Too many Mercedes unicorns to cover in one post so let’s start with three E-class units on the lot as of late August 2017. Focusing on the 2007-2009 E550 and E63 because they are affordable and few. There are countless 2010-2011’s out there with the newer body but no more horsepower. The 2012 and above E-class cars have the higher horsepower (402 vs 382) with far more amenities and are starting to become available in unicorn territory ($35,000 or less with 60,000 miles or less).
At the low end is this 2007 E550 with only 23,000 miles in Florida. Something about the softer lines of the W211 that appeal to me. Adjustable suspension, heated and air conditioned seats, but no Bluetooth or rear view camera. Add a 100,000 mile warranty and you’ve got the basics of a daily driver for years to come and at $20,998 seems cheap. Surprised it has lasted a week on the lot.
The CLK-Class coupe predated the E-Class coupe and with a 382hp V8 the mid-sized 3,700 pounds can clip five second 0-60 times. It was once a $55,000 car and can be had for $15-20,000 plus the MaxCare warranty for years of enthusiastic driving. Described as a luxury car, although the 2007 models had no Bluetooth or similar modern amenities – a quick trip to Best Buy can fix that for a hundred dollars. I think these cars are bargains. Let’s look at a couple. Contemporary Review – 2007 CLK550
This Oregon car is still on the lot as of late August 2017. I can’t find anything visually wrong although with 55,000 miles it’s at the high end for a unicorn. I have the luxury of a free long term temporary car while I search for my next unicorn. If I didn’t have that I’d buy this as a stopgap daily driver until I found something more special. Also a great car for a college kid – with MaxCare no repairs.
The CL550 is an enigma to me. Built on an S-class platform but heavier, no B-pillar, nice curves, just enough horsepower at 382, and 5 second 0-60mph times. But I’ve never sat in one let alone taken a spin and not sure why I’m not jumping at one of the bargains below. Perhaps because I saw a raging CL63 AMG appear and vanish on the CarMax website in about 20 minutes last spring, never to return again. Maybe I’m waiting on a V12 CL600? One thing I know is they are rare. I’ve spotted only two in Northern Virginia in the past year. Listing for over $100,000 when new they meet my “I got a deal!” standard.
This 2008 car stunned me. The few CL550’s that surface have always been in the $30,000 and up range and left me wondering about spending that much on a 10-year-old car. Other than rare and luxurious I wasn’t sold. But at $22,998 I am shocked. An LA car with Bluetooth and rear view camera, not to mention Distonic. Smoker car I’m wondering? It’s about $10,000 less than its peers. Usually when I see a car this far below the others I smell a rat. They pop up and vanish quickly and I wonder if a deal was cut before the car came to market but CarMax has to bring it online to sell? Who knows? Grab it. It will be gone by this weekend.
The C63 AMG scares me. No illusions of an executive or grown up enthusiast car. Like the BMW M3 it’s bred to be driven hard. There’s risk of getting a reckless driving charge in a drive through Chik-Fil-A. Over $63,000 new (my unicorns) and with 451hp, adjustable (meaning race car) suspension, and per Mercedes the first AMG designed from the ground up to be an AMG vice adding high performance parts to a C-Class, it’s quite special. I’ve tracked them for almost a year and like the M3, they are always available on CarMax lots. There are eight on the lots as of late August 2017. That said, they are often very, very expensive, or if they make my $35,000 cutoff they are very high mileage. But generally I can find a couple that are sub-50,000 miles and around $30,000. Car and Driver C63 Review
The C63 twins below are nearly identical. The 2010 is a bit newer, a bit cheaper, and about the same miles. One is in Daytona Beach and the other Fort Myers. Today the Fort Myers car vanished but it may return. If you owned one you could make it between these Florida cities in the same day! But then you really wouldn’t need one, would you?
I’m too tall for the SLK55 AMG and I already have a convertible roadster. Otherwise I can’t imagine a more fun little Mercedes than this. With a normally aspirated 5.4 liter V8 and “only” 355hp it still scoots to 60 in 4-plus seconds. And it’s got that mean AMG look. And it’s cheap. And it’s a hard top convertible which means no luggage room, but who cares? This is a weekend windy road to the winery car or the perfect commuter. CarMax carries about 20 SLK’s nationwide as of late August 2017, and sure you can pay more for a 201hp SLK250 or the 301hp SLK350 but why would you?
As I write, only the Burbank SLK55 AMG remains on the lot – someone swiped the Milwaukee car as I typed. It may be back. One never knows. I’ve had cars vanish for weeks while being transported to another dealer. Stay tuned. The one that remains is still a good deal with higher miles and low price – and the 100,000 mile warranty will be the starting point. But they sure do look like twins to me!
JR Ewing drove an SL roadster in his last film and you can too. What began as the 300SL in 1954 grew to the fifth generation SL550 (R230) in 2001 until replaced by the current model SL in 2011. We can’t afford the current model. They run $44-80,000 on CarMax. But there are three that make my unicorn threshold (less than $35,000-less than 60,000 miles) as of late August 2017 and for an entry fee of $24,998 you can ride like JR. The SL550 beat our the Porsche 911 and BMW 650 in Car and Driver review of 2007 below. Car and Driver noted on the highway, “Very entertaining for a car so aloof in the city. Really comes alive.” Unfortunately, they also wrote the SL was “like dancing with a fat lady. She can do it, but you won’t win any prizes.” Doesn’t matter. These cars have style and move quickly with a solid 382hp. Car and Driver Review – 2007 SL550
I hate when I begin to write a blog and find the car I’m high on just vanished. Today it’s the opposite – was preparing this section on SL550’s and the car on the left surfaced for the first time. Higher mileage than I’d like but for under $25,000 you can get a bona fide Mercedes SL550. It’s another California car with all the amenities money could buy….in 2007. You’ll have to add your Bluetooth and rear view camera or maybe turn your own head to back up. But the seat massagers will soothe you when you do. And on the right is its twin – but a thousand dollars more and slightly higher miles. I can’t spot any more options that would warrant the increase and offer it as an example of interesting CarMax pricing.
