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Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - E-class - E320 Elegance sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Interior space, on-road competence, build quality
Room for improvement
Choppy low-speed ride, average performance of 1.6-litre version

17 May 2001

EVEN though the latest E320 Mercedes-Benz looks identical to the original model, it is in reality quite a different car.

Lurking under its curvy bonnet is an all-new, hi-tech V6 engine, the company's first. It ends an era of in-line six-cylinder engines of character for which Mercedes-Benz is renowned.

After the 2.4 and 2.8, the E320's 3.2-litre is the biggest V6 in the range. There are no more four-cylinder E-Class models.

Mercedes claims the V6 emits 40 per cent less pollution, is 20 per cent lighter, 13 per cent more economical and produces a more useable spread of torque than the old straight six.

Even though power is up by just 3kW to 165kW, maximum torque (of 315Nm) is achieved 850rpm lower at 3000rpm.

This greater torque spread makes for more energetic step-off and in-gear acceleration. It's just too bad the long accelerator pedal travel masks the improvements.

Mash the pedal down and the engine will spin powerfully and smoothly to the tachometer's red line, thanks to its 90-degree vee-design featuring anti-vibration balancer shaft technology.

Mercedes claims three rather than four valves per cylinder leads to more efficiency and less waste.

So not only is the V6 among the cleanest six-cylinder powerplants, it is also very economical, officially sipping just 6.8 litres per 100km on highways and 10 litres per 100km around town.

There's also the Brake Assist System which ensures the brakes are on as hard as they can go during an emergency. Mercedes claims stopping distances are cut to just 40 metres when braking severely from 100km/h.

The traction control system has also been reworked.

Like BMW, the car now has a flexible service interval with the car deciding when it needs to go in for a check-up.

Better anti-theft protection means a conventional key is replaced by an electronic triangular-shaped fob.

The three-tiered range of E320 sedans and station wagons remain: base Classic (sedan only), luxury Elegance and sporty Avantgarde.

Its formidable strengths remain - peerless build quality, lots of comfort and space, excellent ergonomics, impressive handling and ride characteristics, and big safety features.

The new engineering updates make the mid-range Mercedes a front-runner against its BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 rivals.

- Automotive NetWorks 05/07/1999

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