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Mercedes-Benz E320 AWD Wagon (2001)

SEE ALSO: Mercedes Buyer's Guide

By Tom Hagin


     Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 51,500
     Price As Tested                                    $ 56,795
     Engine Type              SOHC 18-valve 3.2 Liter V6 w/SMFI*
     Engine Size                                 195 cid/3199 cc
     Horsepower                                   221 @ 5500 RPM
     Torque (lb-ft)                               232 @ 4600 RPM
     Wheelbase/Width/Length                  111.5"/70.8"/190.4"
     Transmission          Five-speed automatic with Touch Shift
     Curb Weight                                     4101 pounds
     Fuel Capacity                                  18.5 gallons
     Tires  (F/R)                           215/55R16 all-season
     Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS)/disc (ABS)
     Drive Train                    Front-engine/all-wheel-drive
     Vehicle Type                      Seven-passenger/five-door
     Domestic Content                                        N/A
     Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.34


     EPA Economy, miles per gallon
        city/highway/average                            20/27/24
     0-60 MPH                                        8.0 seconds
     1/4 (E.T.)                          15.5 seconds @ 91.0 mph
     Top-speed                  (Electronically limited) 130 mph
                 * Sequential multi-port fuel injection

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the company's workhorse and each year since 1991, E-Class sales numbers have steadily grown.

Available in sedan and wagon form, it can be fitted with V6 or V8 power, in rear or 4Matic AWD. Ours this week is the AWD E320 wagon.

OUTSIDE - Mercedes took no styling risks with the E-Class. The boldest "statement" made are the oval headlights, which flank a set of oval driving lights. In wagon form, the E320 looks a bit out of proportion, possibly because the wagon variant appeared after the sedan had been on the road for several years. Changes made to the E-Class a few years ago include a lowering of the fender line by an inch which gave the front end a lower, sleeker profile, and a newly scooped front valance with functional vents for the front brakes. The grille received more of a 'V" shape, and the bumpers were made to flow into the lights. The rear tail lights were changed as well, along with integrated turn signals in the rear view mirrors. Our 4Matic version wore 16-inch multi-spoked alloy wheels and all-season tires.

INSIDE - With 10-way power front seats (both with three-position memory), multiple adjustments for the tilt/telescopic steering column and a low dashboard, nearly anyone can tailor a perfect fit. Both front seats are well bolstered, while the whole interior is covered in leather. Last year a redesign saw a new instrument cluster that contains a display screen beneath the speedometer. A separate optional screen houses the Cockpit Management and Data System that incorporates a navigation system, contains a numeric pad for telephone dialing and has the capability of showing TV or video pictures. TeleAid is yet another system that can summon roadside assistance or emergency help with the push of a button. Other features include automatic climate control, auto-dimming rear view and driver's side mirrors, speed control, power windows, mirrors and door locks and an 8-speaker stereo system.

ON THE ROAD - E-Class wagons can be had with either a 3.2-liter (hence the car's E320 designation) V6 or a 4.3-liter V8, in the case of the E430. Ours was the V6 version, which produces 221 horsepower and delivers 232 lb-ft of torque. It's a smooth-running single overhead camshaft powerplant that uses sequential fuel injection, a two-stage intake system and three valves per cylinder; two intake and one exhaust. This engine replaced an inline six cylinder engine a few years back, which brought a small gain in fuel economy, less emissions and better acceleration. A five-speed automatic transmission is standard, and our tester's 4Matic system puts power to any wheel or combination of wheels depending on computer-sensed traction needs. This system works with the standard electronic traction and vehicle stability control systems to provide outstanding traction and control in foul weather.

BEHIND THE WHEEL - The front suspension uses a double wishbone configuration with coil springs, gas-charged shocks and a stabilizer bar. The rear system is a five-link design and both ends use special anti-lift, anti-dive geometry. During hard braking or fast acceleration the car will stay level. The ride is firm and road grip from the all-weather tires is good, but on the wagon, they are a bit louder than on the sedan we recently tested. The steering feels "different" on the 4Matic version, too. Both rear-drive and AWD models have variable-rate rack-and-pinion steering that is precise enough, but 4Matic serves up a bit heavier feel than the conventional E-Class models. The brakes are four-wheel discs, vented in front and solid in back, with an anti-lock braking system (ABS) and Brake Assist, a system that can detect a panic stop and apply full braking force immediately, depending on how rapidly the brake pedal is depressed.

SAFETY - Dual dashboard, front and rear door and head protection airbags, ABS, traction control, stability control, front belt pre- tensioners and a BabySmart child seat recognition system are standard.

OPTIONS - Heated seats, $620; Value Added Package (rain sensor wipers, sunroof, premium sound) $1610; upgraded phone, CD changer and handset system), $1795.