Last we have the always difficult choice of miles versus dollars. Another 2007 for almost $29,000, but it’s been driven only 2,500 miles yearly up in Michigan. I’m presuming it was garaged winters. I’m thinking you can be out the door for $35,000 with a MaxCare warranty for 50,000 or 75,000 more miles and have a slick SL covered bumper to bumper until the fall of 2022!
The Mercedes CLS “Coupe” was introduced in 2005 and the shape was, to me, spectacular. Some of my friends hated it. Love or hate the bow, I think the Audi A7 and others have mimicked it. The original design lasted through 2011 and in 2012 the body was sharpened and chiseled and the V8 motor beefed up from 382hp to a twin turbo 402hp. The old and the new are sub-5 second 0-60 luxury cars that once sold for well over $75,000. CarMax has almost 50 CLS coupes on the lots nationwide, of which nine meet my unicorn standard of less than $35,000 and 60,000 miles. To keep it simple, here are two pre-2012 (C219) and two post-2012 (W218) models for your viewing pleasure. I like the shape of the original and yet the power and modern electronics of the W218 are alluring.
Flagship. Luxury. Executive. World class. Call it what you want, the S-Class is the top of the line when it comes to big comfortable sedans. Here’s what Car and Driver had to say, “For more than 50 years, S-class Benzes have been the most succulent sausages in the Teutons’ tray of vehicular sauerkraut.” I wish I could write like that! My S55 AMG was a W220-era behemoth that was the finest Mercedes offered in 2004 at $120,000. I nailed it for $25,000 with MaxCare warranty. I’m hoping someone else read this and drives home the finest car they’ve ever owned for Honda prices. CarMax has 26 S550’s nationwide and seven that meet my unicorn standard of less than $35,000, less than 60,000 miles. Below I’ve included a sample of what’s available as of late August, 2017.
Here’s a pair of ridiculously low mileage S550’s in Florida and North Carolina. These cars are 9-10 years old with less than 3,000 miles driven yearly. Pre-2012 they have the 382hp V8 and every luxury accessory you can think of. Yes, they have the hideous hump back trunk but I can get over that for the right price. There are always S550’s of this era for less than $30,000 but low mileage cars move fast.
I couldn’t resist. The most expensive car in the CarMax inventory is a beautiful 2017 AMG GT with only 2,000 miles on it. I once asked how recently purchased brand new cars show up on CarMax lots and the sales rep told me they are likely reposessions. Bummer for them. This Los Angeles car surfaced in July 2017 for $114,998, only to be reduced by a thousand a week later. I saved it looking forward to adding it to the blog at some point when it vanished. I was sad. But last night it popped up again deeply discounted – to $109,998. A four per cent drop in a month. It only needs to drop another $75,000 to be in unicorn territory and I’ll pounce! Reminds me of the 2013 CLS550 that showed up for $13,599. I tried like hell to get the dealership to honor it but they wouldn’t. Sigh. SEPTEMBER 5, 2017 – BREAKING NEWS – PRICE REDUCED AGAIN TO $108,998! September 12, 2017 – PRICE STILL PLUMMETING! DOWN TO $107,998! September 18, 2017 – Reduced to $104,998. AT WHAT PRICE WILL THIS CAR SELL? Reduced $10,000 from first listing. Getting closer to unicorn territory. September 25, 2017 Update – The car is off the web. Has it sold? Will it resurface somewhere else? I’ll let you know.
Ford Mustangs are growing on me. Used to think they were overrated, underpowered and clumsy, and I never really got over how far they had fallen by the 1979 Mustang II. I drove one to the prom. It was a bad night all around. But the 2005 retro Mustang nostalgically took me back to my childhood and 10 years later the sixth generation 2015 Mustang, with a modern independent rear suspension and 435hp really caught my eye with its sleek looks and high performance. Mustangs at CarMax are plentiful – as I write there are 444 on the lots nationwide, and almost half of those are V8’s (and I only count V8’s as real Mustangs). All Mustangs with V8’s are GT’s (well, except Bullitts). The cheapest is $13,599 and 107,000 miles and the most expensive 2017 Shelby GT350 with 1,000 miles will set you back $59,998. These are not unicorns.
But these Mustangs are. Let’s take a quick walk around the stable with these two relatively normal Mustang unicorns. At the bottom end we have a 2006 Mustang GT convertible, with only 40,000 miles and a price tag of $15,998. Cute car, 300hp, and a five second 0-60 run. I drove one recently and was surprised that with “only” 300hp it roared and scooted well. I thought it was going to be a dog but found it satisfactory, despite the solid axle I thought was made of wood. Pretty sure you can score another five years, 60,000-85,000 mile MaxCare warranty for a few thousand and be out the door for under $20k. You’ll almost be able to get vintage tags and still be under the MaxCare warranty!
And to show that not all my unicorns are old, at the top end we have a 2015 435hp beast with only 15,000 miles at $26,998. This one is still under factory warranty and so the MaxCare plan will be less. With a 0-60 of 4.4 seconds this stirs my soul. These Mustang GT’s sold for $35-45,000 just two years ago, so $27k seems like a good deal but not the $100,000 discount I look for in my German cars. But the 2015’s and up have an extensive array of technology and amenity upgrades that surprised me. For the same price as a 2015 Mustang GT you can buy a five to seven-year older Corvette, with better performance, more panache, but dated interior. It’s a real tough call. Check out this review: