I had a 1999 E320 and drove it to 52,000 miles and traded it when the new 2001 C-320 was released. The E320 was a very solid car. There was never an instance where I ever had a experience or thought that my glovebox would fall off (the car is built solid and can take hard use) as described in another post. When I had to trade in the car it still performed great mechanically, meaning I never had a single problem and the quality never seemed to vary from the day I purchased the car. Cosmetically the interior and overall car looked very nice. After owning it I believe that it's built very well and if the car is for a single driver or a family with kids regardless of the wear it would have on the seats etc. from kids the interior and car still holds up well and is long lasting. The engine and mechanics of the car were oustanding. There were no problems and I pushed the car to the limit since that was my car when I turned 16. When I got my 2001 C-320 I loved it initially. I had the newest mercedes technology with the leather and computer in the car etc. However, after about a year I realized that I just didn't hold up as well as my E-Class. The E-Class was perfect. I was only 18 when I got the C-Class and still drover it really hard. The transmission had started breaking itself down and there was metal in my oil pan according to my service rep at a Hoehn Mercedes in San Diego County. This was at around 36,000 miles. Mercedes put a new transmission module in my car and fixed everything and it felt like a new car and that's what you can expect from Mercedes, but I still knew that an issue like this and long-term I was better off with an E-Class and wouldn't see this with an E-Class. The E-Class makes Mercedes the majority of their revenue, so they put in the extra Research & Development and Testing so there are no problems. The C-Class is also basically an entry-level Mercedes so I guess the quality wouldn't be the same an E-Class. I traded in the C-Class and got a 2004 E500 two weeks ago. I paid an extra $1,950 and got an extended Mercedes warranty so i'm covered for 6 years 100k. That is the best thing to do if you are concerned about your car lasting and cost. Get the warranty from Mercedes, but you must get it the when you buy the car or within the first year, otherwise you won't be able to purchase a warranty that protects you like you are normally covered for the first 4 years 50k. I think with the E-class Models & Up, the quality only gets better as technology improves. I guarantee an E-class will last you a lot longer than a new 5-series. My friend has had a 1999 540i and has spent thousands repairing it as he got into higher mileage. Plus, mercedes tries to cover under warranty anything it possibly can, while bmw tries to do them opposite. That is the verdict from a friend who is a bmw owner. Hopefully you will go with the 04 E-Class.