From the April 1992 issue of Car and Driver.
Pssssss! Hey buddy. Yes. You with crocodile attaché. Drooling about that Mercedes-Benz 500E but not quite swinging $87,365? Think you can come up with $60,195? Yes?
Do we have a Mercedes for you. This one is called 400E. OK—in many ways this is definitely the 500E’s little brother. But in many ways it’s pretty much the same as the 500E. Let us fill you in.
Like the 500E, the 400E was new for 1992. And, like the 500E, Mercedes created it by stuffing one of its V-8 engines into a 300-class body.
That V-8, in the case of the 400E, is the 4.2-liter 32-valve unit offered in Mercedes’ baron S-class cars. It may not be the lion’s heart of the 500E, but it’s powerful: 268 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 3900. You might lose some power if you drive the 500E — the 400E isn’t as tight on the ropes as its beefier brother — but if you haven’t, you probably won’t. Even with “only” 268 horsepower, the 400E nails the sprint to 60 mph in just 6.8 seconds. It travels easily to the top end of 147 mph. The engine made a fiery sound. And a four-speed automatic switches off gear shifts at the same 6000-rpm redline as the 500E. The same symphony, in other words—only played at a slower tempo.
This barely tamed ferocity is housed in a much more controllable package than the 500E. While the 400E’s subshell trim has been upgraded to handle the increased V-8 power, the bodywork hasn’t changed. Indeed, the only external differences between the 400E and its six-cylinder 300E sibling are the alloy wheels and the badge on the tail. Which makes the 400E the obvious choice for stealth automotive enthusiasts.
Once inside. You’d have a hard time differentiating the 400E from the 500E. Excellent leather seats are standard, as is an automatic climate control system, dual airbags, and beautifully crafted burl-walnut trim. Our test car was equipped with options like heated front seats, Mercedes ASR traction control system, and a trunk-mounted CD changer—bringing the total tab to $65,360.
That price is sure to cause an “ouch” or two—especially with Lexus and Infinity offering great sedans for about two-thirds that price. However, let’s add that there is still nothing quite like sitting at the helm of a Mercedes-Benz.
This is a very big car. You feel the 400E’s 3826 pounds—not in sluggish performance, but in the heft of the doors and the firmness of the seats and the firmness of the body at speeds over hard pavement. Combined with the dual airbags, standard ABS and tight-fitting, adjustable seat belts, this sturdiness makes the 400E a very convincing car to drive.
This is a heavy car too. Steering demands firm pressure on the wheels but rewards you with precise spin response and fluidity. The controls—turn signal lever, headlight knob, climate control switch—”tick” from one position to another. The throttle pedal is pressed tightly but the action is smooth. You’d think this part of the car was full of molasses.
That’s why the 4.2-liter V-8 is so amazing in this body: the 400E is anything but molasses-slow. The V-8 torque adds a light leg to the 400E’s mass. Around-town hitting is plentiful, though the transmission—annoyingly—prefers to start in second gear unless the throttle is pressed hard. And cruising is easy, with plenty of power passing in reserve at almost any speed.
The 400E isn’t as eye-catching as the 500E. But it’s good enough to make you wonder if the more performance is really worth $27,170.
1992 Mercedes-Benz 400E
Vehicle Type: front engine, rear wheel drive, 5 passenger sedan, 4 doors
Basic/As Tested: $60,195/$65,360
DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and head, fuel injection ports
Displacement: 256 inches34196 cm3
Power: 268 hp @ 5700 rpm
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm
4 speed automatic
Wheelbase: 110.2 inches
Length: 187.2 inches
Width: 68.5 inches
Height: 56.3 inches
Restraint Weight: 3826 lb
CD TEST RESULTS
60 mph: 6.8 seconds
1/4-Mile: 15.2 seconds @ 95 mph
100 mph: 16.9 seconds
130 mph: 31.8 sec
Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 6.8 seconds
Top Speed: 147 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 173 ft
Road hold, Skidpad 235 ft: 0.74 g
CD FUEL ECONOMY
Observed: 17 mpg
EPA FUEL ECONOMY
Combined/City/Highway: 16/15/20 mpg
CD TESTING EXPLAINED
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