I'm thinking of changing my Honda Accord for a W203 C320CDI (56 reg). I've heard good things about the performance of the 3.0 diesel but I'm worried about overall reliability. Did things improve towards the end of the W203's production. The car I'm thinking of has about 36K on the clock.
Did things improve towards the end of the W203's production.
Yes - the post facelift (mid 2004 onwards) versions are regarded as very good. I have a late 2004 C270CDi and it's been (touching a big piece of wood here) faultless, although I've done a lot less miles than I expected - it's only just done 40K.
The only fundamental thing that I can think of is that some of the cars are very camber sensitive and it can be difficult to get the alignment right. I always thought mine was marginal so didn't want it messed around with, but then it became noticeably better when I changed the original Bridgestone tyres for Michelins. Try it on a test drive and see if it drifts left - in fact it's more of a roll left, as the car rolls on more lock.
On wear and tear items, some owners seem to get through front suspension bushes, drop links etc around 70K miles but it's reckoned to be largely due to speed humps etc. They're not too expensive anyway.
One thing about a 36K mile car is that at 37,500 miles it should have a one-off ATF change - that's going to cost towards £200 so if you're buying from a dealer get that done before you buy (if it's MB approved used then I think they say it shouldn't need any work for 3000 miles - maybe I dreamed that?).
I had one of these and it is a superb engine, and as Bill Payer says, most of the early W203 problems were sorted by the time the V6 CDI was fitted. This was the first Mercedes to get this wonderful engine, which is now widely fitted across the range.
However, there have been stories of troubles with this engine. I had none, but I have heard stories.
I second Bill Payer's comments about it being camber sensitive - basically our 'wonderful' roads - potholes, speed bumps - can knock it out of alignment leading to premature tyre wear. Regular alignment checks are recomended.
My c270 of 03 vintage hasn't been perfect. From what I see/hear, when it comes to w203 - the later the better. By 56 plate they were much better sorted (esp. with the facelift & lovely new v6 diesel) than earlier ones like mine.
I was considering a c320 cdi estate - some come with the new (7-speed?) auto box as well - avantegarde nicely specced with zenons, comand (sometimes).
The new v6 diesel is (I believe) much lighter than the previous straight 6 (even straight 5 in the c270) - so should handle & turn-in more sharply.
I wouldn't have any hesitation if I was buying 'your' car - dependant upon price,condition & provenance of course!
I bought late c320cdi (07 plate) in Jan. By far the best car I've ever had. Too early to tell on reliability, but the quality feels bullet proof in a way few other cars do. The engine and 7gtronic gearbox are outstanding. I can't praise it highly enough - more power than you could reasonably expect in a car, an absolute delight to own. Fuel consumption takes of a hit when compared to ordinary diesels though - probably 30mpg around town and 45 on a run. But what a delight to drive, that engine is nothing like any other diesel I've ever driven.