The 2000 E430 4Matic is the first Mercedes-Benz to offer a V8 engine in combination with a full-time four-wheel-drive system. You’ll have to be a really bad driver to lose control in this car: in addition to all-wheel-drive, the mid-size E430 4Matic sedan offers standard ESP anti-skid system, ASR traction control, Brake Assist, and four wheel disc brakes with anti-lock – plus front, side and head curtain airbags. All this technology doesn’t come cheap: E430 4Matic’s are priced at $78,550 plus tax.
A luxury car with grip
Despite the growing popularity of upscale sport-utility vehicles and minivans with four-wheel-drive, there are some buyers who prefer the ride and handling of a luxury car or station wagon. With a lower centre of gravity, lighter curb weight, unit body construction, and often a fully independent suspension, cars and wagons often have superior driving dynamics, and better fuel consumption, than SUV’s and minivans.
As well, the aggressive styling of SUV’s like the BMW X5, ML430 and Jeep Grand Cherokee is not everyone’s cup of tea. Luxury cars offer a more refined, and less ostentatious image for more conservative, well-to-do buyers.
One of a few 4WD luxury cars
While there are now many SUV’s and minivans to choose from, 4WD luxury cars are in limited supply. Currently, there are four luxury cars with four-wheel-drive on the market (some available with different engine options): the six cylinder Mercedes-Benz E320 4Matic sedan and wagon, the eight cylinder E430 4Matic sedan, the Audi A6 2.8 Avant wagon, Audi A6 2.7T Quattro sedan, Audi A6 4.2 Quattro sedan, the Audi A8 4.2 sedan; and the Volvo V70 AWD R wagon.
The Mercedes-Benz E430 4Matic and Audi A6 4.2 Quattro are the only two mid-sized V8-powered all-wheel-drive sedans.
First Mercedes with V8 engine and 4WD
New for 2000, the E430 4Matic sedan is the first Mercedes-Benz available with 4Matic (full-time four-wheel-drive) and a V8 engine. Previously, only six cylinder models offered 4Matic.
The 4Matic system employs a permanent 35/65 front/rear torque split via a planetary centre differential, and is capable of apportioning more power to individual wheels by using traction control to slow the other wheels. For example, if only one wheel has traction, the 4Matic system can direct all of the engine’s power to that wheel.
The E430’s 4Matic system is so compact that it doesn’t rob the sedan of any interior space or trunk room. It’s also lightweight – the E430 4Matic sedan weighs about 85 kg (187 lb.) more than an E430 sedan with rear-wheel-drive.
The E430’s 4.3 litre V8 engine is one of Mercedes-Benz new generation V8 engines with single overhead camshafts on each cylinder bank, twin sparkplugs per cylinder, and three valves per cylinder – two intake valves and one exhaust valve. The latter is designed to improve engine breathing while reducing emissions. This engine develops 275 horsepower at 5750 rpm and 295 ft-lb. of torque between 3000 and 4400 rpm.
The 4.3 litre V8 engine also features an electronic, ‘drive-by-wire’ throttle. And for 2000, a new ‘Flexible Service System’ uses an oil quality sensor to determine when to change the oil. The minimum interval is 15,000 km, but FSS will allow as much as 30,000 km between oil changes. A warning light near the instrument cluster tells the driver when to take it in for servicing.
New Touch Shift automatic transmission
Another new feature for 2000 on the E-Class is a 5-speed automatic transmission with Touch Shift, a manual shift feature. The driver has the option of selecting gears manually by gently pushing the gear lever to the left to downshift and to the right to upshift while in the ‘Drive’ position. The transmission also has a ‘Winter’ mode which starts off in second gear and shifts at lower engine speeds in order to maximize traction on slippery surfaces. This transmission was first offered last year on the all-new S-Class sedans.
Subtle but significant styling changes
Though not obvious to the casual observer, the 2000 E-Class sedans and wagons have some styling changes. The front end is lower and has a more tapered profile, somewhat like the CLK coupe. The headlights are 15 mm (0.6 in.) lower and are raked back at more of an angle; the hood is 20 mm (0.8 in.) lower and has more of a slope; the grille is narrower, the bumper has been integrated into the bodywork below the headlights, and the design of the fog lamps and lower air intakes has been revised.
At the side, the rocker panels have been revised, door handles are now body-coloured, and the side mirrors now have integrated turn signals. At the rear, the bumpers have been restyled and the taillights now have ribbed lenses which repel dirt and snow.
