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1997 Mercedes-Benz E420 - a great automobile.

by Andrew Frankl European Bureau Chief

SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide

Mercedes E420

The E420 is an excellent car but in a way a bit like the Infiniti QX4. Its cheaper brother, the E320 is about 10 thousand dollars less expensive and in my opinion much better value, just like the Pathfinder makes more sense than the QX4.

Not that there is anything wrong with the E420 its just that in the United States it is not really needed, for cruising at 70-80 miles per hour and with perfectly adequate acceleration the E320 will do everything 99% of owners will ask for. I can imagine that on German autobahns the extra ponies generated by the 4.2 litre DOHC 32 valve 8 cylinder engine are needed to keep up with the BMW 740s but in California it does not seem to make too much sense. Certainly the neighbours loved it. Several owners of Mercedes cars were seriously tempted to visit the nearest dealer but in the end they too agreed that the smaller engined version made more sense.

Like all cars made by the legendary Stuttgart firm it felt solid as a rock and like everyone else it would be the car I would prefer to have an accident in if I had to have one to the exclusion of all others with the exception of a Sherman tank.

To someone familiar with London taxis one of the most appealing features of the car has to be the turning circle. Those famous black cabs seem to be able to turn on the proverbial sixpence but this Merc is not far behind. A tremendous plus in a City like San Francisco where spotting an empty parking meter and getting to it before anyone else can make the difference between a nice evening and a parking ticket. (In London you get a ticket and they clamp the car as well! Don't expect too much change from 300 dollars before the padlocks are taken off).

The fuel consumption was remarkably good, we were getting over 20 miles per gallon, even crawling across Golden Gate Bridge in the rush-hour. With extras such as the glass sunroof and the integrated mobile telephone our test car came with a price tag of just over 53 thousand dollars.

In my opinion the E320, with the 6 cylinder engine in the same, comfortable body will do almost everything big brother can do for around 40 thousand. One guess which one I would chose.