2007 Mercedes-Benz E-ClassEnlarge Photo
2007 Mercedes-Benz E320 Bluetec by Gary
The world’s cleanest diesel, Benz promises.
Facelifts. Can we talk? They can either be tiny scars behind the ears, or a totally obvious fright mask. Remember when the dowager Taurus came back from the “day spa” in 2000 wearing a tight, firm new Jaguar face? It wasn’t fooling anyone, now, was it?
The new Benz E-Class shows the way to go about things if you’re thinking post-middle-age improvements. The $69,300 E550 has the subtle, deft touches you’d see on a Buckhead trophy wife — fitting since the E-Class is the quintessential Buckhead trophy-wife car. If the driver doesn’t outwardly, gauchely say “Look! I have taste and money now!” then certainly, the E’s profile does it for them.
So, proudly, Mercedes offers this seventh generation of E-Class sedans — although Benz seems a little hazy on whether this refresh consists of a new car or an interim step. It comes as an E350 sedan or wagon, an E320 CDI diesel, a 507-hp E63 sedan or wagon, or as the V-8-enhanced E550 we drove and loved from the moment it came out of post-op.
A spotter’s guide
Spotting a new E550 is easy enough, to the surgically trained eye. The new front-end styling has a little Cadillac crispness in its air dam, and clearly it’s learned the lesson of the elegant CLS elsewhere, with laid-back headlamps, wide chrome ribs across the trunk, and an overall relaxing of the E’s stately demeanor.
From the sideview, black B-pillars borrow another cue from the CLS and muted the upright greenhouse even more, while bigger wheel arches make the E seem to grab the ground more firmly. The taillamps have been reshaped, too. And in the midst of the revamping, Mercedes replaced a slew of panels — hood, front fenders, trunk lid, and subframes — with aluminum pieces to reduce weight. Think of it as automotive liposuction, minus the grotesque leftovers.
Our test car also came outfitted with a Sport package that gives the E550 even more visual bite. Blingy 18-inch wheels blend seamlessly in with the look, which hunkers down with a lowered suspension, a deeper rear bumper and dual exhausts, and LED taillamps.
Sounds of refinement
The E550 replaces the former E500 and strikes a beautiful balance of power and responsibility. With its new 32-valve, 5.5-liter V-8 spinning out 382 horsepower, the E550 never lacks for power. But it rarely flaunts it, either. It’s capable of shooting to 60 mph in 5.4 seconds, and hitting a limited top speed of 130 mph, but it’s the velvety around-town touch that will leave most of us wowed. Throttle down, a slick machined growl erupts from the engine bay.
You can encourage more of this great noise by flipping through the seven-speed automatic’s gears through its gear lever “Touch Shift” function. And this is one case where a little goose is socially acceptable, even encouraged. The automatic passes through ratios breezily, and in truth it’s hard to tell how hard the V-8 is working unless it’s seriously agitated.
In total control
With so many sophisticated pieces of hardware and software already in place, the E550 needed not much more than a few touch-ups on its mechanicals. The current E borrowed liberally from the S-Class in terms of its suspension design, adapting its five-link rear end in aluminum but sharing much of its basic geometry.
For Sport editions, the E550 takes on shorter springs that lower its ride height. Stiffer shocks and those flashy 18-inch wheels generate the better road feel, and not much degradation in ride quality or steering. Benz’ Airmatic suspension is standard on the E550 along with adaptive damping, which interfaces computers with the shocks to respond to changing road conditions.
That’s how the E still comports itself in a way that other mid-size luxury sedans ape — firm on the damping, cushy over middling bumps and capable of soaking up great swaths of road without so much as a spot of Pellegrino erupting out of the cupholders.
Logic and luxury
The E-Class has been the social climber of the Mercedes lineup, gradually learning how tasteful bits of luxury could improve its standing. This year, it gets a bit more cultured with a minor cabin revamp that integrates the automatic climate control a bit better. There’s now a “max cool” button that regulates not your reputation but the ambient temperature. And a furniture-like tambor roll hides the deep cupholders when they’re not in use.
More good things are emanating from the speakers. Like BMW, Benz has adopted a harman/kardon Logic 7 audio system, in this case pumping out 420 watts of power and tied in with a six-CD changer.
And the standard equipment list gets a few add-ons that help to justify the E’s sticker price. A glass sunroof is standard, as are ten-way power seats, auto-dimming mirrors, and a power tilt/telescope steering wheel; heated and cooled seats are a new option.
Toned, tanned and taut
Other publications have called the E-Class the best vehicle you can buy, or the best vehicle they’ve ever tested. All that may have been true, but the E-Class is even better now — and the $70,000 nip and tuck it does on your bank account is one procedure you’ll never regret.
And no, in case you're wondering, no we haven't.
2007 Mercedes-Benz E550
Base price: $69,300
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Engine: 5.5-liter V-8, 382 hp/391 lb-ft
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Length x width x height: 191.0 x 71.7 x 58.4 inches
Wheelbase: 112.4 inches
Curb weight: 3885 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 15/23 mpg
Safety equipment: Dual front, side, and curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; stability and traction control; active head restraints
Major standard equipment: Dual-zone climate control; power locks/windows/mirrors; power sunroof; AM/FM/CD player
Warranty: Four years/50,000 miles
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