Mercedes' broadest and most popular model line in North America gets a facelift for 2000 and a handful of new safety and convenience features. The E-Class comes as a four-door sedan and a station wagon, and both are available with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive.
The E-Class sedan splits the difference in size and price between the bottom-rung C-Class sedan and top-shelf S-Class sedan, with a starting price of $47,100. Rivals include the Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Infiniti Q45, Lexus LS400 and Cadillac Seville the heart of the luxury sedan market.
A midlife facelift gives a fresh look to the E-Class, which debuted as a 1996 model with its distinctive four round headlamps. The E-Class is expected to continue in present form until 2003. The new hood and front fenders are about an inch lower, the front and rear bumpers are fully integrated and the side and rear aprons are reshaped.
With an overall length of 189 inches, the E-Class sedan is about the same as its archrival BMW 5 Series and about 8 inches shorter than the Lexus LS400.
This leather-lined, five-passenger sedan has ample room for two adults in the rear seat. A wide driveshaft tunnel makes the middle rear seat suited for short trips only. The 15.3-cubic-foot trunk has a wide, flat floor and useful side wells for stashing small items.
The dashboard display screen of Mercedes-Benz's COMAND console controls satellite-based navigation, audio and telephone systems.
New features include the COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data) system, which controls a satellite-based navigation system, the sound system and optional telephone via voice commands, buttons on the steering wheel or controls around a dashboard display screen.
Also new this year is TeleAid, which operates on its own cellular system to summon local emergency help (automatically if an airbag deploys), call Mercedes' roadside assistance or track a stolen vehicle.
Under the Hood
Three engines are offered in the E-Class range: E320 models use a 3.2-liter V-6 with 221 horsepower, and E430 models get a 4.3-liter V-8 with 275 horsepower. The E55 AMG, a high-performance, limited-production version of the E-Class sedan, has a 5.5-liter V-8 with 349 horsepower. All models come with a five-speed automatic transmission that allows clutchless manual shifts.
Mercedes' permanently engaged four-wheel-drive system, called 4MATIC, is available on the E430 this year. Last year, it was available only on the E320.
Side-curtain airbags that protect the heads of occupants became standard last year on E-Class sedans. Door-mounted side-impact airbags have been added to the rear doors this year (they were already standard on the front doors).
Side-curtain airbags that deploy from above the windows protect the heads of occupants from side impacts.
Anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability control also are standard.