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New Car/Review

Mercedes 320E-a seriously good car!

by Andrew Frankl -- European Bureau Chief

I have no problems with Infiniti's Q45 whatsoever but I must admit that getting into the Mercedes 320E was an uplifting experience. I mentioned that there was a certain amount of snobbery at the 50 thousand dollar level and I was not mistaken. Whereas the Q45 was a big black car to most onlookers the E320 did get an awful lot of admiring glances. Nobody said-it is nice but what is it?! Kiss of death in a way when that happens to an automobile. Certainly at that price.

Apart from admiring glances the E320 is a seriously good car. It looks good and goes well. It is also very comfortable. When I took my Mother in law(!) as one of three passengers in the back I was to some extent asking for trouble. Not a word, she was as happy as anything, chatting with the other two ladies in total comfort. Not that the Mercedes is perfect by any means. The interior is a matter of taste but in the car I had the leather was, well, how can I put it nicely..positively poop coloured. Yuk. Big yuk.

That of course is subjective and I am sure there are lots of other colours schemes. More relevant is the appalling mirror control. To adjust the otherwise excellent mirrors on the doors one has to fool around with a stupid little nail-breaker. Not worthy of Mercedes Benz, that is for sure. I came across a similar stupidity on an Audi so I can only assume that someone sold German manufacturers a job lot of rubbish at vastly reduced prices..

Just as bad are the radio/stereo controls. If a company such as Renault can put radio volume and station controls on the steering wheel, why can't Mercedes? Even the new Pontiacs have them.

Why do I complain? Very simple. Mercedes Benz have been in the forefront of car safety for many many years. There is nothing anyone could teach them on the subject. Yet, with all their safety bags and anti-lock brakes they overlook something as simple as the radio controls. Silly. Why do I make a fuss about it? Because looking at the dashboard instead of the road is a BAD THING. Even if the radio/stereo system is BOSE, my favourite.

These though are small niggles. Far more important is that the 3.2 litre engine pulls like a train without sounding like one. The economy, as always is down to the traffic and one's right foot, the figures provided by Mercedes-20 mpg in town and 27 on the highway seem about right although with the recent increase in speed limits across the States the highway figure will drop somewhat. Especially in Montana..

I am not going to bore you with details about the a/c(which is fine) or the adjustable steering column-which is also fine. Let me instead salute the man in charge of developing the turning circle. As someone who lives in London and is used to the famous black cabs turning on the proverbial six pence I simply could not believe the stunning turning circle of the E320. If you don't think it is relevant just try to make a quick U turn in the middle of Lombard St in San Francisco. (Sorry officer, I am a stranger in town..)

Would I like to keep it? Yes. Is it good value for money? That is always a difficult one, after all there are millions of people who don't earn 40 thousand dollars a year never mind spending it on a car. If on the other hand you are one of the fortunate ones who can afford to spend that sort of money than the answer has to be yes.