Mercedes-Benz diesel is no throwback
New E320 CDI is clean, classy and will do 0-60 mph in 7 seconds. High oil prices, fuel economy and diesel-powered cars all seem to be a relic of '70s nostalgia, the automotive equivalent of Curtis Mayfield's song ''Freddie's Dead'' or the movie ''Superfly.'' Still, unlike avocado appliances or shag carpeting, some things are too good to keep in the past. Last week, I reviewed an affordable diesel-powered car, the Jetta, which would interest those who love such cars. Equally of interest is the new diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI, a car long available in Europe, but only now finding renewed interest in the United States. For those who remember the slow-moving, smoke-spewing Mercedes-Benz diesels of the late '70s and early '80s, a new Mercedes diesel might seem as welcome as rain at a picnic. Still, I can't figure out why you'd need to save money on fuel after shelling out more than $60,000 for a car, even if it's nice to know the option exists. But the days of clattering engines and clouds of sooty black smoke are gone. Plug the electronic fob into its slot and the car starts with a muted, but familiar, sound. The engine is quiet, smooth and refined, even at speed. That's a big change from diesels of old. Another change is this engine's performance. The double-overhead-cam 3.2-liter in-line six produces 201 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque. The engine is mated to a five-speed automatic. Initial acceleration is momentarily slow until the turbocharger kicks in. This on/off feel is evident whenever power is needed and takes some getting used to. Still, it's hard to argue with a 0-60 mph time of about 7 seconds, about the same as a gas-powered E320. You'll never guess you're driving a diesel, until you see the fuel economy. The diesel returned overall mileage of 33.2 mpg, with highway mileage reaching as high as 38 mpg. That's quite a bit better than the gas-powered E320. The E-Class's air suspension was constantly trying to find the right setting and never felt settled over Pennsylvania's colonial-era roads. There was a surprising amount of tire and road noise, a common malady of station wagons. Thankfully, everything worked properly. This is one of the few Mercedes-Benz models I have driven where that has been true. Nothing fell off. Fit and finish seemed excellent. As for matters of style and equipment, they are identical to the gasoline-version of the E320. Styling builds on the look established for the E-Class in 1995, with large round headlamps and a sophisticated European appearance. The interior's look mimics fine European design, although those not used to the cryptic Mercdes-Benz symbols may find navigating the interior difficult upon initial use. Like the gasoline E320, the front seats are very firm and supportive. Some hard-core drivers may wish for more aggressive bolstering, but the seats seem fine for mainstream luxury car buyers. Rear seating is decent, however, you'll be surprised at the limited leg room. It's seems unusual due to the car's size and pricetag. Look in the trunk and you'll see where the leg room went -- it's sized generously. This new E320 diesel is another unique model that Mercedes-Benz offers in this price class. And while Mercedes' customers can generally afford vehicles that are less fuel-efficient, for those who prefer good fuel economy along with a heavy dose of luxury, the E320 CDI offers a painless alternative. And that Curtis Mayfield CD will sound mighty fine in the audio system.
Cars.com Expert Reviews
|Jim Flammang||Cars.com National||May 14, 2004|
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||September 5, 2004|
|Steven Cole Smith||Orlando Sentinel||January 15, 2004|
|Royal Ford||Boston.com||January 10, 2004|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||December 31, 2003|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||October 11, 2003|
People Who Viewed This Car Also Viewed
Closest Dealers Listing this Car
Featured Services for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class
- Sell your current car quickly and easily on Cars.com.
*Invoice prices are made available by Cars.com and are not dealer advertising. All prices are subject to regional variations. Prices last updated 9/23/10. Click here for more information.