The Mercedes E-Class nowstands for elegance, not justa size category. The line hasbeen improved, with luxury wovenmore deeply into the concept. Nowabout an inch longer, wider, and abit taller than before, the 4-doorsedan now looks more aerodynamicand muscular. It has the popularcoupe-like appearance. Across theboard, the look remains traditionallyMercedes, yet a bit sportier. Theovoid quad headlights remain astandard feature, with dual xenonlights also available.
Open the driver's door and stepinto a modern, luxurious interior.The top of the instrument panel is adarker texture for safety than thelower instrument panel; a beautifulcurved band of real walnut separatesthem. The ovoid instrument paneland vents accentuate the wave-likedashboard's design. The dashboardcurves gracefully into the doors, creatinga soothing interior for traveling,complete with a little drawer.
The needle and dial gauges aresimple—too simple. A big speedometeris in the middle. A smallertachometer is on the right, and onthe left, you'll find the same sizeclock for symmetry. A big clock hereseems like a misuse of space; thesame area could house 4 moreimportant gauges. Sure, the illuminatedinstrument panel looks great,although its bar-graph gas gauge onthe far left and temperature gauge onthe far right just don't quite fit. Thecenter of the speedometer works wellas an information screen in conjunctionwith steering wheel controls.Adaptive cruise control is available.
The center console is a wholenew look for Mercedes. Whetheryou get the navigation system or the6-disc changer, you will enjoy masteringall the variations of theoptional 4-area climate controls. Inaddition to the stereo controls, besure to order the Harmon Kardonradio, which puts out just enoughbass. The standard power-seats aregreat, but the multicontour powerseatsare outrageous. Perhaps youshould have the dealer demonstratethese seats during your test-drive.The back seats are plenty roomy for2, with seating available for 3.
Under the hood you can get a 221horsepower,V6 or a 302 horsepower,V8. A new model wagon and allwheeldrive is not yet available. Theold design, the E320 wagon, is stillfor sale. The E320 base model sedanis available for about $48,000; theE500 starts at $55,515, althoughyou are sure to add a few thousandin goodies, like the glass panoramaroof that gives all seats a great view.Live in a hot climate? Throw in theelectric solar panels that actuallycool down the interior when the caris off. This new E-Class is a tour-de-forceof new technologies.
The front- and rear-wheel-drivesuspension are well done, butreturn a heavy feel. The steeringshould give a bit more feedback, butthe semi-active air suspension andsport package tied to the E500 reallybrought out the best in the ride,and was thrilling to drive. If youlove technology, you have got to seeand examine this air suspension; itgives a completely different ride andlevel of control.
If you think this is a bit large foran urban car, try Mercedes' outstandingC-Class, which is morecomparable to the 3-Series BMW.The E-Class is more comparable tothe 5-Series Beamer. Call aheadand arrange a test-drive if you'reconsidering this model. Plan on atleast an hour of sitting behind thewheel so you can appreciate thearray of in-depth German thinking.The E-Class is hardly alone in thismarket; there are many otherproven products that might return amore comfortable ride or a simplerappeal and better value. However,our Mercedes test-drive car provedto be a major head-turner, and aremarkably fine and comfortabledriving machine.
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