We bought this machine about six months ago after we remodeled our kitchen. Actually, we first bought the Breville ESXL, based largely on its sexy stainless steel exterior, but quickly returned it when we realized that it couldn't make decent espresso. See my review of the Breville to read more details on that experience.
After returning the Breville, I decided to go with the Gaggia because our previous machine was a Gaggia Espresso, and I'd been very happy with it. We ordered the Classic from Whole Latte Love as part of a package with a Rocky doserless grinder and a bunch of extras for only about $700, which is about $100 less than what you'd pay if you got the machine and the grinder separately. I considered getting a Silvia and Rocky instead, but it would have been $800 instead of $700, and the Silvia has a reputation for being finicky, so I went with the Classic.
The Classic is basically identical to the Espresso, except for the stainless steel skin and three-way solenoid valve, which keeps things from getting too messy but shouldn't affect the quality of the shots. So I didn't really expect to like the coffee coming out of the Classic any more than what the Espresso made. However, I discovered that the Classic makes much better shots, and much more dependably. I don't know if this is really attributable to the machine itself as much as the Rocky grinder, which is a step up from the MDF grinder we'd been using before. The Rocky seems to be able to make a more consistent grind, and you can dial in the grind better than with the MDF. It also helped to use a proper 58mm tamper and high quality beans. Whatever the reason, the shots on the Classic have been consistently rich and full of tasty crema. I used to have to throw out half the shots from my old Espresso, but I very rarely get a sink shot with the Classic.
Steaming milk on the Classic is another matter, especially with the stock steam wand and turbo-frother device. As others have stated, the attachment is worthless, producing lots of big-bubble foam. Taking off the attachment is only a little better, since the stock wand is too short to froth the milk well. If you want latte-art quality microfoam, you should get a Silvia steam wand and retrofit it to the machine. The Sylvia wand fits fairly well, and it gives you much more steam pressure to make microfoam. The only downside is the boiler is too small to keep up, so sometimes you run out of steam before the milk is ready. You can avoid this problem by starting to steam before the ready light goes on.
Speaking of boilers, much has been said about the small aluminum boilers in Gaggia machines. While I would prefer that the boiler be a bit bigger and made out of brass, there is something to be said for the small boiler's ability to heat up fast and recover quickly. Since it produces good espresso and foam, I can't really complain.
The overall build quality of the machine is fairly good. I especially like the large, commercial size portafilter and substantial brass group head. It also has nice large rocker switches for power, steam and brewing. The stainless steel case is also handsome, though not as heavy as a Silvia or as sleek as the Breville. I do wish the drip tray was steel as well, but it's deep enough to serve its purpose. The cup warming tray holds five cups and only gets moderately warm. You need to pull a blank shot into the cup before brewing a shot to warm the cup properly, but that's true of most machines. The steam knob seems a bit cheap, but it works fine. The portafilter handle is also a bit on the light and flimsy side, and it's hard to get a socket in the hole to tighten it up when it loosens, which happens all too often. I also get a bit of dripping from the steam wand when the machine is on, which is a minor irritant. Overall, though, the machine seems solid enough.
My biggest problem with the Classic is that it's a single boiler rather than an HX or dual boiler, so steaming for multiple cappuccinos or lattes is a hassle. This doesn't matter most of the time, since I usually only make one or two drinks at a time. But during parties or the holidays, it can be a pain to brew up several drinks. This is the only reason why I wouldn't buy the Classic again. If my Classic died today, I'd probably get a lower priced HX machine. However, even the cheapest HX machines are at least 50% more expensive than the Classic, so this isn't really a fair criticism. For a mid-priced single boiler machine, the Classic is a great value.