What's New for 1997
The Mercedes-Benz E300D and E320 receive the driver-adaptable five-speed automatic transmission. The E-Class also has a smart sensor to determine if anyone is sitting in the passenger seat and to determine whether or not to deploy the airbag. The E420 can be had with a Sport Package.
Mercedes-Benz introduced an all-new E-Class for 1996, sporting a distinctive countenance, larger dimensions, door-mounted side-impact airbags and more standard equipment. First out of the blocks was the E320, equipped with a 217-horsepower, 3.2-liter inline six; and the E300 Diesel. Later in the year, an E420 V8 was released, putting 275-horsepower to the ground through the rear wheels.
Styling follows familiar Mercedes themes, but the front end of the E-Class is quite a departure from previous Benz models. Round headlamps, available with new gas-discharge technology, contain low beams as well as parking lights and turn signals. Smaller inner lights serve as high beams. Fog lamps are integrated into the bumper covers. The result is a crisp retro look that gives the E-Class a large dose of personality and presence.
Occupants are treated to a automatic climate control system that can be set for driver and passenger comfort, and filters dust, pollen and odors from the air. The usual burl walnut trim covers the instrument panel, and E320 models come with standard leather seating. A three-position memory feature is standard on all models, and it positions the driver's seat, steering wheel, headrests and side-view mirrors for up to three different drivers. Cupholders are provided front and rear.
E-Class is equipped with improved antilock brakes, new standard traction control systems, child-safety locks on the rear doors, dual airbags and new inflatable restraints in the doors. E420 models can be ordered with an Electronic Stability Program (ESP), which helps drivers keep the car under control in hazardous conditions. An infrared remote security system is standard.
The revamped E-Class should compete very well with the new BMW 5-Series and the Lexus LS400. Its understated elegance, newfound personality, and superb engineering will prove to be an irresistible blend of attributes in the luxury car class.