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2005 Luxury  Buyer's Guide

by Martha Hindes

2005 Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI
2005 Mercedes Benz E320 CDI

Jackrabbit starts. An underwhelming thirst for fuel. None of that ear pounding clatter from earlier days. No stinky black contrail. For those who said it could never be done, Mercedes-Benz must have two little (somewhat sarcastic) words. "Oh, yeah?"

To underscore why, take a look at M-B showrooms these days. Unless their supply just went to the just-sold prep bays, you'll likely see an electronically fuel injected, six-cylinder, turbocharged diesel-powered luxury E320 CDI beauty, new for 2005, that's ready to elbow for space among today's earth-friendly hybrids.

The CDI (a mercifully shortened version of "Common-rail Direct Injection" that - trust us -makes sense to auto engineers) was supposed to be impossible. M-B, which specializes in diesel tech, didn't think so and developed a fuel efficient, quick accelerating, low emissions alternative for its flagship E-Class luxury lineup. They boast its 27/37 city/highway mileage far outdistances the gasoline-powered E320's 19/27, no small gain considering soaring fuel prices. (How long would it take to balance out the $1,000 premium for going diesel? And that's not even weighing in the advantage of diesels' penchant for long life and low maintenance, and the E320 CDI's growing rep for sporty feel and driving fun.)

The diesel sedan becomes the sixth in Mercedes-Benz's E-Class luxury lineup that has two sets of sedans and wagons, including the 3.2-liter V6 powered E320, and E500 (5.0-liter, 302-HP V8) with a first-ever seven-speed automatic replacing the other models' dual-mode five.

The limited edition, V8 powered AMG screamer bangs out 469-HP. Beyond the obvious, the E-Class offers a wealth of variety for '05 that, depending on model, includes: Airmatic dual control air suspension, speed-sensitive Active Curve Illumination headlamps with washers, an eight-airbag system for safety, the expected luxury car leather seating, chrome and wood trim, "Keyless Go," and optional navigation system.

If you live in the 45 states where it meets current emissions standards, you'll have to pony up $50K - give or take a few - to go diesel. If you're in the five where it doesn't (California and New York included), try lobbying for a speedy supply of lower sulfur diesel fuel.


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