Vehicle Overview
Mercedes-Benz introduced a new generation of its midsize E-Class sedan for 2003. A 221-horsepower, 3.2-liter V-6 powers the E320, while the E500 gets a 302-hp V-8. A high-performance E55 AMG model that's fitted with a 469-hp supercharged V-8 is also available. A wagon body style is offered, as is rear- or all-wheel drive. The E-Class is slotted between the German automaker's smaller C-Class and top-rung S-Class.

Sport versions of the sedan and wagon are available, and rear-drive E500 models gained a seven-speed-automatic transmission for 2004. Bi-xenon active headlights are available.

For 2005, Mercedes-Benz added an E320 CDI sedan with a diesel engine.
(Skip to details on the: E320 CDI)

Moved to a new platform for 2003, the E-Class sedan displays more flowing lines than its predecessor and sports a lower, swept-back front end. Oval headlights are angled back more sharply, and a sculpted trunk replaced the former squared-off profile. The front fenders, hood, trunk lid and bolted-on frame members are made of aluminum. An Airmatic air suspension is standard on the E500 and optional on the E320.

Front-seat occupants in the five-passenger interior face a V-shaped console. The Sport edition features black bird's-eye maple trim rather than the brown walnut used in other models.

Under the Hood
The E320 gets a 221-hp, 3.2-liter V-6, while the E500 packs a 5.0-liter V-8 that cranks out 302 hp and 339 pounds-feet of torque. The supercharged 5.5-liter V-8 in E55 AMG models delivers 469 hp and 516 pounds-feet of torque. In the new E320 CDI sedan, a 3.2-liter inline-six-cylinder diesel produces 201 hp and 369 pounds-feet of torque. The rear-drive E500 uses a seven-speed-automatic transmission, but other models have a five-speed automatic.

Sensotronic brake control, which is a brake-by-wire system, promises faster, more surefooted emergency response. Antilock brakes and Mercedes-Benz's Electronic Stability Program are standard. Adaptive front airbags deploy at a lower force in less-severe collisions. Side-impact and side curtain-type airbags are standard.

Driving Impressions
Civility reigns behind the wheel of the E-Class. Everything about this car is smooth and luxurious.

With its 2003 redesign, the E-Class lost most of the heavy feel that was unpleasantly noticeable on previous models. The refined E500 delivers lively acceleration, whether starting from a standstill, passing or merging. Trimmed in beautiful wood, the dashboard layout is a little too complicated for some tastes, and the tachometer should be a bit larger.

Consumers seeking stunning four-door performance need not search any further than the E55 AMG, which responds to the throttle like a supercar and has taut handling to match.

E320 CDI
After a five-year absence, diesel power returned to a Mercedes-Benz model sold in the United States. Americans have shunned diesels lately, citing such drawbacks as noise and odors.

With the E320 CDI, Mercedes-Benz claims to have overcome those negative factors, though emissions remain a problem. The E320 CDI meets the emissions requirements of 45 states.

Mercedes-Benz claims the turbocharged E320 CDI can accelerate from zero to 60 mph slightly faster than the gasoline-powered E320, yet it earns an EPA-estimated 27 mpg in city driving and 37 mpg on the highway. Except for the lack of optional Sport and Appearance packages, the E320 CDI's equipment is the same as its gasoline-powered E-Class siblings.

Not only does the diesel engine start normally in the E320 CDI, but it's also difficult to discern that you're riding in a diesel-powered sedan. A slight engine rattle might be heard occasionally, but the car is generally quiet. Acceleration is smooth and effortless, if less dramatic than in a gasoline-powered automobile. No odors are evident. You can expect more than 30 mpg on the highway. Approaching the 37-mpg estimate demands a gentle throttle foot and careful attention to traffic flow. Back to top