The E500's V8 has a flat torque curve throughout its rev range, while the tranny upshifts right at the 6,000 rpm redline. These shifts are positive and seem perfectly timed for maximum acceleration, which is good because you can't keep the transmission from upshifting, even when it's in manual mode. Our best time came with traction control off and a bit of wheel spin when starting out. In terms of refinement and power, this one is tough to fault.
The electronic brakes being fitted to new Mercedes-Benz products are undeniably effective in terms of stopping distances. Our test car stopped in 120 feet on its first braking attempt and 124 feet on its third and final run, so fade was nearly non-existent. However, braking feel remains an issue with this system. When pressed into maximum service the pedal gave minimal resistance for most of its travel, and then got "squishy" as it neared the floorboard and stopped moving. The upside is that there was absolutely no ABS vibration in the pedal, and the only noise to be heard was a slight whine that continued for a second or two after the car came to a stop (the whine was completely inaudible as the car slowed). Bottom line: these brakes are great in terms of outright function, but they need work in the "feel" department, even if improving them involves fabricating the sensations normally associated with hydraulic brakes.
The solid nature of the E500 under normal driving circumstances had me convinced that it would do well in slalom testing. However, I didn't take into account the combination of a high-torque engine and low resistance all-season tires. The Continental ContiTouring radials made an otherwise stable vehicle feel downright treacherous in the slalom, especially if I applied even a hint of throttle. Further contributing to this situation was the somewhat bizarre inequity between the manufacturer's suggested tire pressures. The front tires called for 26 psi. while the rears were supposed to be at 32 psi, this despite the fact that all four tires are the same size. We, of course, do all testing with the tires set at factory recommended pressures, but having the rear tires set so much higher than the fronts undoubtedly added to the rear end's tendency to come around. Body roll and steering feel were fully adequate for a luxury sedan, but overall slalom performance was disappointing. Karl Brauer