Everybody knows the name Mercedes Benz. Ever since Karl Benz rolled out the very first gas powered car in January of 1886, the company was destined for greater things. The Mercedes Benz E320 is fine example of this success. Coming from a line with over 82 years of rich history, the E320—in many ways—has come to define all the qualities that make Mercedes Benz a true master clas: luxury, dependability, and amazing performance. Indeed, this executive car is proving to be one of the most successful and most sought-after from the German auto manufacturing giant.
1930-1994: The pre-history of the big “E”
Granted, one can trace the E-class and E320 story all the way back to the 19th Century and the beginning of Mercedes. To truly appreciate where things all began, one needs to jump forward to the end of the Second World War, day after the fall of Germany. As soon as the dust settled in Berlin, the company began production anew on the 170, a prewar sedan dating back to 1936. The 170’s design—upright and stiff, with separate fenders, and a 30’s chassis—was all but old and stale in 1946. Mercedes was, in a way, lucky that pickings were slim for motorists in post-war Europe.
The 180 that succeeded the 170 was, in many ways, the one most responsible for setting the course for the E320. Coming out in 1953, it had the world’s first unibody design—or as close as technology, at the time, would allow. The only drawback was its use of the 1.8-L inline 4. This had a 6.5-to-1 compression ratio and put out a meager 52 horsepower. While this made the 180 an agonizingly slow drive, the car proved to be a very rugged and tough vehicle.
Jumping forward to the 80s, Mercedes Benz released the W124, a mid-sized car that finally collected in one vehicle the lessons learned in the 50s. The W124 kept the ruggedness and wide berth that would form part of the mystique of the company, and then benefitted from a look that was modern and revolutionary—it looked more apt for the 90s than the 80s! This amazing car would eventually evolve into the 300E, which would incorporate some powerful technology like a new 3.0-L SOHC, 12-valve straight 6 which could put out a whopping 177 horsepower.
1994-present: A class of its own
Though produced in 1994, the E320 came to the shores of the United States in 1996. This came with a 3.2-L DOHC six, capable of putting out over 217 horsepower—it also came as a convertible. The E320 continued the tradition of its predecessor—sporting rugged looks (including the modern “face” of Mercedes Benz), the now-common quad-lights up front, and the hefty size. Only a decade later, the E320 would once again see another great overhaul.
When the 2004 E320 came out, it was a far cry from its 1953 ancestor, the 180. Apart from electronically controlled brakes, adaptive suspension, four-zone climate control, and Drive Dynamic seats, the E320 got a supercharged 5.4-L V8 that could generate 469 horsepower—nine times what its forerunner could put out!