2000 E-Class models include new upgraded, standard leather upholstery, a multi-function steering wheel with radio and telephone controls, and a new instrument cluster. There’s new centre console woodgrain trim, softer armrests, thicker carpet, and a new ‘coin catcher’ between the seats.
All E-Class models have a new ‘Tele-Aid’ system which can summon help or advice by simply pressing a button. An ‘SOS’ button above the rear-view mirror immediately contacts the Mercedes-Benz Response Centre – a service contracted to Mercedes-Benz by ATX Technologies – and dispatches police or emergency services. The system transmits the location of the vehicle (via GPS tracking), the model and colour. The system works automatically if the airbags are deployed.
Another feature of Tele-Aid is Roadside Assistance which can be contacted by pressing a button with a wrench symbol in the centre armrest, and Customer Service by pressing a button with an ‘I’ – they will answer questions about the car. Finally, if the car is stolen, Tele Aid can track the vehicle.
More safety features for 2000
In addition to standard dual front airbags, door-mounted side airbags, and anti-lock brakes, 2000 E-Class models have new curtain side airbags which deploy from the ceiling to protect occupants from hitting their heads on the roof, window or pillars in a side impact. The curtains extend across the front and rear windows. Mercedes-Benz own tests indicate that side curtain airbags reduce head injuries by 90 percent.
The E430 has height-adjustable front head restraints, and three rear height-adjustable head restraints which fold down when not in use for better rear visibility. Three-point seatbelts with pretensioners are also standard.
Mercedes-Benz’ Electronic Stability Program (ESP) is also now standard on all E-Class models. This anti-skid system detects an impending spin and selectively applies individual brakes to maintain directional stability.
The E430 also features standard ASR traction control, and Brake Assist, the latter an automatic braking system that applies full brake pressure in a ‘panic’ braking situation.
A luxury car, not a sporting sedan
The E430 4Matic’s 275 horsepower V8 engine provides a fluid burst of power from a standing start, and the car proceeds quickly to its redline with a dull, sporty roar and quick, seamless gear changes. 0 to 100 km/h in accomplished in 6.6 seconds, compared to 6.2 seconds for the rear-drive E430 sedan. When cruising, the engine is quiet and smooth, revving at just 2100 rpm at a steady 100 km/h. The adaptive 5-speed automatic transmission adjusts to your driving style, so if you drive hard, it will begin to shift later and downshift sooner. The Touch Shift function, while interesting, didn’t inspire me as much as a traditional manual transmission does. In addition, I found it hard to shift ‘sideways’.
Like other Mercedes-Benz sedans, the E-Class has a softly sprung fully independent suspension, vague but easy to turn speed-sensitive power steering, and some body lean when cornering. The E430 rides and handles more like a luxury sedan than a sport sedan (such as the BMW 540i), despite the fact that it has low profile 235/45ZR-17 inch tires and 17 inch alloy wheels, an independent suspension, fantastic disc brakes, and a powerful engine.
The 4Matic system is invisible to the driver and passengers when driving on dry pavement. The E430 4Matic behaves much like the rear-wheel-drive E430, although its extra weight gives it a slight disadvantage in acceleration. With full-time four-wheel-drive, ESP, ASR and anti-lock brakes, the E430 4Matic reacts to slippery surfaces much faster than a driver can, thus increasing winter driving safety substantially.
Extensive list of standard features
With a suggested retail price of $78,550, the E430 4Matic is the most expensive mid-sized all-wheel-drive car on the market. For that money, you get all the features I’ve mentioned above, plus dual-zone climate control, 10-way power front heated seats and power head restraints, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, three-position memory for the front seats, mirrors and steering wheel, premium eight speaker AM/FM/cassette audio system (but no CD), dual level centre armrest and folding rear armrest, and a slide-out cupholder. My test car did not have folding rear seatbacks or a trunk pass-through.
The E430 includes a unique infra-red ignition ‘key’ and remote locking device. Though there’s no metal key, the infra-red key fits into a slot on the dash and transmits a signal allowing the car to be started.
Like other Mercedes-Benz automobiles, the E430 4Matic comes with a standard 4 year/80,000 km warranty and a 5 year/120,000 km powertrain warranty. Mercedes-Benz also offers a unique 2 year/40,000 km warranty on items normally considered ‘wear and tear’, such as brake pads, wiper blades, and light bulbs.