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I Really Miss My 2001 Mercedes E55 AMG

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author photo by Doug DeMuro February 2017

The last car I purchased was my weird 1989 Nissan S-Cargo van, back in October. I sold it a few weeks ago -- and as I watched it get loaded onto the transport truck, bound for a new home in Kansas, I realized I probably wasn't going to miss it. In fact, I've had 25 cars now, and I never miss any of my old vehicles -- except for one: my 2001 Mercedes E55 AMG.

The "W210" body-style E55 AMG was sold from 1999 to 2002, although you really want to avoid a 1999 model if it's at all possible; upgrades for 2000 were substantial, and they turned the E55 into a much better car. By now, the 1999-2002 E55 AMG is the forgotten AMG: Everyone remembers the Porsche-built Mercedes 500E, which came before it (from 1992 to 1995), and everyone remembers the crazy supercharged "W211" model, which came after it, in 2003. But nobody really remembers the one I had.

Except me. I remember it. I loved it. And I miss it a lot. In fact, I'm often asked if I miss any of my cars -- and while I certainly wish I had a few of them back (my 1995 Range Rover Classic and my 2001 Porsche 911 Turbo, for instance), the one I really lust after most is my E55.

To fully comprehend my situation with the E55, you have to sort of understand where I was in life when I got it. I had just graduated from college, I had just started making money, and I was buying all sorts of relatively cheap cars I had always wanted. In 2010, I bought a 1995 Toyota Land Cruiser. In 2011, I bought a 1998 BMW M3. Then I got the E55. That year, I would end up buying four more cars -- including a Lotus, a Cadillac CTS-V, and a Mercedes G-Wagen. None of these cost more than $30,000.

The problem, of course, was that even though these cars were relatively cheap, I couldn't really afford to keep all of them around. So I'd buy one, drive it for a bit, briefly live out my childhood dream of having it, then move on to the next one. Back then, I lived in fear that the State of Georgia was going to come after me for running an illegal automobile dealership (even though I lost money, sometimes substantially, on each car).

Obviously, I didn't grow too attached to any of these cars, but I happily moved them along as quickly as possible when the time came to get something else. In most cases, this allowed me to spend more than enough time with each vehicle to realize that none of them really lived up to my hopes and expectations. But in the case of the E55, I sold it too quickly. I had the opportunity to buy a rare 500E at a much lower price, I took it, and I sold the E55 to a lawyer in the Atlanta area. It still haunts me as a great regret.

So, you might be wondering, why exactly do you miss it so much? It is, after all, the unloved E-Class AMG -- by my own admission.

Here's the reason: Although the original E55 wasn't as special as the 500E or as fast as the E-Class AMG models that came later, it was tremendously understated, tremendously subtle, and free from all the modern encumbrances that later Mercedes models had. There's no scroll-y wheel for the COMAND system. There's no radar cruise control, or finicky air suspension, or "active body control," or side bolsters that inflate when you're going into a corner. There's just a simple car that nobody suspects is fast, with a naturally aspirated V8 that makes 349 horsepower. Not enough for crazy speeds by modern standards, but quick enough to really have some legal fun.

Interestingly, I owned the next-generation E-Class AMG -- a 2007 E63 AMG Wagon I obtained during a crazy car-buying spree in 2012. And while it was wonderful, it also seemed a bit more than I wanted. It had a lot of those technical doodads that my 2001 E55 didn't have, and it also had a 6.2-liter V8 that's apparently prone to massive engine failure. It was also unreliable and expensive to work on. And plus, who needs 500 horsepower? I sold my E63 AMG Wagon, and I only regret it a little bit. But I regret getting rid of my E55 a LOT.

I especially regret the sale because my E55 was pristine in a way they just aren't anymore. It had low miles and it was tremendously well kept, with little wear inside or out. I've kept up with it on Carfax, and the lawyer I sold it to has driven it a lot -- like most E55 owners. It seems like finding a pristine example like the one I had just isn't really possible anymore.

Interestingly, all these memories of my E55 came flooding back a few weeks ago when I visited Jay Leno's garage to tape an episode of his show. As he showed me around his collection -- Corvette ZR1, Lamborghini Miura, McLaren F1, McLaren P1, Carrera GT -- he pointed me towards something I recognized dearly: a 2002 Mercedes E55 AMG, in pristine condition, parked between a 300SEL 6.3 and a 300SL Gullwing. Apparently, Jay has a soft spot for this E55 AMG, too.

Now, if only I could convince him to sell it to me.

Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.

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I Really Miss My 2001 Mercedes E55 AMG - Autotrader