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The Mercedes-Benz E-Class features more powerful engines for 2007, along with subtle styling changes, new interior elements, and a few tweaks for handling and safety.
The E-Class in many ways epitomizes the Mercedes-Benz brand. It's the company's best selling line worldwide and one of the best-selling Mercedes models in the United States.
The E-Class describes a full line of big, roomy sedans that are solid, safe, practical, comfortable, luxurious, and fast. Yet the cost of operating the popular E350, in terms of fuel consumption and maintenance, can be quite reasonable. The E-Class features some of the industry's most advanced safety technology, and it expresses what most people think of when they think of Mercedes: status in elegant, understated fashion.
Since a frame-up overhaul for model year 2003, the E-Class has expanded steadily and now includes six variants (more if you count the all-wheel drive E350 4Matic sedan and wagon and E550 4Matic sedan as separate models). The E-Class has sedans that seat five, wagons that seat seven, power from a V6, two V8s and a turbocharged V6 diesel, optional weather-busting all-wheel drive and screaming super-performance models from supertuner AMG.
For 2007, there are changes in E-Class nomenclature, thanks to new engines. The E500 sedan has become the E550 sedan, the new badge indicating it's powered by the 5.5-liter V8 that first appeared in the 2006 S-Class. The E550's double overhead cam V8 generates 382 horsepower compared to the 302 horsepower from the single overhead cam V8 it replaces, yet with a seven-speed automatic transmission, the E550 achieves the same estimated mileage as its less powerful predecessor. The E550 4Matic sedan retains its five-speed automatic. The E350 benefits from a V6 that was upgraded last year and is offered as a sedan and a wagon.
Meanwhile, there is no better example of how far passenger car diesel technology has advanced than the new E320 Bluetec sedan, which replaces the E320 CDI. The impressive common-rail direct-injection turbodiesel engine comes with a more sophisticated exhaust system that makes it the only diesel-powered passenger car available in the U.S. during the 2007 model year. It's not only more powerful than the outgoing E320 CDI with 210 horsepower and a muscular 388 pound-feet of torque, but it also returns the outgoing CDI's excellent EPA-estimated fuel mileage of 27 city/37 highway mpg.
Also new for 2007 are the E63 AMG sedan and wagon. It's hard to conceive of a faster, sportier team of luxury cars than the outgoing E55 AMGs, but the completely new 507-hp 6.2-liter V8 that replaces the E55's 469-hp supercharged V8 makes the E63s the fastest E-Class models ever built. And though capable of monstrous acceleration (0 to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds) and a top speed of 180 mph (were it not for electronics that limit top speed to 155 mph), the AMGs boast the touches of luxury expected at the upper end of the market.
The Mercedes E-Class is an icon, a benchmark in its class. The mid-life freshening for 2007 helps the E-Class keep pace with such outstanding luxury sedans as the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Acura RL.
The E350 models come with a 3.5-liter V6 engine. The E350 sedan ($51,325) comes with a seven-speed automatic while the all-wheel-drive 4Matic ($53,825) has a five-speed automatic. E350s are available in Sport or Luxury trim. The E320 Bluetec ($52,325) is equipped identically to the E350 Luxury version, but features the turbodiesel engine.
The E350 4Matic wagon ($56,475) is equipped comparably to the sedan. A power liftgate and cargo organizer are standard, along with a folding third seat that increases passenger capacity to seven.
Standard features include fully automatic dual-zone climate control, 10-way power front seats with leather seating surfaces and memory, real burl walnut trim, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a nine-speaker surround-sound stereo, power windows with one-touch express up and down, auto-dimming mirrors and rain-sensing windshield wipers. New standard equipment for 2007 includes a glass sunroof, six-disc CD changer, harman/kardon Logic 7 premium audio and, in the wagon, a power liftgate.
Luxury trim comes with 17-inch wheels, comfort suspension, green-tinted glass and burl walnut wood trim. Sport trim includes 18-inch twin-spoke wheels, a sport rear bumper with dual exhaust pipes, lowered sports suspension, blue-tinted glass, black bird's eye maple wood trim, white gauges, and a matte chrome gearshift surround.
Options include the Premium 1 package ($2,390) with phone pre-wiring, DVD navigation, Sirius satellite radio, power rear window sunshade and heated front seats. Premium II ($4,290) adds headlamp washers, a bi-xenon active light system, cornering fog lamps, and Keyless Go to that list. Also optional: a panorama sunroof ($1,000), electronic trunk closer ($520), split/folding rear seats ($300), radar-controlled Distronic adaptive cruise control ($3,160); a wood/leather steering wheel ($540); five-spoke chrome 17-inch wheels ($1,200); and Parktronic obstacle warning ($1,110).
