High-end models like the S-Class and SL may be used to pioneer new technologies, but the E-Class sets the standard. It is, in a sense, the state of Mercedes-Benz, and it is all-new for 2003. Increased use of aluminum and high-strength steel has made the new E-Class stronger, stiffer and safer than its predecessor, while allowing more safety and luxury equipment without dramatically increased weight. The six-cylinder is little different, but the standard V8 is now 5.0L and produces 302 hp and 339 lb-ft of torque. (It provided the material for the fastest-accelerating production Mercedes-Benz ever, the supercharged, 469-hp E55 AMG.) As before, Mercedes' Touch Shift five-speed automatic transmissions are arguably the most refined in the world.
The air suspension from the S-Class is improved for the new E-Class and comes standard on the E500. In addition to the computer automatically controlling spring and damper rates, the driver can select a program. Electronic braking, introduced to the world on the SL, is implemented for the first time in volume production on the E-Class. Braking force is electronically distributed between the four wheels at all times.
Inside, the E500 features four-zone climate control and optional Harmon Kardon Logic 7 audio--one no longer must unravel i-Drive to experience the latter. The E500 is among a handful of the most sophisticated, luxurious and beautiful performance machines in the world.
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