- The Washington Times - Friday, November 22, 2002

The new E500 is a wonderful combination of luxury and abilities in a sedan.
I know Mercedes-Benz may not like what I have to say here; nonetheless, here goes. I think the new E-Class is the leading vehicle in their lineup. Yes, I know the S-class is the flagship sedan for Mercedes-Benz, and it is a fine automobile. But, for the money and the driving experience you get, this all new E-Class is at the top of my Mercedes-Benz sedan list.
The E-Class has had its ups and downs, but in the past five years or so it has become a shining light for Mercedes-Benz and continues in even higher fashion today.
Because Mercedes-Benz badges its vehicles with numbers designating the engine under the hood, the E-Class comes in two models, E320 and E500. The E320 is equipped with a 3.2-liter V-6 engine and the E500 is fitted with a new 5.0-liter V-8 engine. Both models have their individual attraction, but the E500 is the vehicle I tested and is my personal choice in the E-Class.
Shared by the CL, S and SL this 302-horsepower V-8 is one of the smoothest power trains available today. The torque of this engine is there when you need it and the transition from idle to full power is seamless. If I have one complaint it would be that I would like to see more horsepower and torque in the larger S-Class. Of course, you can get that by moving up to the S55 AMG with its 493 horsepower. Here in the E-Class the standard 5.0-liter engine is a perfect fit.
I do have one other complaint that goes across the entire Mercedes-Benz lineup. The Electronic Stability Control is far too intrusive for the experienced driver. While it is a wonderful safety system, it takes far too much control away from the driver, giving it to a computer. For the average driver this is a must-have system. For an experienced driver it can be frustrating.
The E500 is full of all the expected luxury that Mercedes-Benz is known for. A plush interior, with plenty of leather and wood, makes you feel as though you are special. That's because Mercedes-Benz wants you to feel that way every time you slide behind the wheel. Even though the seats are designed for comfort, they are also supportive and hold you in place even during more aggressive driving.
The sound system's controls are far more complex than the average owner would care for. You spend much too much time in the owner's manual than you should. They are getting better, but have a way to go.
The world's first electronic braking system introduced on the very classy SL roadster is now standard equipment in the E-Class. This is the first use of this system in a high-volume passenger car. It is a system that is nearly unnoticeable from a conventional hydraulic system. But, it does have a characteristic quick slowdown in the last few feet of its stopping distance. You can feel when it wants to stop you faster than you perceive is necessary.
A great deal of the features found on the up-level S-Class and SL-Class are finding their way into the E-Class. That is why I feel this is such a find. The Airmatic DC air suspension system is combined with the Adaptive Dampening System to provide the very best in suspension systems that give excellent handling characteristics and ride comfort.
Combining all the attributes of an S-Class with the desire to have a more compact package without sacrificing the comfort and handling is the No. 1 reason to opt for the E500. In the long run you are not sacrificing anything; you are just being a smart automotive owner.


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