Used 1999 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Review




what's new

More airbags find room in the E-Class, which now features a full curtain side airbag protection system. The E300 Turbodiesel and E320 wagon are enhanced with leather seat inserts, and all E-Class cars get fiber-optic technology in their sound system/optional telephone unit.

vehicle overview

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 than ever before. Last year, the cars received their first major update. Inline six cylinder engines were replaced with more powerful, more fuel-efficient V6 engines in the E320 that provide 221 horsepower and 232 foot-pounds of torque. The V6's broad torque curve guarantees fast acceleration. The E300D replaced its diesel engine with a turbo diesel unit that boasts a peak horsepower of 174 and peak torque of 244 foot-pounds. With numbers like that, even Americans may become interested in this eco-friendly auto.

For more power, there's the V8 muscle of the E430, which generates 275 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque. And if you have a serious desire to break all land speed records, the E55 AMG is available. This steroid-infused sedan's 5.5-liter V8 puts out 349 horsepower and 391 foot-pounds of torque, which takes the car from zero to 60 in about five and a half seconds.

But performance isn't the E-Class sedan's selling point. The E-Class is also the car that thinks for you. Loaded with safety equipment and plenty of extra gadgets to choose from, the car seems equipped with its own constantly-alert copilot. First, antilock brakes are standard. The brakes also come with Mercedes' new Brake Assist system, which monitors the brake pedal and can detect an emergency situation. In the event of a real emergency, Brake Assist applies full braking force in a split second.

In addition to Brake Assist, ASR traction control is standard. This system knows if one wheel is spinning faster than the other, and applies the brakes to that wheel, or reduces power to that wheel by cutting off the electronic throttle. On slippery surfaces, this advanced traction control system significantly reduces lateral motion, keeping the car going in a straight line. Understeer and oversteer are controlled effectively.

Another power-stopping feature is the BabySmart recognition system, now standard. When first we heard of this feature, it sounded like Mercedes had somehow devised a way to make children more intelligent. Alas, BabySmart is simply an airbag cutoff. With the BabySmart child seat in place, the front passenger airbag is automatically deactivated.

Finally, we must mention the advancement of the ignition key. Mercedes has developed an infrared key fob that acts in place of the old-fashioned metal contraption used for the last thousand years on various mechanical locks. Dubbed SmartKey, the snub-nosed device sends a unique signal to the car, unlocking the steering column and starting the engine. And after each use, the key reprograms itself with a different code, just in case somebody figures out how to clone the little computer inside. It works like any other ignition system, only SmartKey is more expensively developed. And people wonder why carjacking is becoming more popular these days. Thieves can't take the car unless they have the key.

Interior ergonomics are typical Mercedes: fine except for the illegible hieroglyphics that decorate most of the controls. We appreciate the door-mounted seat adjustments, and the E-Class cars come with such niceties as dual climate zones, telescoping steering column, wood trim and a rocking stereo system complete with eight speakers.Mercedes builds a four-door E-Class for everything. The E-Class series of cars is versatile, and can handle the demands of most families. They're speedy, comfortable, can carry up to seven people, and they're solid as a rock. These cars represent an excellent argument against buying the more trendy, but less efficient, sport-utes.

The E-Class is the epitome of luxury, giving its owners a technically magnificent vehicle in a striking package. This is definitely our choice of cars in the middle-luxury segment. The Mercedes E-Class cars make a statement. They say, "I'm rich." Then they add, "But I'm also an intelligent buyer who wants a comfortable and safe car, and that's what I'm paying for." Very talkative, these cars. And they're very correct.






edmunds expert review process

This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.

We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.