2002 E430 (click to enlarge)
See EPA MPG ratings for these years here.
The modern V8 E-Klasse descends from the 300E of 1986 (W124 chassis). This 300E is a larger version of the 190 Klasse that was introduced in 1982 in Europe and 1984 in the USA. Of Course Mercedes has been making cars since 1886.
This E-Klasse is the first modern car to have a trunk lid which wrapped around the rear all the way past the tail lights. When open the license plate raises with it! (See the 500E photo below.) The trunk cover also had a bizarre (for the time) rear trapezoidal shape. This freaked everyone out at the time. Of course a few years later every car copied the shape and angled design of this trunk lid. Today no car has a "lid," every trunk lid opens just like this and most also have a trapezoidal design.
The W124 chassis received a 4.2l V8 in 1992 and became the 400E.
It had four valves per cylinder and 268 HP. This 1992 engine has pretty much the same rated performance as today's 430 engine.
It had a 4-speed hydraulically controlled automatic transmission.
The 400E was renamed the E420 in 1993 when Mercedes reversed all their model names. It's the same car.
The 500E was a special car with the powertrain of the SL500. It was only made for a year or two around 1993. Mercedes farmed out some of the assembly work to Porsche, and trucked half-assembled cars back and forth between these factories. I wish I had a 500E.
There was no 1996 model year E420. The last of the previous 1995 model W124 body styles were sold off and the new 1997 W210 models started to appear.
This new body style (W210 chassis) was introduced in the USA as a 1997 model. It was still called the E420.
The W210 body style uses a 5-speed electronically controlled transmission, a big improvement from the older 4-speed of the older body style. It adds an overdrive for better fuel economy and is much faster to downshift when you punch it.
In 1998 the 4.2l four-valve engine was replaced with a 4.3l three-valve engine, creating the E430.
Both the 4.2l four-valve engine and current 4.3l three-valve engine made the same 295 ft-lbs and 295 HP.
The advantage of the newer 4.3l engine is that it makes this same 295 ft-lbs not as a peak at only one RPM, but over the entire range from 3,000 to 4,000 (or 4,400) RPM, making more energy when integrated over the entire rev range.
The 4.3l engine also blows out less emissions. The single exhaust valve allows the exhaust gasses to heat the valves and warm the catalytic converters more quickly when starting from cold, or so the press releases say.
The newer engine also gave better EPA MPG of 19/26 MPG. Over the next model years through 2002 Mercedes improved the performance, as measured in published 0 - 60 times, however EPA MPG fell back to previous levels. This is good: in 2002 we have the same rated fuel economy as the 1993 E420, with much better acceleration.
Mercedes did a midlife redesign of the W210 chassis.
The instrument panel was replaced and a trip computer and many safety features were added.
The front of the hood was lowered. Because of this the straight-6 Diesel engine no longer fit and wasn't offered in the USA.
The tail lights fit the same holes. Their 3-D shape, as viewed from the sides, went from square ridges to rounded ripples. The earlier versions have egg shapes on the trunk lid pieces. The newer have horizontal shapes on all parts.
The 1997 - 1999 models had black painted along the bottom few inches of the body all around. The 2000 - 2002 models have body color all over. This makes the earlier models look lighter and the newer ones look more substantial.
2002 was the last year of the E430 and the W210 chassis.
2003 introduced the current E-Klasse chassis. It comes with the 5.0L engine with the same design as the E430's V8.
Mid-life facelift for the E-klasse, also, a totally hot new engine, Mercedes' first improved V-8 since 1990!
The 5.0l engine goes away and is replaced with a completely new and improved four-valve 5.5l engine making 391 ft-lbs and 381 HP. It hit the streets in September, 2006, and as of October 2006 isn't widely available while the dealers try to unload the old E500s before people learn about the new E550.
The E550 is a scorcher as well as a comfy cruiser you can get in the color you want, unlike the AMGs. Car and Driver clocked it at 4.8s for 0-60 and 13.4s @ 106MPH in the quarter in their November 2006 issue (p. 95). Is this fast? Compare it to the V-12 510 HP biturbo S600 ($160,000) which does 0-60 in 4.4s and the quarter in 12.8 @ 109.9 MPH (R&T, October 2006, p. 177). Not that much different, except for $100,000 less and more fun from the smaller body.
Here are the slight exterior differences between the 2006 (and earlier) and 2007 (and newer) E-klasse (E500/E550, E350 and E320 CDI):
Many thanks to James Holloway, Parts Manager of Fletcher-Jones Imports in Las Vegas, for giving the Mercedes-Benz Club of America a tour of their unique indoor 224,000 square foot showroom in October 2006. During this tour James showed us the subtle differences between these models.
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