- The Washington Times - Friday, October 25, 2002

The 2003 Mercedes E-Class could be the most high-tech vehicle on the road today. It's not just the sophistication of dozens of computers that do everything from making decisions for the driver to controlling acceleration, braking and other driving functions, it's that the new E-Class contains virtually every advanced engineering system Mercedes has ever developed.
The E-Class is one of the sleekest cars on the highway. It has a coefficient of drag of just 0.27. That's among the lowest recorded for production cars.
The 2003 E-Class comes in two models: The E320 has a 221-horsepower, 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine, and the E500 has a 302-horsepower, 5.0-liter V-8. Both are brimming with advanced engineering.
Many of the innovations in the E-Class are used for the first time in a vehicle in this prestige segment.
A dual-control air-suspension system first used in the S-Class automatically fine tunes the suspension for sportiness and comfort. It's optional in the E320 and standard in the E500.
Standard on the new model is the electronic braking that Mercedes introduced earlier this year in its SL coupe.
It is a brake-by-wire system that reacts faster in emergencies and at the same time does so smoothly. The brake pedal activates a computer that tells four fast-acting valves exactly what force to apply to the brakes of each wheel.
The system also automatically changes brake pressure on each wheel when it senses different road surfaces.
Pressure can be increased on just the outside wheels when braking during turns. This takes advantage of the higher loading generated by speeding through tight turns.
If the computer should fail, the E-Class still has a backup hydraulic master cylinder that allows you to brake in the conventional manner.
Electronic braking is so smart that it starts braking before the driver applies the brake pedal.
It recognizes when the car is facing an emergency that requires fast stopping by sensing how quickly the driver takes his foot off the accelerator.
It instantly recognizes this situation as a potential emergency and pre-loads the brakes by increasing pressure in the brake connectors and moving the pads onto the brake discs. This quick action shortens stopping distances by about 3 percent.
The system even recognizes when the road is wet and applies the brakes with enough force to keep the discs dry, so they will work well even in the rain.
Mercedes engineers even built in a Softstop reaction. It brings the car to a stop without the jolt that you might experience in heavy stop-and-go traffic by reducing brake servo action just before stopping. It even eliminates the pulsation in the brake pedal that a driver usually feels when making a panic stop from high speed.
In addition, the E-Class has Brake Assist. This system increases braking pressure when a driver makes a panic stop. Most drivers fail to put enough pressure on the brake pedal for this maneuver.
Brake Assist even prepares the brakes for braking action and then adds more oomph to pushing down the pedal.
The car also contains a huge amount of passive safety protection for drivers and passengers. Besides the front air bags, there are side air bags for both front and rear seat occupants. There's also an inflatable curtain that deploys on both sides of the car during a side impact.
The front air bags deploy in two stages governed by the severity of a crash. A minor frontal impact will trigger only one gas generator so the bag fills less quickly. A higher-speed crash will trigger the second gas generator five to 15 milliseconds later to inflate the bag more quickly, resulting in a softer cushioning for passengers in low-speed crashes.
There's also a sensor that helps heavier front-seat passengers get more protection. The sensor evaluates the weight of the passenger and then sets up the air bag to deploy according to a specific weight category. The same sensor deactivates the air bag if no one occupies the front passenger seat.
The many computers in the E-Class work so seamlessly that drivers are unaware of electronic wizardry.
It's just good to know that an electronic brain is watching over your driving, making your ride more comfortable and preventing you from getting into trouble.



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