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Valentine One Radar Detector

Eric
08-13-2007, 03:51 PM
Mercedes' E-Class mid-size luxury sedan can be expensive, powerful or impressively efficient - depending on which version you choose.

Well, ok - all versions are pretty expensive. But the E-Class - which starts at $50,550 for the six-cylinder-powered E350 - does offer an interesting variety of configurations and engine choices that you generally won't find available in competitor models.

For one, the E-Class comes as either a sedan or wagon - with a neat rear-facing third row seat in the wagon version.

For another, Benz offers a wide range of engine choices in the E-Class, including a gas V-6 (the E350), diesel V-6 (E320 Bluetech) and two V-8s (E550 and E63 AMG).

And you can pick either rear-drive or 4Matic all-wheel-drive, too.

In effect, there are at least four distinct E-Class models - and two separate bodystyles. Something for everyone, almost. (The "almost" being those with $50k to spend on a new luxury-sport sedan.)

Here are the particulars:

The base E350's been updated with a larger and much more powerful 3.5 liter V-6, now good for 268 horsepower. This fixes the only real weakness of the previous E-Class, which seemed awfully underpowered for the money.

A new seven-speed automatic transmission is also standard in the E350.

Likewise, the step-up V-8 in the E550 has grown to 5.5 liters and now produces a very healthy 382 horsepower, a jump of 80 horsepower over the 5 liter V-8 used in the previous E500. It, too, is mated with the new seven-speed automatic and, like the V-6 powered E350, can be ordered with or without 4Matic all-wheel-drive.

If 382 hp is insufficient, there's an even larger, even more powerful 6.3 liter V-8 in the E63 AMG. It develops 507 horsepower - putting it in the same league as a Corvette Z06 or Mustang GT 500 - and making possible zero to 60 runs of just over 4 seconds flat. (The E550 can make it to 60 mph in about 5.2 seconds.)

A brand-new diesel engine option is also on the menu - now called Bluetech instead of CDI. This engine is entirely different from the previous diesel offered in the E-Class. It's a V-6, for one (instead of an in-line six) and it's smaller - displacing 3 liters instead of 3.2 liters, as previously. But the power output - 208 hp and 388 lbs.-ft. of torque - is about the same. So is the mileage potential, which can reach to nearly 40 mpg on the highway. That's exceptional economy for a big sedan - especially one that can still hustle to 60 mph in about 7 seconds flat. Compared with the E550 and E63 AMG, seven seconds to 60 might seem a little but slow-pokey - but the extreme capability of those hot rods distorts one's perspective. If you want to hang on the bumper of sport bikes running all-out, then get an E63. If all you need is enough scoot to pull into traffic with confidence, the E320 Bluetooth is plenty sufficient. Keep in mind that the diesel produces torque comparable to a much larger V-8 - and does so at just 1,600 RPM. Touch the accelerator and the thing moves out smartly.

And it goes about twice as far on a full tank, too.

Buyers interested in the diesel should be aware that it must be run on low-sulfur fuel only and may not be available in some states (New York, Massachusettes, Maine, Vermont and California) even through 2008 due to the differing and more stringent exhaust emissions requirements in force in these areas. Hopefully, the new diesel V-6 will be "50 state certified" eventually because it's a great way to have your luxury-sport cake and eat it, too. At some point, even those who can afford a $50k car have to think about how much it costs to feed the thing. With gas at roughly $3 per gallon nationwide, that point is probably at hand right now.

Another thing to like about the E-Class is that it's frankly less fussy to operate than the more expensive S-Class, which is right up there with BMW and its uber-annoying iDrive mouse "interface" in terms of complexity for its own sake. In the E, you can get in and drive without having to bone up on Microsoft CE first or spend half an hour pawing through an impenetrable owner's manual. And yet it's just as elegant inside the E-Class (and outside, too). The big difference is you get more room in the S-Class, which you may or may not find worth the extra coin - or, frankly, the extra hassle.

The new E even gets several former S exclusives - including the PreSafe system that prepares the car's active and passive safety equipment for an impact when sensors judge one to be imminent. Excessive pitching to the side, for example (or extremely rapid deceleration caused by panic braking) triggers the system and the seat belts are cinched tight and maximum brake force is applied even if the driver isn't fully standing on the pedal yet. Anti-whiplash head restraints have also been added to the list of safety equipment, which includes full-length head/curtain air bags, side-impact air bags for both front and rear seat occupants, stability control, traction control and Mercedes' TeleAid emergency system, which can summon EMTs, police and fire/rescue in the event of a crash.

An oversized panorama sunroof, voice activation capability for the audio system and two special Designo appearance packages (Espresso and Graphite) are also available optionally. One thing that isn't however, is the Distronic Plus active cruise control system that's still an S-Class-only feature. Distronic Plus can bring the car to a near-stop, automatically, then resume the previously set speed - all without the driver touching either gas or brake. From a gee-whiz point-of-view, Distronic Plus is about as entertaining as having an on-board Penn and Teller. But it's also one of those things that you can probably live without and not miss much, either.

The E-Class is a more relaxed ride than its chief rival, BMW's 5-Series, which has a more communicative suspension - and which still offers an available manual transmission option, too.

But few, if any, of its direct competitors outclass it. When you roll up in an E-Class, you've arrived.

END

swamprat
08-20-2007, 07:53 PM
What if you don't want Tele Aid?

Eric
08-20-2007, 08:22 PM
What if you don't want Tele Aid?


It's like GM's EDR "black boxes" - if you don't want it, you don't want the car...

I'm with you, amigo - I despise this stuff!