After turning 40 recently, I decided to properly kick-off my mid-life crisis.
I was going to go with either a boat or a car.
A 2004 S430 won.
I found one with 114,000 miles on it on Autotrader.
I suppose I got the "base" model 430, but it is absolutely remarkable.
The suspension, coupled with the car's sheer size, makes for an airplane like ride (sport settings are also present).
I've taken it on 2 long road trips and been in very good spirits after arriving.
Tips for Buying Used:
These cars depreciate wildly.
I paid too much.
Find the KBB price and stick with it.
*Have a genuine STAR diagnostics ran.
*Beware the "stuck in park" potential
Purchased this car used with 55kms, it is now 7 years old and has 130kms. It continues to drive as well as it did 3 years ago and have not had any issues with it. Besides being smooth, comfortable, solid, reliable, powerful and surprisingly economical; it is has a sense of dependability and agelessness about it. It is a serious vehicle, you know, not a gimmicky in your face car,
... by inexcusable disregard for quality and repair design. In short, if repair costs scare you AVOID the S600, if you don't care about repair costs I highly recommend it! If you fall in between, read on . . .
This review is specifically for the S600, most of the problems are specific to - or worsened by the V12; unfortunate because this car is an absolute pleasure and blast to drive.
I have owned and loved 3 Mercedes prior to this one. 1996 (R129) SL500, 2005 SLK55 AMG, 2003 ML500. The nearly 20 year old SL500 is probably the best car I have ever owned (and my wife frequently reminds me have owned more than 60). The ML500 is my wife's, 160K miles and it still basically drives like new with less than $2K of repairs (not including maintenance) over it's entire life. SLK55 was brilliant for the entire time I owned it.
I purchased the S600 used with 73K miles on it. Out of the 60 cars mentioned above, I have only purchased 2 new. When I purchase a used car I know it is used and plan on spending $2K or 20% of purchase price (whichever is greater) to repair things that have been ignored by the previous owner. I am saying this to provide context and to explain that I don't buy a used car and expect it to be like new. The S600, within 3 months, cost 50% of purchase price in repairs including:
1- Environmental control sensor (common problem on this version of S series) $400
2- Front ABC Struts, $2,400
3- Driver side Ignition Coil Pack $1,800
4- Plugs (recommended every 30K miles) $280 (NOTE: Labor for plugs was applied to coil pack above, otherwise plugs are $900 themselves for parts and labor)
5- Right and Left control arms due to broken bushings $800
Total = >$5,500
NOTE: Although the Struts are a semi-common problem on this version of the S Class, the problem is significantly compounded by the weight of the V12. Ignition coil pack is specific to the V12, on the V8 each coil can be purchased separately, in the 12 6 coils are grouped in a 'pack' meaning if ONE COIL goes bad you REPLACE SIX! Control arm bushings is an issue that is much more common in the V12 due to weight change and no change in design.
NOTE: I had a good mechanic go through this car prior to purchase, other than the struts, which I could argue he should have caught, the other problems did not present until I had driven the car for 1000 miles or more. The problems also didn't occur all at once, I fixed one, then another occurred.
That is the bad, on the other side of the coin, I am hugely impressed with the driving characteristics of the car. It is a nose heavy pig of a car that weighs well over 2 tons but acceleration is fantastic; I have a 2011 Corvette Grand Sport which will kill the S600 0 to 60 - but 30 to 80 the S600 is nearly even. The S600 takes aggressive corners (corners marked as 35 MPH taken at 60 MPH) and remains almost perfectly flat and entirely composed. With the ABC settings and ride height adjustments this car can go from feeling almost like a really good GT car, to a very comfy drive around (on really bumpy roads). All 4 seats recline, massage, heat and cool (although 'cool' is really ventilate and doesn't work very well). Finally, this is all delivered while getting about 25 MPG on the freeway (drops to about 12 around town).
I had planned on purchasing an SL65 or SL600 next spring (SL600 would replace SL500 - SL 65 would replace Grand Sport), at this point I do not intend to ever purchase a 12 cylinder Mercedes again. If I move forward with the Mercedes I will either go with the SL55 AMG or, more likely, the SL 550. That said, the incredibly crazy frequency of issues on the S600, and me having to avoid the top-end Mercedes models (the 63 AMG is still too new for my budget), opens the door to a Jaguar XKR, which which is something that was an almost non-option prior to my experience with the S600. Mercedes had a customer for life, that they have turned to an opportunistic shopper.
When I purchased this Southern California car it was a one owner eleven year old $95K S Class MB with 63K miles. I paid 13% of the original price. As far as I'm concerned it is just broken in good. The price that I paid (lol) wasn't much more than the tax paid on the original purchase so I am appreciating depreciation.
Sometimes its good to be second. This is a great automobile, solid, quiet, powerful, looks great and has a long life ahead of it. When you buy a used car of this caliber you are getting a first class top tier motor car for less money than the cheapest new base vehicle that will be rattling in a year. You give up the latest in technology but who needs it; yesterdays technology, for the difference in money, is pretty good.