Friday, October 27, 2006

Awesome is the Right Word for the Muscled-Up Mercedes Benz E550

Take Mercedes Benz’ sterling E-class lineup of luxury sedans, drop the 5.5 liter DOHC 382 horsepower V-8 from the S-class under the E’s hood and the result is quite simply an awesome automobile.

All of the E-class models get a thorough revision for 2007 with new front and rear end looks, lots of safety, performance and engineering improvements under the skin and the upgraded engine that bumps last year’s E500 to the E550 designation.

But way more than mere designations get bumped up in the process. The E-550 weighs two tons and is thus no lightweight, but with all those ponies, plus the 391 pound-feet of torque that accompany them, you get the kind of acceleration that is normally associated only with explicitly high performance models.

Think of 0-60 mph in 5.37 seconds and you’re into Corvette/Pontiac GTO/Mustang Cobra territory, right? That’s the time my silver E-550 Sport turned in over and over again. And with a seven-speed automatic transmission to boot! I kept looking in the trunk, behind the rear seats and under the floor mats for the AMG signs that some Benz flak obviously removed just before delivering my tester!

Tragically, I didn’t get to spend any time in the E-550 at the race track to sample its triple-digit velocity capabilities but the neck-stiffening surge from 55 mph to 100+ was more than sufficient to convince me this Benz would have no trouble pacing all but the swiftest of the Autobahn’s swift.

What can you do with such a vehicle if you have to drive it every day? Well, you could be delighted beyond any sane serious driver’s most exotic automotive dreams for one thing because the E-550 is extraordinarily fast and comfortable at the same time. Ride quality in around-town driving is never bothersome and the passenger cabin combines an unexpectedly plush atmosphere with the usual Teutonic emphasis on efficiency and complexity.

Five full-size adults can be transported in bountiful accommodations by the E-550 and they will all be cosseted by such niceties as heated and cooled seats. The four-spoke steering wheel and chromed shift knob may look familiar to some because they are borrowed from the SL550 (which curiously didn’t seem as stupendously fast as the sedan).

Being a Benz, the E-550 doesn’t come cheap. Expect to go well beyond the $59,000 base price.