The 400E was introduced in the 1992 model year as the first E-class V8. The car was given the name change to E420 in 1994 along with some slight trim changes. Production of the 400E/E420 cars ran from 1992 to 1995 model years with some 15,415 cars being sold in the U.S. during that time. With a price tag in the mid 50's customers could enjoy V8 power and virtually all the luxury available on an E-class. This 3,660 lb sedan hit 60 miles per hour in seven seconds, could run 150+ mph all day long, and still turned in mileage figures almost on par with its 6-cyl siblings.

 

Transmission, suspension, and braking upgrades accompanied the extra power while tire size remained the same at 195/65/15. A 2.24 rear differential hampered performance off the line but passing performance on the highway is this car's true forte'. The combination of tall gearing and lots of smooth torque gives the acceleration feel of a jet aircraft on takeoff. Standard luxury was abundant with burl walnut replacing the zebrano of the 6 cylinder cars. Common options like ASR traction control, heated front seats, trunk mounted CD changer, integrated cellular phone, and a rear window sunshade came fitted on many cars.

 

The Mercedes 4.2 liter M119.975 engine displaces 4196cc or 256.1 cubic inches and produces 275 horsepower @5700rpm and 295 lb-ft of torque @3900 rpm. Peak power is only part of the picture. Variable valve timing on the intake cams and long intake runners allow the engine to make 90% of peak torque as low as 1500rpm. Other technical highlights of this 32 valve DOHC V8 include aluminum alloy block and heads for weight reduction, silicon crystal cylinder liners for reduced friction, LH sequential multiport fuel injection, antiknock control, with all of this tied together by a Control Area Network data management system. EPA fuel figures rate the 3660 lb sedan as getting 18 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.

The Mercedes 4.2 liter V8

 

400E shown with aftermarket Borbet Type-T wheels

 

Driving Impressions

The 400E offers massive power improvements over the previous 300E and E320 cars. The car feels strong whenever you punch it and pins you to the seat in the upper rev ranges. The brakes have been similarly improved and are now on par with many sports cars. Unfortunately the nimble, tossable feel of the early 300E has been lost somewhat in this V8 rendition. The handling limits of the V8 are easily a match for the earlier cars but the increased weight has numbed out some of the feel of earlier models. The previous neutral, balanced, tossable feel of the 300E has been replaced by lots of numb understeer with power oversteer on demand. My only major gripe is the narrow tire size. With 275 horsepower, 295 lb-ft of torque(265lb-ft of which is available at 1500 rpm), and almost 3700 lbs of sedan more rubber could do a world of good on this car. Even moderate throttle application produces either wheel spin or invokes ASR. To the delight of the enthusiast the transmission can be shifted manually but given its own choice it will shift in a most frugal and conservative manner. The amazing passing power, ride smoothness, stealth performance, and ever solid feel make this one of the best driving cars of its era. With better rolling stock it might get darn close to perfect....but I guess something has to be left for the 500E.     - Lee Scheeler