle, the Mercedes E Class W212 started modestly but became a sensational car. The production team had high expectations at launch, started poorly, and finished honorably. Here’s why – in today’s article.
It’s a well-known rule that when you buy a Mercedes it’s ideal to buy the facelift version. But the Mercedes E Class W212 has taken this rule to a whole different level. When I wrote about the Insignia I said I find it hard to believe that in 2009 you could buy a new car that you weren’t confident to drive outside the city or further than 50 kms from the nearest service station. Now, this has happened at bigger houses, even in the Mercedes stable, even in one of the most important models – the Mercedes E Class W212. I keep reading on forums that a Mercedes E Class W212 tends to leave you stranded on the side of the road, and that the modern Mercedes is not what it used to be.
Is it true that a E Class W212 leaves you on the side of the road?
Yes and no. If you go pre-facelift until 2013, you have a pretty good chance of being best friends with the tow guys and your mechanic will answer your phone from a Vertu. The 2013 – 2016 facelift version has most of the issues fixed and is a fantastic choice. Like that high school classmate you used to make fun of for always wearing baggy clothing, braces, and questionable hygiene who is now a model. Like that fast-food restaurant that you always avoid, but after a night out and 5 beers you really start to bless it for being open late in the night.
Mercedes E Class W212 engines
- 1.8 Turbo M271 of 184 and 204 horsepower – Coming pre-facelift as the E200 CGI and E250 CGI, the old 1.8 Turbo retires on the Mercedes E Class W212. With modest performance for a barge the size of the E Class, turbo issues, and old-fashioned fuel consumption, this engine is saved only by reliability. The only point of interest is that when you replace the timing chains you will have to replace the solenoids aswell and those will be costly.
- 2.0 Turbo M274 of 184 and 208 horsepower – The facelifted versions of the E200 CGI and E250 CGI come with a new engine. One of those engines that can leave you on the side of the road, having serious timing chain tensioners issues, the chain going out of rhythm and into the engine. As the chain enters the engine, out of each cylinder comes a member of the NSYNC singing “Bye Bye Bye”. Be careful with the timing chain tensioners and replace them on time.
- 3.0 V6 M272 with 231 horsepower – The old 3.0 V6 is at the end of its life under the bonnet of the pre-facelift Mercedes E Class W212, having been retired in 2011. The infamous balance-shaft issue has been solved and now the engine is ready for action. Beware however of the timing which wears out faster than it should. Otherwise, a fantastic engine.
- 3.5 V6 M272 and M276 with 252, 276, 292, and 306 horsepower – Used extensively in the Mercedes E Class W212 but also in the entire Mercedes herd, the M276 engine replaces the M272 which was already proving reliable especially after the balance shaft issue was solved. The continuation of that engine is equally reliable. A spectacular and reliable engine.
- 4.7 V8 M278 of 408 horsepower – Apparently the engineers at Mercedes aren’t capable of making good engines for the poorer of us. Entry-level engines always have some kind of reliability issues, but with the big engines we’re just talking about reliability and performance. And the M278 engine doesn’t disappoint either.
- 5.5 V8 M273 of 388 horsepower – The same V6 but coming with 2 extra cylinders, this V8 is very reliable but also excessively thirsty, even for the V8 world. But if you can afford a Mercedes E Class W212 E500 with a 5.5 V8 petrol, I don’t think fuel economy is relevant.
- 2.2 cdi OM651 of 134, 168, and 204 horsepower – Fitted to the poor man’s E200cdi, E220cdi, and E250cdi versions, this legendary diesel comes with timing chain issues. What’s more, the timing is mounted behind the engine (we know of another German manufacturer who had this brilliant idea) so any servicing will cost you so much that you’ll be on a tea and water diet for a long time. For the facelift version, the issue has been solved, leaving only the E250cdi version to have serious issues with the piezo injectors. Amusingly, VW also had serious issues with the piezo injectors with its famous 2.0 TDI on the Passat B6.
- 3.0 V6 OM642 of 204, 211, 231, and 265 horsepower – The base engine for all the big Mercedes chariots (ML, GL, S Class, Ennio Moriccone) also ended up on the Mercedes E Class W212. A great engine with a reputation for reliability, but it won’t be cheap to maintain by any means. Oil cooler issues remain.
2.2 diesel + Electric of 231 horsepower – The E300 Hybrid is one of the few diesel engines that are in a hybrid configuration. It comes both with the standard issues and the hybrid mode issues.
3.5 V6 petrol + electric of 331 horsepower – E400 Hybrid comes with the common Mercedes hybrid issue and doesn’t offer much of a plus over the petrol alone either. It might make this hybrid an ideal choice for those who want to evade the taxman but that’s about it.
Mercedes E Class W212 General Issues
- The electric cables are made of chewing gum and tend to break or corrode. The Mercedes E Class W212 is a car full of technology, sensors, and safety features. Expect electrical issues all over the place, issues that are usually solved just by changing cables and plugs.
- The G-Tronic automatic gearbox is still as sensitive to work as a goverment worker and whines every time it has to work. Keep in mind the oil and filter which need changing every 3 years or 60,000km.
- Front discs and brakes wear out faster than a woman who only spends her life in clubs with umbrella drinks and people with unbuttoned shirts and who introduces themselves as “Giovanni”.
- The issue with the water pump is just like chewing gum sticking to the sneaker – it just refuses to go away. Unfortunately, it can only be replaced, but at least issues are rarer than in the past.
- Rust is still with us and is starting to form on the wings and sills. Hard to believe that Mercedes is the rust champion, just as no one would have believed that Logan Paul would be quite capable at throwing hands in the ring.
- The Hybrid module is quite sensitive and the moment it has a fault the car won’t start. You can’t run the car just running on coals and liquid fossils so you need to fix the electric motor as soon as possible. Combine this issue with the sub-par wiring and you can imagine the fun.
- And now, the big one. All pre-facelift W212 have issues with the rusting rear subframe. All of them.
Mercedes E Class W212 Verdict
I’m going to end the same way I started. A car that started badly but ended well. The facelift version is the one you want, possibly with a big engine. I think Mercedes engineers intentionally made small engines of questionable quality. The Mercedes E Class W212 however still remains the benchmark in the mid-size saloon class and the facelift variant heralds a return to Mercedes reliability and reputation. As for the pre-facelift variant, what can I say but “Good luck!”.
Which engine do you recommend? The classic E220cdi remains the preferred choice of taxi drivers and has a decent engine for those who want a luxurious car but don’t want to ruin their bank account doing so. For those who instead want performance and luxury, then the E300cdi BlueEFFICIENY is the engine that best complements the character of the best limousine you can drive yourself. Because an loaded E Class is basically an S Class you drive yourself because you don’t want to be chauffered around.