2007 Mercedes Benz E550 Road Test
There I was, cruising along in a new, upgraded Mercedes-Benz E550 sedan and marveling at its many intoxicating charms when an odd question popped into my mind. What does the E in E-Class actually stand for?
A little Internet research revealed two possibilities. Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, claimed it stood for einspritzer, the German term for fuel injection. Another seemingly knowledgeable contributor to an enthusiast Web site, wrote confidently that it stands for Executive. The writer also assured that the C in C-Class stands for Compact, and the S in S-Class for Super.
Those explanations seem to make sense, but they are incorrect. Michelle Murad, Mercedes-Benz product and technology whiz, set me straight.
None of the three letters stands for anything specific. They simply designate size, with C the smallest, E the mid-size, and S the largest of the world-class German sedans. Murad did agree that years ago, when Mercedes-Benz moved from carburetion to fuel injection, the E on the trunk badges of its various models really did stand for einspritzer.
Okay, so E doesnt really stand for a specific word. But it easily could. Actually, it could stand for a lot of them. Come along and Ill show you what I mean.
How about exhilarating?
For 2007, the 5.5-liter V-8 engine recently introduced in the redesigned S-Class sedan replaces the 5-liter V-8 in the mid-size sedan. That boosts power from 302 horsepower to 382, and torque from 339 pound-feet to 391 pound-feet.
The result is a two-ton rocket that can fly from a stop to 60 mph in about 5.4 seconds and on to 104 mph at the end of a quarter mile in another eight seconds. That bests similar models of its prime competitors, BMW and Audi, and a bunch of other hot, sporty cars.
How about efficient?
The smooth-as-a-turbine seven-speed automatic transmission mates perfectly with the engines power band, always choosing the right gear for the occasion. Drive for economy instead of performance and you are rewarded with fuel efficiency that is surprising in such a powerful, heavy car.
During one 130-mile highway stretch, cruising at an average speed of 70 miles an hour and tapping the exceptional acceleration only for passing, I averaged almost 26 miles per gallon of premium fuel. Around town, when I wasnt surprising others with the strong pick-up, I averaged 17 mpg.
Unfortunately for buyers, the Environmental Protection Agency pegs fuel mileage at 15 mpg city and 23 highway, meaning a ,300 gas-guzzler tax is tacked onto the purchase price.
How about entertaining?
When the E550 is done with the routine of its primary job, the enthusiast can head for a favorite stretch of challenging blacktop for a little fun. Switch the transmission to manual mode, set the optional independent air suspension to its sportiest setting, and hit the accelerator. The rack-and-pinion steering, although a bit heavy, puts the sedan precisely where it is pointed and offers adequate feedback on road conditions. This car can cover ground quickly and without drama. And, the big, ventilated disc brakes are on hand to curb any over-enthusiasm. True, the E550 is not the most athletic sedan on the market, but its plenty capable of handling any public roads on which it travels.
How about effortless?
With its relatively compact dimensions, the E550 is easily maneuvered in traffic, easy to park and, thanks to a tight turning radius, easy to maneuver into a mall parking space. This is all the more amazing because the interior is roomy for four adults, reasonably adequate for five. With the optional keyless-go feature, the driver can lock, unlock, start and stop the car without ever taking the key out of pocket or purse. The four-zone climate control system will maintain the desired cabin temperature automatically.
The drivers job is also made easier by cruise control; steering-wheel-mounted controls for the sound system and trip computer; automatic-dimming mirrors; rain-sensing windshield wipers and a remote locking system. Optional driver aids include a navigation system, heated and ventilated front seats, and a hands-free communications system.
How about evasive?
This may be stretching things a bit, but this Mercedes sedan has a long list of features to help a driver evade an accident and to help all passengers evade injury. A PRE-SAFE system, until now the exclusive province of S Class sedans, is now incorporated into the E-Class.
If sensors detect an impending collision, the seatbelts are automatically tightened to hold the occupants more securely in place. If they detect that the front passenger seat is too close to the dashboard, or the seatback is too far reclined, or the seat cushion is positioned wrong, the system will automatically adjust it to safer settings.
If the vehicles goes into a skid that signals a possible rollover, PRE-SAFE will automatically close the sunroof and side windows.
And, if by some stroke of good fortune the accident never happens, the system will automatically ease the tension on the seatbelts.
All of this is in addition to electronic stability control, which applies the brakes to one or more wheels when it detects the vehicle is about to skid out of control; braking systems that maximize stopping forces and prevent lockup of the vented disc brakes in emergency stopping situations; and a separate sensor that deploys side airbags in a rollover accident.
And theres more.
A total of eight airbags stands ready to deploy. Two front airbags, four side airbags and two side-curtain airbags will cushion the blow from a front or side-impact collision. Traction control and optional all-wheel-drive help the driver to maintain control in ice and snow .Active front head restraints automatically reposition themselves to protect the head in rear-end collisions. Special construction techniques increase impact resistance and channel crash forces away from the occupants.
Parktronic, an optional series of sensors in the front and rear bumpers, provides light displays and audible signals to warn a driver of obstacles around the vehicle that are out of the range of vision.
When a collision does occur and the seat-belt tensioners and/or air bags deploy, the Mercedes-Benz Tele Aid system automatically calls 9-1-1 to tell emergency personnel the vehicles location, plus its model and color.
How about exquisite?
Most Mercedes-Benz automobiles have an understated elegance that keeps them looking fresh and desirable for generations. For 2007, the E-Class has undergone a few minor design upgrades that include a new front bumper, lower air dam, and revised grille, headlights and taillights and a standard sunroof. Inside, the sound system has been upgraded. Of course, all passengers sit on comfortable, top-quality, leather seats, surrounded by burl walnut trim. An optional sport package, which adds a bit of flair to the cars appearance, includes special 18-inch alloy wheels, a lowered suspension, dual exhaust pipes, black birds eye maple wood interior trim, and chrome surrounds for the white-gauged instrument panel.
Finally, how about extravagance?
Despite all its well deserved superlatives, the E550 sedan in the final analysis, is a vehicle for those with substantial disposable income. Base price of the car I drove is ,000. Add the premium and sports packages, plus a panoramic sunroof, and the total comes to ,815, not including taxes. There are a lot of transportation options that are safe, competent, practical, reliable, fun and a whole lot cheaper. But none of them has the cachet that comes with a Mercedes-Benz, and that makes the extravagance worth every cent to those who can afford one.