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Car of the Week - December 23, 2002

2003 Mercedes E Class

SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide

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Subtle yet distinct changes adorn the 2003 E Class. The stability and handling characteristics have tightened up (par for the Mercedes course) by replacing the old E's double-wishbone suspension design with a four-link system, thus enabling the addition of ABC (Active Body Control). Gliding effortlessly through the curves is easier than ever. The E430 V8 model is now E500 because, as you probably guessed, it now has a 5.0-liter 306 hp powerplant with 345 lb-ft of torque between 2,700 and 4,250. The E320 V6 is unchanged: 224 hp and 237 lb-ft of torque between 3,000 and 4,800 rpm.

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The interior add an inch of shoulder room to an already spacious volume which was designed to adjust to larger bodies: greater fore/aft travel in seat and steering wheel adjustments. There was applause from passengers concerning the double sun roofs, the easier CD access, and the very useful rain sensors during a wet and windy testing period.

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Going through a tunnel or a dust cloud? Just push the air-recirculation button and it will close the windows, sunroof and exterior vents. It's also a comfort to know that when the airbags deploy they adjust to the weight of the person. And don't worry about headlight replacement, the E Class has high performance bulbs that will last the life of the vehicle.

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Options include dynamic seats that compensate for vehicle movements as well as massage the lower back on demand. There is a Keyless-Go entry system that and open and start the car, a tire pressure-monitoring kit, solar-powered auxiliary ventilation and active seat ventilation. Whew! Maybe this is what Ol Saint Nick tools around in in the off-season.

- Mark & Katie Fulmer

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