Premium midsize car; Built in Germany
  • 4-door sedan
  • 4-door wagon
  • longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive
Good condition price range: $2,600 – $10,500*


1998 Mercedes-Benz E320 4-door sedan


1998 Mercedes-Benz E320 4-door wagon


1998 Mercedes-Benz E300 diesel 4-door sedan


1998 Mercedes-Benz E-Class interior


1998 Mercedes-Benz E-320 4-door sedan

Pros:
  • Acceleration (gas engines)
  • Build quality
  • Quietness
  • Ride/handling
Cons:
  • Fuel economy (except diesel)
  • Instruments/controls
  • Price

With its exceptional quality and strong performance, the E-Class deserves strong consideration among premium sedans. Best choice for value is the E320. With any model, high resale values translate to hefty prices on the used-car market.

Overview

Mercedes-Benz redesigned its midrange E-Class sedan for 1996. New styling was highlighted by four oval headlamps, giving the sedan a fresh face. Wheelbase grew by 1.3 inches, and overall length by 2.2 inches, helping to make the rear seat markedly roomier. Dual front and side airbags were installed, as were antilock braking and traction control. Two models went on sale at first: the E320 with a 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder gas engine that made 217 horsepower, and an E300D, with a 134-horsepower diesel engine. Both models used a 4-speed automatic transmission. An E420 sedan with a 4.2-liter V8 engine arrived in spring 1996 as a ’97 model, with a new 5-speed automatic transmission.

Yearly Updates

1997 E-Class
Introduced on the E420 with its V8 engine, the 5-speed automatic transmission went into all 1997 models.
1998 E-Class
Mercedes’ midrange series earned a number of changes for 1998, led by the addition of a station wagon body style and optional all-wheel drive (AWD). This year’s lineup included the diesel 6-cylinder E300D, which added a turbocharger and intercooler to deliver 30 percent more horsepower and 57 percent more torque than the previous nonturbo model; a gas-powered E320, which switched from a 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder to a new Mercedes 3.2-liter V6; and an E420 sedan with 4.2-liter V8. The new E320 wagon seated seven, using a 2-place third seat. All-wheel drive was a new option for the E320. All E-Class models now had Mercedes’ “BabySmart” child-seat recognition system, “Brake Assist” feature, and electronic “Smart Key” ignition/locking system.
1999 E-Class
A new side-impact head protection system for front and rear passengers went into 1999 models. A new limited-edition, high-performance E55 sedan joined the lineup, with a 5.4-liter V8.
2000 E-Class
Mercedes dropped its E300 diesel model, but added an all-wheel-drive E430 V8 sedan and standard rear side airbags. All models got minor styling revisions and new wheels. Automatic transmissions added Touch Shift, with a separate gate for manual shifting. E320 sedans and wagons, and the E430 sedan, were available with 4Matic all-wheel drive. All models now had the antiskid Electronic Stability Program. New options included a voice-activated phone, in-dash navigation system, and audible parking-warning system.
2001 E-Class
A Sport Package was newly optional for 2001 E320s and E430s. It included firmer suspension, special upsized wheels and tires, and “aero” lower-body styling.
2002 E-Class
The E320 Special Edition sedan was introduced this year with new 17-inch alloy wheels, black bird’s-eye maple interior trim, and other amenities. To this, the new E430 Special Edition added xenon headlamps and headlamp washers. A redesigned model was in the works for ’03.

Engines

longitudinal front-engine/rear- or all-wheel drive

Two engines were offered in 1996: a gas 3.2-liter inline 6-cylinder, and a 3.0-liter diesel. Both drove a 4-speed automatic transmission. A 5-speed automatic came with the 4.2-liter V8 that arrived a bit later, under the hood of the E420 sedan. The 5-speed transmission then went into all models, in 1997. For 1998, a higher-powered Turbodiesel replaced the prior diesel engine in the E300D. A 4.3-liter V8 went into the E430, introduced during the 1998 model year. The high performance E55 came with an AMG-tuned 5.4-liter V8 that made 349 horsepower and 391 pound-feet of torque.