The E550 ($59,775) and E550 4Matic ($62,275) sedans are powered by the 382-hp V8, and it offers more standard equipment than the E350. Upgrades include a four-zone climate control system and Airmatic variable air suspension. Options include the Premium I package ($2,840), which adds active ventilated seats to the E350's similar package, while Premium II ($4,740) is identical in content to the E350's.
The E63 AMG sedan ($85,375) and wagon ($86,175) include the 507-hp V8, a seven-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, massive 18-inch tires and wheels, performance brakes, a lowered chassis and an aggressively tuned air suspension. They're distinguished by unique body touches and interior trim, deeply sculpted sports seats and AMG markings. Options are similar to those on the other E-Class models.
Safety features that come standard on all models include eight airbags: dual front airbags, side-impact airbags for front and rear passengers, and head-protection curtains that run the length of the cabin on both sides. The airbag management system employs multiple impact sensors designed to more precisely control the timing and rate of deployment. The system accounts for the weight of a front-seat passenger and controls seatbelt pretensioners according to the force of impact. Active safety features start with anti-skid stability electronics and the latest evolution of ABS.
Safety is further enhanced by the Pre-Safe system, which was engineered to recognize critical situations as they develop and prepare both the passengers and the car for the crisis. If braking deceleration exceeds a certain level or the vehicle threatens to skid, the system tensions the front seatbelts, adjusts the position of the passenger seat for optimum positioning relative to
All of the 2007 Mercedes E-Class cars are enjoyable to drive. Smooth, serene and quiet are the dominant impressions at the wheel of any E-Class, unless you have the accelerator floored. There's very little vibration anywhere in the cabin, and almost no wind noise.
Improvements to the geometry of the front suspension for 2007 give the E-Class a crisper, quicker turn-in while cornering, perceptibly increasing the sporty nature of the car's handling. All of the E-Class cars corner responsively and provide a smooth, if slightly firm, ride, a balance we like in luxury sedans. The four-link front suspension is similar to that under the expensive S-Class models, and the five-link rear suspension does a superb job of controlling unwanted wheel movement, which is crucial to handling and ride quality.
The Sport models are tuned for those who like to feel in closer touch to the pavement, as it's fitted with shorter springs for a slightly lower ride height, stiffer shocks and low-profile performance tires on 18-inch wheels.
The available Airmatic Dual Control suspension replaces the standard steel coil springs with air springs. This computer-managed system adjusts the air pressure to the spring at each wheel, based on road conditions or driving style, to slightly soften or firm the ride and to add or decrease body roll (lean) in corners. In combination with electronically adjusted shock absorbers, the air suspension can automatically improve ride quality or handling or optimize the balance of the two, depending on where the car is traveling and whether the driver is cruising or driving quickly. The system works automatically, without switching suspension settings between sport and comfort.
The variable-power steering system was improved for 2007 with a 10-percent quicker ratio for more precise control of front wheel direction. The system provides more boost for easy turning at low speeds and less for more progressive steering response and feedback at higher speeds. With 2.6 turns lock-to-lock compared to the previous system's 3.3 turns, we found the new steering makes maneuvering through crowded parking lots easier and more pleasant, and far more responsive in the corners.
One of our gripes with the 2006 models was the braking system. All of the E-Class cars came with Sensotronic Brake Control, commonly called brake-by-wire, because the connection between the brake pedal and reservoir of brake fluid is electronic, not mechanical. Although we found them to be excellent in terms of performance, with stops straight, true and short, repeatedly, with virtually no brake fade, we didn't care for the way they engaged, which we felt was too abrupt, especially in commuter crawl mode. They do, however, have their advantages. The electronic system can apply brake force to each wheel independently, helping to keep the car traveling straight and true during panic stops, even on bumpy, uneven roads. It will also keep the brakes on full in an emergency situation, as measured by sensors, even if a driver inadvertently eases off the brake pedal. And if it's raining, the system periodically, lightly, applies the brakes to sweep them dry. Still, the brake-by-wire had its quirks. Several testers found them difficult to modulate in everyday driving, making smooth braking around town a challenge. In short, we didn't really like them.
For 2007, the Sensotronic control has been removed from the brake system, which is essentially unchanged except for the now ultra-smooth grasp of the binders, even at slow speeds. Each E-Class model has progressively larger brake rotors and more complex piston designs to complement the engine's power and corresponding speed potential.
The E-Class wagons give up almost nothing to the sedans in performance, fuel economy or handling dynamics.
The E350 comes with a 3.5-liter engine introduced for 2006, which was the first Mercedes V6 with dual overhead cams and four valves per cyl
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class offers a wide range of choices, but all have the attributes that have made them a benchmark among luxury cars. Every model delivers a combination of safety, luxury, practicality, performance, status, and cost of operation that's difficult to match. This remains an iconic car in a market segment crowded with good cars.
NewCarTestDrive.com editor Mitch McCullough reported from Los Angeles, with J.P. Vettraino and Jim McCraw in Detroit, and Greg Brown in Las Vegas.