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by Tony Whitney
The E55 is based on the new E-Class sedan and although it has various minor body modifications, it doesn’t look overdone. It’s a very subtle performance statement and the new E is a lot better looking that its predecessor anyway. I always thought the old car was exciting at the front and boring at the back, but you can’t say that about the new model. It looks wonderful from every angle and must be taking sales away from several competitors on styling alone.
The E55 is all about power and handling, so I’ll start with the engine. It’s a 5.5-litre V8 with supercharging and it develops that amazing 469 horsepower. 0 to 100 km/h time is just 4.6 seconds! There must be some kind of power struggle on among the German automakers right now because the next BMW M5 is said to be even more potent than the E55.
Transmission is a 5-speed electronic automatic with one of those Tiptronic style semi-manual options. There are no AMG models with manual gearboxes, which is something of a surprise, but with the E55’s power and torque, that’s not really a problem.
Not surprisingly, the E-Class has a very sophisticated independent suspension setup and for the E55, this is enhanced by tuned Airmatic dual control air suspension. This certainly gives the car agility to match – or keep up with – its power levels. It’s a largish car, but it does handle like something a lot smaller. Naturally, it’s a little harsher with regard to ride than a base E-Class, but AMG buyers expect to pay that price for the car’s handling.
The E-Class has a huge roster of stability and safety aids. These include ESP (electronic stability programming); ABS (anti-lock brakes); electronic braking too and Distronic cruise control which slows you down if you get too close to the car in front on the freeway. With its multiple air bags and advanced seat belt technology, this is a very safe automobile indeed. Perhaps just as important is the exceptionally rugged bodyshell, which this time around, uses ten per cent aluminum by weight. The material is used for the hood, front fenders, trunk lid and other components – including part of the subframe.
Mercedes has broken some new ground with the car in the interior design department, but most of the changes are for the better. Mercedes cars have always had a commonality as far as control layout went – get into anything from a C-Class to an S-Class and you’d feel pretty much at home. The new E-Class features some changes that will probably find their way into other models in time. The cockpit is very stylish and the ambiance is just wonderful. You only have to slide in behind the wheel to get a great feeling of well-being and quality – exactly the way Mercedes planned it, I’d guess.
The only way to describe a drive in this expensive car is “exhilarating.” The highest North American speed limit can be topped in moments, so it’s a car that demands a careful watch on the speedometer as well as the rear view mirror. It’s faster off the mark than anything short of a very quick sports car and not too many of those can keep up either. Whether this kind of performance is needed for North American conditions is open to debate, but for those with the money (over $113,000) and desire for one of the world’s great high-performance sedans – the E55 awaits.
Technical Data: 2004 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG
|Price as tested||$114,750|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger mid-size sedan|
|Layout||longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive|
|Engine||5.5 litre V8, SOHC, 24 valves|
|Horsepower||469 @ 6,100 r.p.m.|
|Torque||516 lb-ft @ 2650-4500 rpm|
|Transmission||5-speed automatic Tiptronic|
|Tires||245/40ZR18 front and 265/35ZR18 rear|
|Curb weight||1835 kg (4045 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2857 mm (112.5 in.)|
|Length||4833 mm (190.3 in.)|
|Width||1810 mm (71.3 in.)|
|Height||1454 mm (57.2 in.)|
|Trunk capacity||450 litres (15.9 cu. ft.)|
|Warranty||4 yrs/80,000 km|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 yrs/120,000 km|