- The Washington Times - Friday, June 13, 2003

Just about everyone who knows automobiles recognizes that the German company AMG can make a normal Mercedes-Benz into a fire-breathing highway dragon. It’s been known to give an incredible amount of performance to an already adequate Mercedes-Benz.

Now that Mercedes-Benz owns more than a controlling interest in AMG, the passion and penchant for extraordinary performance remains intact.

Proof comes in the form of the new E55 sedan. This super sports sedan has the power and the handling performance to make you a fan from the very first turn. And that is exactly what the car did to me recently.

I ventured off to the beautiful and challenging Virginia International Raceway to give AMG E55 a chance to make me a believer. VIR is a racecourse with numerous turns, lots of elevation changes and plenty of blind corners to make anyone’s anxiety rise to new levels. The interesting thing about this particular testing session was we had few limits put on us. It was, “Here’s the keys, now don’t hurt the car or yourselves.”

The supercharged V-8 engine produces a wonderfully smooth 469 horsepower and more importantly 516 foot-pounds of torque. This translates into a vehicle that propels you to well over 150 mph, quickly.

The acceleration is just as impressive as the car’s high-speed prowess. Now obviously you don’t need a vehicle to go 155 mph, but the relevancy of this ability lies in the performance at your finger tips. Getting on freeways, merging with traffic and getting around slow-moving traffic can be laden with anxiety if you are in an unresponsive vehicle. You won’t have that problem in an AMG E55.

Within the safe confines of VIR I was able to drive much faster than I could ever want to on public roads. I could also put the vehicle through a group of rigorous tests without the danger of oncoming traffic or those guys with the red and blues lights on top of their cars.

The E55 comes with a five-speed automatic transmission equipped with manual shift mode. Most performance automatic transmissions have the manual inputs connected solely at the gears shift lever. On the AMG E55 you also get steering-wheel shifting buttons to facilitate manual shifting.

Place the shifter mode in manual and you can shift through the gears with just a touch of two buttons on the back side of the steering wheel.

Much like a Formula-1 race car, there is no need to remove your hands from the steering wheel in order to get lightning-fast shifts.

Now testing on a race course is a wonderful thing, but it gives you only half the picture. I (and more importantly, you) need to experience how the cars we are going to use in daily traffic perform under those conditions.

You are not going to find that out on a race track. You need to drive the car in real-world conditions. As far as I’m concerned, the E55 wins on all accounts.

This car packages all the high performance you desire in a vehicle that is docile and well-behaved on city streets and interstate highways. The suspension system will hug the corners while remaining sophisticatedly subtle on the highway.

The E55 is a vehicle that handles well, but will not beat your body on long drives. It is a wonderful culmination of both attributes. In fact, this Mercedes-Benz is an incredibly competent automobile that melds fine automotive design with high performance.

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