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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - E-class - E200K Classic sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Interior space, on-road competence, build quality, performance
Room for improvement
Price, standard equipment level at this price, some engine vibes

20 Jun 2001

IN its new baseline E-class model, Mercedes-Benz manages to offer more for less.

The E200 Kompressor model slips onto the local market at $10,000 less than the previous baseline E-class, the E240, yet the 2.0-litre, four-cylinder supercharged engine delivers virtually the same power figures as its sibling.

In fact, according to factory figures, the new model actually delivers more torque at lower engine revs, better acceleration and better fuel consumption than its bigger brother. But while a $10,000 saving sounds good, the cost of E-class membership is still high even for the Classic variant. Upping the specification level to Elegance adds plenty and it costs yet more again to go to Avant Garde spec.

Mechanical specifications for each E200K model remain the same, the extra cost going on interior and exterior embellishments such as alloy wheels, chrome trim and different wood trim in the cabin.

This new model in the E-Class's middle years proves that DaimlerChrysler is serious about getting younger, more price-conscious user-choosers into its cars.

It expects the E200K to compete with high-end Japanese sedans (read: Lexus) and the "usual rivals" - being the almost identically powered and priced BMW 523i and Audi A6.

Inside the new model, that unmistakable Mercedes-Benz ambience is undiminished - doors close like vaults, impeccable furniture matches intuitive ergonomics and the occupants ride in obvious comfort, luxury and implicit safety.

Features in the Elegance model include leather furniture, Tip-shift five-speed automatic transmission, ESP skid-control, eight airbags, partially electric seats and a button-endowed, reach and rake adjustable steering wheel, air-conditioning, ABS, keyless entry and the regular MB list. But although the list of features is impressive, there are minor omissions from a full house of options.

Front and rear seats give more than enough legroom, but taller drivers might find the seats are less than ideal - with no lumbar support, they tend to force tall people to sit hunched over.

The new four-cylinder motor uses an Eaton supercharger spinning at twice crankshaft speed. Supercharging is preferred by Mercedes engineers over turbo-charging to eliminate throttle lag, create a broad, flat torque curve and to maintain high exhaust gas temperatures through the catalytic converter in the interests of emissions levels.

The forced-induction engine replaces the normally aspirated 2.0-litre, four-cylinder unit and will also be fitted into the new C-class, SLK, CLK and existing C-class wagon.

In operation, the new engine's power delivery is seamless and adequate - the car accelerates briskly under full throttle and anything but dry asphalt will see the ESP light blinking indignantly progress is rapid without being time-warping and overtaking is performed effortlessly.

Although the traction control is not entirely unobtrusive, it is subtle enough that passengers need not know their driver has outside assistance ditto the ABS brakes - the brake-pedal modulates firmly underfoot and the car stops smoothly. The auto box could be more subtle in its up-changes under power, but at least the Tip-shift manual selector returns gear selection control to the driver - although the shifts are slow to occur.

Nor is the four-cylinder engine is not entirely viceless - at cruising speeds a slight vibration can be felt and the cabin is not entirely silent - a small level of tyre noise is discernible from the 205/65-15 boots but it is never intrusive and the living-room remains conversational.

As an introduction to the three-pointed star club, the E200 Kompressor is as good a place to start as any - $79,500 is not cheap, but exclusivity never was.

- Automotive NetWorks 25/10/2000

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