The Mercedes-Benz E-Class delivers a combination of attributes surpassed by few cars or trucks anywhere. This sedan is luxurious, comfortable and fast, yet the cost of operating it, measured by fuel consumption and anticipated maintenance, is reasonable. The E-Class can be both sporty and practical. It employs some of the world's most advanced safety technology. It's relatively roomy inside, but it's also exceptionally maneuverable and not at all bulky, and it can be equipped with weather-busting all-wheel-drive. It expresses status in elegant, understated fashion.
It's no surprise that, still fresh from a thorough redesign, the E-Class has reasserted itself as one of the best-selling Mercedes models in the United States. It's the company's best selling line worldwide.
The E-Class revamp for model year 2003 was complete, including chassis, exterior styling, interior and engines. Mercedes introduced loads of new E-Class technology to go with athletic new looks and much sharper, sportier driving dynamics. The all-new E-Class sedans were more spirited than ever, but every inch a Mercedes-Benz.
For 2004, Mercedes expanded the lineup with two E-Class wagons that seat seven and offer exceptional versatility when hauling cargo and people. All-wheel drive, called 4Matic, was made available for sedans and wagons. And the mighty E55 AMG sports sedan was launched. Boasting 469 horsepower, with an amazing combination of lightning acceleration, handling, braking and luxurious accommodation, the E55 is one of the finest, and fastest, four-door sporting cars Mercedes-Benz has ever built.
The E-Class line expands further in 2005 with the new E320 CDI, powered by a high-tech direct-injection turbodiesel engine. Though popular in Europe, this is Mercedes' first diesel-powered sedan for the United States in eight years. We think it may be the best diesel car ever sold here. With diesel fuel selling for 20 percent less than gasoline in many markets, not to mention the E320 CDI's outstanding performance and 700-mile fill-up range, Mercedes' timing might be spot-on.
The E-Class is one of the most compelling cars in one of the most competitive market segments. The mid-size luxury sedan category includes more than a dozen solid choices and some of the finest cars in the world, including standards such as the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. The E-Class will go toe-to-toe with any of them, and offers buyers more choices than most.
With so many choices available, choosing the best E-Class car for your needs can be daunting at first. Nine distinct cars, each available with literally dozens of options, comprise the E-Class. Fortunately, it isn't too difficult to narrow the selection to the appropriate model.
There are really only two primary choices: four-door sedan or wagon. From there, it's a matter of choosing the engine, and whether or not you want all-wheel-drive.
Understanding Mercedes' alpha-numeric nomenclature helps, and it's actually not that difficult. The letter or letters at the start designate the car: C for the compact C-Class sedan, E for the mid-size, S for the big luxury sedan. The numbers after the letter designate the engine size, if you imagine a decimal point after the first number. E320, for example, means an E-Class car with a 3.2-liter engine. E500 models come with the more powerful 5.0-liter engine. Somewhat of an exception to this is the super high-performance AMG cars, which get only two numbers. But the process is the same: The E55 AMG has a 5.5-liter engine.
The E320 ($49,220), powered by a 221-horsepower V6, is the least expensive and most popular E-Class. It comes with the standard equipment buyers expect in this class, starting with fully automatic dual-zone climate control, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 10-way power front seats with leather seating surfaces, real burl walnut trim, a nine-speaker stereo, power windows with one-touch express operation up and down, auto-dimming mirrors and rain-sensing windshield wipers. Popular performance options include 4Matic full-time variable all-wheel drive ($2,500) and a Sport Package that includes high-performance tires and the Airmatic computer-controlled air suspension.
New for 2005, the E320 CDI ($49,795) is equipped identically to the E320. The distinction is the impressive CDI turbodiesel engine. If you haven't driven this sedan, you don't know about the latest in diesel-powered cars. However, due to late changes in emissions mandates, the CDI is not offered for sale in California or the Northeast. For now, the E320 CDI is a 45-state car.
The E500 ($57,620) has been gaining sales ground on the E320 in recent years. Powered by a 302-horsepower V8, the E500 comes more standard equipment than the E320, including a seven-speed automatic transmission, a four-zone climate control system with separate temperature adjustments for both sides of the cabin, front and rear, and the variable ADC air suspension.
Nearly all the upgraded equipment on the E500 is available as options on the E320, and there are dozens more options offered on all E-Class models, including the high-tech stuff people expect in luxury cars. The extras include radar-controlled Distronic adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance from cars ahead; Keyless Go, a credit card-sized transmitter which allows unlocking the doors and starting the car by touching the door handle and the gear selector; Parktronic obstacle warning, which helps with parking and enhances safety by alerting the driver to objects in front of and behind the car. Also available: DVD-based GPS navigation integrated in the in-dash information management system; voice operation for the phone, audio controls and navigation system; ventilated massaging seats; and solar-powered interior ventilation for those hot summer days when the car is parked for long periods. There's even a power trunk closer.
The E320 wagon ($51,470) and E500 4matic wagon ($61,220) are equipped comparably to the respective sedans. The 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, optional on the E500 sedan, comes standard on all E500 wagons; the system is also available for the E320 wagon. And while there may still be social baggage associated with station wagons, anyone put off by that image is losing out. The E-Class wagons give up almost nothing to the sedans in performance, fuel economy or handling dynamics. They simply