Diesel dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/183
Engine HP 134
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 155
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
28/35
26/33
Turbodiesel ohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.0/183
Engine HP 174
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 244
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

26/34

25.6

dohc I6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/195
Engine HP 217
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 229
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
4-speed automatic
5-speed automatic
19/26
20/27
18.3

ohc V6
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 3.2/195
Engine HP 221
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 232
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

21/29

19.2

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.2/256
Engine HP 275
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 295
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

18/25

16.5

dohc V8
Engine Size (liters/cubic inches) 4.3/260
Engine HP 275
Engine Torque (lb-ft) 295
Avail. Trans. EPA MPG (city/hwy) MPG avg. as tested
5-speed automatic

19/26

Road Test

All E-Class sedans are more athletic than most luxury 4-door models, if not so nimble as, say, a 5-Series BMW or Lexus GS. Steering is firm and precise, body lean modest in hard cornering. The taut suspension provides a comfortable highway ride and smothers most bumps and ruts around town. Silence is another virtue, so these sedans cruise quietly at highway speeds.

Space is ample for four adults in any E-Class sedan, though a bulky transmission tunnel precludes true long-distance comfort for the person in the center rear position. All models offer good cargo capacity, flat load floors, large trunk openings, and low liftovers. The wagon’s third seat easily folds flush with the cargo deck, but it’s sized more for youngsters than grownups. The E-Class pilot gets good visibility from a comfortable, easily tailored driver’s position. Gauges and controls are well-designed and well laid out, though markings on too many of the switches are not obvious.

Acceleration is satisfying even in the Turbodiesel model, and brisk in the E320, which uses a smooth and responsive 6-cylinder gas engine. Moving up a notch, a recent E430 delivers stirring highway passing power. The automatic transmission downshifts promptly to deliver strong passing response.

Fuel mileage is best with a diesel. An E320 sedan with the inline gas six got a so-so average of 21.1 mpg, with more than half the driving on highways. The V8 E420 amounts to a Teutonic muscle car, but it gets quite thirsty for fuel. Workmanship, as expected, is top-notch.

Ratings

Model Tested: 2001 Mercedes-Benz E320

Ratings values are on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being the best. With the exception of Value, these numbers reflect how the vehicle compares against the universe of vehicles, not just against rivals in its class.

Performance

Acceleration - 6
60%
Fuel Economy - 5
50%
Ride Quality - 8
80%
Steering/Handling - 6
60%
Quietness - 8
80%

Accommodations

Controls/Materials - 6
60%
Room/Comfort Front - 8
80%
Room/Comfort Rear - 6
60%
Cargo Room - 4
40%

Other

Value - 7
70%

Total: 64

Specifications

4-door sedan
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
111.5 189.4 70.8 56.7
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
15.3 21.1 5
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
37.6 37.2 41.3 36.1
4-door wagon
Wheelbase (in.) Length (in.) Width (in.) Height (in.) Weight (lbs)
111.5 190.4 70.8 59.3
Cargo Volume (cu/ft) Payload Capacity (cu/ft) Fuel Capacity (gal.) Seating Capacity
82.6 18.5 7
Headroom Legroom
Front Rear Front Rear
38.6 37.0 41.3 36.1
Safety Ratings

Model Tested: 1999 E-Class 4-door sedan

NHTSA

(5 is the highest rating)

Front Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Front Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

Side Impact Test

Driver Injury - N/A
N/A0%
Rear Passenger Injury - N/A
N/A0%

HLDI

(A score of 100 is average. Lower is better)

Collision 142
Injury 72
Theft 236

Trouble Spots

Dashboard lights
Description: A malfunction in the fuel-tank pressure sensor or the purge-control valve (or both) will cause the check-engine light to come on. (1997-98)
Headlights
Description: Headlight and parking-light bulbs burn out prematurely on E300 models and a kit with new sockets and bulbs is available. (1996-97)

Recall History

1996 E320
Description: Drive-belt pulley on some cars can break.
1997
Description: Some passenger vehicles have experienced side airbag deployments in the absence of a crash.
1999
Description: Due to the installation of an incorrect clamp, the side airbag may not deploy fully in a collision.

Equipment Lists

Equipment lists are only viewable on larger screen sizes.

Pricing

Used-car pricing varies widely depending on local market conditions. Therefore, we recommend visiting websites that list used cars for sale to get a better idea of what a specific model is selling for in your area.