1998 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

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1998 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Available in 6 styles:  E300 Diesel 4dr Sedan shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

18–26 city / 25–34 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 2
1998 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 4.3 16
$ 224-9,344
December 13, 1997

So there you are at the Mercedes-Benz dealership, wanting an M-Class sport utility vehicle and hearing that the waiting list is only slightly longer than the mall entrance line on Black Friday.

There is a solution, as long as you don't mind driving a car. And the car being a Mercedes, who would mind?

It's simple, really. Just ask your salesperson to show you an E-class sedan with the new all-wheel-drive option.

Although not meant for serious off-roading, it's meant to supply superior traction in all situations. Where the M-class has a dual-transfer case with a high and low range, it also has a 50-50 front-rear power distribution.

Where the E-class sedan differs is in its single-range transfer case and a 35-65 rear power distribution. This allows the car to have the feel of a rear drive automobile, with the traction benefit of four-wheel drive.

The E-class uses a traction control system, rather than a differential, to help prevent wheel spin. While a differential allows an outside wheel to spin faster than an inside wheel going through a corner, it will also inherently supply more power to that faster spinning wheel, meaning the wheel could end up slipping. This is exactly what a driver doesn't want.

Rather than adding to the weight and complexity of the vehicle by using a differential lock, Mercedes employs a four-wheel traction control system. When it detects wheel slippage, it applies the brakes to the slipping wheel and supplies more power to the wheels that have traction. This system will allow the vehicle to keep going even if only one wheel has traction.

The system is totally invisible to the E320 driver, which has the same turning radius as the rear-drive version is totally invisible to the E320 driver. A recent drive confirmed that this car feels much more sure-footed in inclement weather than a regular rear-drive E-class, with just about as much acceleration -- 60 mph came up in 7.5 seconds. The 221-horsepower V6 feels flexible, with decent speed on initial acceleration. Even if there's abundant power at highway speeds, it's not as peaky as previous Benzes. It's a quiet customer, too, with a hearty growl evident only in hard acceleration.

Handling is good, with speed-sensitive steering that is light at low speeds but firms up nicely on the highway. Bumps are noted with a thunk -- although some might find it too harsh, the suspension seems to handle truly large bumps with aplomb. Braking power is excellent.

Power is fed through a five-speed automatic transmission that snicks off firm shifts in either sport or winter modes. The transmission gate allows for easy manual shifting for those so inclined.

Also new this year is a system Mercedes calls "SmartKey." Rather than use a metal ignition key, the key fob's somewhat pointed end is inserted into the ignition. The fob and car exchange infrared data that then allows you to start the engine. It uses a sep arate keyless entry system to unlock the doors on the same fob. Both change access codes each time the key is used.

Otherwise, this is standard E-class. That means a stylish exterior with artfully rounded headlights and luscious bulging front quarter panels. There's good interior space and a complex, yet artfully engineered cup holder. Leather trim is standard, as are 10-way front bucket seats that offer the typical Teutonic support. Some might find them flat.

Other amenities you'd expect in this class -- like auto-dimming rear-view mirror, memory seats, dual climate control, integrated garage door opener -- all are present.

EPA rating on the E-class is 20 mpg city, 27 mpg highway. Test mileage was 19 mpg in an even mix of city and highway driving.

In an era when most sport utilities can climb easily into the $40,000 range, this car seems like a reasonable alternative. The E320 starts at $45,500, the eight-cylinder at $49,900. Add on $2,750 for the all-whe l drive option.

And with those sport utilities as ubiquitous as holly in December, it's great to have a vehicle that looks good pulling up to a fine restaurant or pulling its way through the slop.

You won't even scrape your loafers on the running board.

1998 Mercedes-Benz E320 AWD Standard: 3.2-liter 18-valve aluminum V6, five-speed electronic automatic transmission, speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering, 215/ 55R16H tires on 16-inch alloy wheels, dual front and side air bags, four-wheel power disc brakes with ABS, anti-theft alarm, SmartKey, automatic dual climate control, 10-way power front bucket seats with three-position memory, remote locking and trunk release, AM-FM/weather band cassette stereo, leather upholstery, walnut trim, power tilt-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming rear-view and side mirrors, integrated garage door opener, cruise control, cup holders, floor mats. Options: Emerald paint Base price: $48,250 As tested: $49,540 EPA rating: 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway Test mileage: 19 mpg

    Expert Reviews 2 of 2

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