2002 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Reviews

2002 E-Class New Car Test Drive

Introduction

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the company's most popular line. If you had to pick one model that symbolizes the image of Mercedes-Benz, it would be the E-Class. It says Mercedes in the way most people understand. 

The E-Class introduced the trend toward oval headlamps. It's big, square but sleek, smooth, silent and powerful. It's built like a tank with a light touch, and comes out elegant. It's a masculine car where women feel at home. And in areas such as engine design and management, chassis, drivetrain, aerodynamics, safety and computer technology, Mercedes-Benz leads the automotive engineering world. 

E-Class offers three engine choices in sedan and wagon body styles. 

With an all-new E-Class coming for 2003, Mercedes-Benz is offering special packages designed to provide buyers with greater value: The E320 Special Edition sedan features new 17-inch wheels, Black Birdseye Maple trim, full leather upholstery, sunroof, rain sensing wipers, premium audio system all wrapped in Black metallic or Quartz Silver metallic paint, a value of $3,000 all at no extra charge. The E430 Special Edition sedan adds Xenon headlamps and heated headlamp washers, a value of over $3,500 also at no extra charge. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class cars have been re-engineered from the axles up for the 2003 model year. Mercedes has redefined its traditional best seller with loads of new technology, a sensuously athletic new look and more youthful, vigorous driving dynamics. 

The E-Class has never been the biggest, fastest nor most technically sophisticated of the Mercedes-Benz cars, but it is surely the most recognizable Mercedes in the world. The company's mid-line E-Class luxury sedan is a fixture from Burbank to Berlin to Baghdad. 

The E-Class was knocked from the top of Mercedes' U.S. sales chart in 2001 for the first time ever, replaced by the compact C-Class sedan and coupe. The switch, more than likely, is an anomaly. Since World War II, the E-Class has accounted for nearly half of Mercedes' worldwide sales. Without major updates since 1995, the outgoing E-Class might have grown stale in the buying public's eye, and it still averaged 50,000 sales annually for the past five years. 

The importance of the E-Class in Mercedes' lineup brings an important benefit for consumers: The company spent four full years and nearly $2 billion developing the all-new 2003 model. By any measure, that's serious investment. Clearly, the company in Stuttgart is flexing its muscles for a real show of force. It appears BMW and Audi have cause for concern here. 

Lineup

Three E-Class models are available:

E320 sedan ($48,450) and wagon ($49,650) come with a smooth and highly sophisticated 3.2-liter V6 rated at 221 horsepower. 

E430 sedan ($53,850) is equipped with the standard highly sophisticated 4.3-liter, 275-horsepower V8. 

E55 AMG ($71,350) boasts a whopping 349 horsepower from its 5.5-liter V8 hand-built by world-renowned tuner AMG. 

E320 4MATIC ($51,300) and E430 4MATIC ($56,700) come with an all-wheel-drive system, which transfers power to the appropriate wheels when one or more wheels slip for enhanced safety on slippery7 surfaces. 

A special option for $1050 is Parktronic, which uses sound waves to locate obstacles near the front or rear bumpers. A warning beep increases in speed until contact. It's useful in parking, of course; but more importantly, it would see an object behind the car that might be under your line of sight, such as a child. 

The list of state-of-the-art features goes on for so long that it can be hard to escape Mercedes' big-brother-like electronic protective wing. A dedicated cellular link called Tele Aid provides 24-hour contact for emergency aid, general information or roadside assistance-each with a separate button on the dash. Automatic Collision Notification engages the emergency function (SOS) if an air bag deploys. Automatic Alarm Notification alerts Mercedes-Benz to contact you if the antitheft alarm is set off. Tele Aid also includes stolen vehicle tracking, and remote keyless unlocking service, should you lock the keys in the car. The first year's annual fee of $225 is included in the base price. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class comes in two variants, the more popular V6-powered E320 and the V8-powered E500. 

E320 ($46,950) comes loaded 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, real walnut trim, a 10-speaker stereo, power windows with one-touch operation up and down, auto-dimming mirrors and rain-sensing windshield wipers. 

E500 ($54,850) has been gaining sales ground on the E320 in recent years. For 2003, the V8's engine displacement has increased from 4.3 liters to 5.0 liters (hence the name change from E430 to E500), with a corresponding increase of 29 horsepower. Besides more power, the E500 adds standard equipment, including four-zone climate control with separate temperature adjustments for both sides of the cabin, front and rear, and the new Airmatic Dual Control suspension. 

Our test car, an E500, came with several options, starting with the E-Class sport package (high-intensity headlights, dark-tinted glass and aggressive looking body cladding). It also had heated seats and steering wheel, a hands-free telephone package, the see-through, all-glass Panorama sunroof and a 420-watt Harmon Kardon stereo upgrade with six-disc, in-dash CD changer. These extras brought the sticker to $62,405. 

All the options on our E500 are also available on the E320, and there are dozens more offered on both cars. Popular choices include radar-managed Distronic adaptive cruise control, which maintains a set distance from cars ahead, and the Keyless Go system, which can unlock the doors and start the car by touching the door handle and gear selector. Parktronic obstacle warning helps with parking and enhances safety by alerting the driver to objects behind the car. Also available: GPS navigation, a DVD-capable in-dash information management system; voice operation for the phone, audio controls and navigation system; ventilated massaging seats; and solar-powered interior ventilation. This is a luxury car, so there's even a power trunk closer. 

By the first of the year, Mercedes will launch the mighty E55, performance-tuned by subsidiary AMG with a supercharged V8 producing 493 horsepower (and that's no typo). Expect a premium of at least $10,000 over the E500. 

The E320 wagon continues, though it will be built from the old E-Class sedan at least through 2003. A wagon based on the new-generation E-Class should arrive by 2004. 

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