revised Mercedes E-class

Your very own luxury cruise missile (Filed: 03/06/2006)
Mercedes-Benz E-class [tech/spec]
The revised Mercedes E-class is an extremely desirable car, writes Brett Fraser
Faith in your fellow man and in the efficiency of Mercedes-Benz electronics are required when your driver informs you he is about to conduct a violent lane-change manoeuvre at 100mph. Mercedes-Benz E-class Object of desire: the Mercedes E-class
Yes, we are on an empty airfield with plenty of run-off area, but, even so, 100mph seems pretty quick when he flicks the steering wheel left and then right.
His aim, however, isn't to fear-fry my synapses, rather to demonstrate Pre-Safe, a development of the safety system introduced on the latest S-class that is now to be standard equipment on the revised E-class. Essentially, Pre-Safe is programmed to sense the onset of a potential accident and prepare the car for the point of impact - more proactive than reactive.
During the high-speed swerving, the seat belts were automatically pre-tensioned to prevent any forward movement by the occupants, and the front passenger seat rearranged my reclined position to a safer one - seatback quite upright and the leading edge of the base cushion raised to prevent me "submarining" beneath my seat belt.
In more extreme situations, as demonstrated at much slower speed, travelling completely sideways on a very low-friction surface and then screeching and lurching to a halt on a high-friction one, Pre-Safe will automatically close the windows and sunroof to keep the outside world from getting in should you roll.
Yet, with an eye for detail for which Mercedes was once famed, the sunroof and windows don't close fully, so that, if the airbags are triggered, then the pressure wave and smoke they create can escape the cabin. Of course, you may not actually hit anything, in which case Pre-Safe simply resets itself.
That Mercedes is willing to include Pre-Safe as standard without raising the price of the new E-class shows how keen it is to maintain the dominance of its luxury executive saloon and estate models in a sector where rivals keep getting better.
Pre-Safe is just one element of a host of upgrades to the E-class. It also features brake lights that flash during really heavy braking as an extra warning to those behind and headlights that adapt their light pattern automatically to suit your driving environment - back-roads, urban streets, motorways etc. But all of these things, of course, add further complexity to a model that has previously suffered reliability issues.
Question Mercedes' German representatives on this matter and there is initially a polite denial that any problems ever existed. I don't happen to have in my pocket a copy of this newspaper's report on Mercedes quality problems (April 1, 2006; see, but hammering the point eventually reveals a quiet resignation to the fact that the E-class's electronics have been a bugbear - and a claim that there has been a huge improvement in reliability. Mercedes-Benz E-class The new E-class has a very pleasing and unfussed ride quality
Apparently, in the run-up to the existing model's launch in spring 2002, there was no way of testing all the electronic systems to see how they interacted with one another. Technology moves on, so now such tests are possible and the testing programme for the whole car, despite the new model being no more than an upgrade, has been more extensive than ever before. We will have to wait and see.
The bits of the E-class that you can see still exude quality and refinement. The car looks a little neater now, too, thanks to a modest cosmetic retouching that includes those fancy headlights (or Intelligent Light System as Mercedes calls them), a bigger radiator grille with a Mercedes-Benz crest set into its upper edge, a reshaped front bumper unit designed to create more visual muscle than before, more elegant door mirrors and a fresh range of alloy wheels. Additionally, the estate derivative gets a full-width, high-level, LED brake light and restyled roof rails and aerial.
While these changes don't amount to much on paper, they do give the E-class a mid-life boost. The new wheels, in particular, might just be enough to persuade those who can't quite live with the looks of the BMW 5-series to take a peek at what used to be considered the staid alternative.
Mercedes must have been niggled by criticism of how the E-class drives because it has fitted a more responsive steering rack and fine-tuned the suspension to sharpen the dynamic experience.
The improvements won't have you rushing to tell everybody the news, but they do mean that the E-class now offers some real motoring pleasure. Hardcore drivers will still gravitate towards a BMW, but the advantage of the E-class, especially with the optional air suspension that was fitted to our test cars, is that its ride quality remains unfussed, even when you are "making good progress".
The enhancement of the handling allows you to make good use of a new engine in the line-up, the 383bhp (388PS) 5.5-litre V8 used in the latest S-class and SL roadster and now fitted to the E500. In years gone by, this car would have been the dragster of the range, but with AMG now the company's mentalist motor supplier and with the 507bhp E63 AMG rushing this way soon, the E500 is a luxury cruise missile. The engine makes glorious use of its power and torque, whipping the car along at a furious pace while barely raising its voice.
Of course, the more pragmatic - and, doubtless, more popular - choice is the uprated 3.0-litre turbodiesel in the E320 CDI. It has slightly more torque than the E500 (398lb ft against 390), is pretty much as quiet and as quick as the V8-engined car in real-world conditions, goes much farther on a gallon and produces less CO2.
Both models benefit from Mercedes' excellent 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic gearbox, which has a manual override if you are that way inclined.
There are still a few little things that you might wish Mercedes would fix. The mobile phone kit only accepts certain types of Siemens models, for instance, and, if you want to plug in your iPod, you need a special accessory.
However, on the whole, Mercedes' most important model is more desirable than ever. Its cabin is comfortable, opulent and well built, and the way it moves down the road and reacts to its controls is characterised by a sense of calm composure and nicely measured response.
It does make you wonder why you really need to spend the extra money for the S-class... Mercedes-Benz E-class
Mercedes-Benz E-class [tech/spec]
Price/availability: full range 27,520-66,545. On sale July 5.
Engine/transmission: (versions mentioned in text only; for existing range refer to First Drive of March 2, 2002, 5,461cc, petrol V8 with SOHC per bank and three valves per cylinder; 388bhp at 6,000rpm and 391lb ft of torque at 2,800-4,800rpm; seven-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive. 6,208cc, petrol V8 with four valves per cylinder; 514bhp at 6,800rpm and 465lb ft of torque at 5,200rpm; seven-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive. 2,987cc, turbodiesel V6 with SOHC and four valves per cylinder; 224bhp at 3,800rpm and 398lb ft of torque at 1,600-2,400rpm; five-speed or seven-speed automatic gearbox, rear-wheel drive.
Performance: E500, 155mph (restricted), 0-62mph in 5.3sec, EU Urban fuel consumption N/A, CO2 emissions N/A. E63 AMG, 155mph (restricted), 4.5sec, 12.7mpg, 341g/km. E320 CDi, 155mph (restricted), 6.8sec, N/A, N/A.
We like: Easy-going performance, soothing ride quality, cabin ambience, all-round sense of luxury motoring.
We don't like: Wondering if the reliability issues have been sorted out as well as Mercedes claims.
Alternatives: Audi A6, from 24,340. BMW 5-series, from 27,110. Jaguar S-type, from 27,995. Lexus GS, from 30,400. Volvo S80, from 23,728.
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