2003 MercedesBenz E Class Page 1 Review The Car Connection

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2003 Mercedes-Benz E Class Page 1 Review

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The far end of Carmel Road is a true E-ticket For those not old enough to remember, the rides were the ones at with the longest lines—and the thrills. And this winding, stretch of narrow blacktop, its off-camber S-curves and blind comes about as close as you can especially if you’re in the right

So it’s somewhat surprising we’re making the run in the new Mercedes-Benz This Teutonic sedan has been a luxurious and solid but not one you’d mistake for a sports At least in the past tense, be right.

Over the last few Mercedes has invested a lot in an advertising designed to pump some into a brand better for its aloofness. There’s no hiding the that the German carmaker the emotional response generated by its rival, BMW. What a down Carmel Valley reveals is that Mercedes is more than just

  It’s transforming the very and soul of its products.


The transformation actually began the last-generation E-Class, which the double-bubble headlights that in various forms, the new signature of the brand. But where the look of the old car quite came together—it to be the result of several different exercises awkwardly merged ’03 E-Class has a smooth, consistent and elegant look from to tail, with a character running the length of the car that it a strong, muscular stance.

The new vehicle is roughly an inch in all key dimensions, such as length, and height. That’s not a lot, but enough to make an impact on key such as interior room and dynamics.

2003 Mercedes-Benz

The more emotional exterior is echoed inside, with a compartment that is far more than any we’ve ever before from Mercedes. The has a more organic flow to it, by a tasteful strip of wood flows the length of the instrument before wrapping into the panels.

The displays are quite though surprisingly simple in especially compared to the flashy and graphics Japanese luxury have adapted. But functionally, the instrumentation is a lot easier to read. And an all-new approach to controls, climate control and audio, is a marked improvement over the where it required a good bit of to know how to find, let alone everything.

The climate control really underscores the way Mercedes has its mid-size mainstay. The top-line now offers a four-zone system, separate controls for each of the seat occupants.

Sound choices

Then the audio. In an unusual move, has chosen to offer the same system as archrival BMW, Kardon’s incredible Logic 7. seven-channel package is arguably the factory-equipped audio system on the these days, and can transform the into a true soundstage. The is so overwhelming, you’d think was a concert hall atop the

Though we’re generally by the changes in the interior, we do have a few Despite the elegant choice of the tightness of the cabin fits not yet match the best of the Japanese.

And remain a few notable ergonomic especially the placement of the cruise stalk. Over the course of 300 miles behind the wheel of the new we continuously confused it for the turn And a few of the audio controls, especially for the in-dash six-disc CD changer counter-intuitive to operate. The automatic stalk is another, though minor, problem.

In drive, placed a bit too far back to be comfortable to use in mode.

A new seating system is the of Mercedes past. Where you used to sit on a big Benz seat, the new front buckets embrace Nearly 50 sensors are used to a motorist’s body and weight, then used to subtly the seat for a more comfortable

The changes are especially apparent hard driving, when firmly cradled.

Sensors in the seat also program the new, “smart” system. Overall, there are front, side and head protecting both front and occupants.

Overall quality is the we’ve seen on a Mercedes, the exception of a glovebox door on both cars we drove, had closing.

Complaints aside, is without question the best we’ve seen from even compared to the more S-Class.

We’d strongly the new double-Panorama sunroof, by the way. For who enjoy an overhead vista, the largest piece of glass ever seen on a passenger car and worth the price.

Passion and

The real test comes on the and as we started this review by the most dramatic and welcome to the 2003 E-Class show up pushing the car to its limits.

We had the chance to the new E320 as well as the renamed the change in nomenclature reflecting the to a new, 302-horsepower, 5.0-liter Both of our test vehicles equipped with the automaker’s air suspension system.

Extensive use of and magnesium has helped trim the of the new E-Class, even though it is a and better-equipped vehicle than the it replaces. Even so, the 221-hp might seem a slight bit for those who want maximum It’s a competent powertrain, but not crisp enough off the line, or trying to execute a high-speed

But perhaps we were spoiled by the first half of our long behind the wheel of the E500. no question that this has plenty of power, with coming on quickly at the low ends and horsepower to make this a Autobahn-burner. Even at 80, the car literally when you slam the throttle for a

Real passionate performance more than just acceleration, of course, and here’s one can really appreciate the new car. The body is instantly apparent as one through a series of wildly S-curves. The new rack-and-pinion steering—a first for the E-Class—is precise and with plenty of feedback to you in touch with a road to run away from you.

The tires our test car came with proved one of the bigger on our long drive. They firmly with nary a allowing us to throw the rear out a bit to better position ourselves for a run around a tight switchback.


Another pleasant concerns the sophisticated ride systems built into the new The air suspension proved especially and able to maintain stability the worst driving conditions.

has had a history of programming other systems, such as its ESP stability to operate quite intrusively. have a tendency to come in at the sign of trouble, cutting and even applying some force. Perhaps we were a bit less observant, but it seems Mercedes has dialed back a bit the new E-Class, trusting the driver to get right, and leaving ESP and traction to kick in only when seem truly out-of-control.

That said, we did find with one piece of advanced Mercedes has been quick to so-called drive-by-wire technology—using it on the for both brakes and throttle. We the brakes a bit inconsistent, grabby at smooth at others; not enough to be objectionable, but something that use a bit of tweaking.

During the preview of the new one question came up repeatedly: the new car cut into demand for Mercedes’ S-Class sedan? Company were quick to differentiate the two and indeed, they tend to to a distinctly different mindset. But no question there’ll be at least downward migration; considering the and affluence of the new model, it’s to win over at least some owners looking for a little bit aggressive a driving experience.

Of Mercedes will roll out an of the S-Class soon, and we expect improvements in that vehicle, as

With the new E-Class, Mercedes has out all the stops. It is difficult to understate how much of an improvement has been in an already strong product. The E-Class clearly shows Mercedes can build a driver’s

In performance and handling terms, still not quite a BMW, but the has plenty of other advantages will help it maintain its in a tightly competitive luxury

2003 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Price: E320: $46,950; $54,850

Engine: E320: 221-hp V-8; E500: 302-hp V-8

Transmission: Five-speed with manual mode and wheel shift

Length x x height: 190.3 x 71.3 x in

Wheelbase: 112.4 inches

weight: E320/E500 : 3635/3813 lbs

EPA 19/27; 19/23

Safety Adaptive front airbags, and head airbags, emergency system, anti-lock brakes, control, Electronic Stability electro-hydraulic brakes with Brake Force Distribution, tensioners and belt force

Major standard equipment: power seats, tilt/telescope wheel, rain-sensing wipers, mirrors, four-zone auto A/C and suspension (both standard on opt. on E320), bi-xenon power windows, door anti-theft alarm

Warranty: years/50,000 miles



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