Big, solid, superbly engineered and finely crafted, those are thoughts that the sight of a Mercedes-Benz readily brings to mind. But passionate? Passion is a word we might associate with Jaguar. Yet passion is an emotion Mercedes is laboring to claim for itself as it rolls out a wave of new models-all backed by a joyously addictive TV commercial featuring Marlene Dietrich crooning "Falling in Love Again."
But does the image fit the product?
When the E-Class sedans were redesigned several years ago, Mercedes stylists gave this mainstay luxury sedan a personality infusion. The chic, asymmetric headlights, aggressive rake, and modern, streamlined grille provided a facelift to the traditional, boxy styling of the E-Class. The Mercedes tri-star was still there on the hood, but the car instantly became more contemporary, more hip. It was also more fun to drive. The E-Class is the best-selling Mercedes ever, and sales continue to grow.
For 1998, Mercedes has instilled its newfound passion into a new E-Class wagon. The entire E-line gets a pair of new engines that deliver better performance and increased fuel economy. And a raft of goodies shows that Mercedes can still deliver the technological breakthroughs one expects from the wizards of Stuttgart.
There was a time when new Mercedes features were more complicated-and more expensive-than anyone else's. The old 4Matic drive system was arguably the best all-wheel-drive technology on the road. But it may also have been the most expensive. For 1998, Mercedes introduces an elegant and effective all-wheel-drive system that doesn't require a second mortgage. And even with other new features, base E-Class prices weren't raised over last year's. That's certainly something all of us can get passionate about.