Drove 2003 E500 on Test Track Today
Mercedes sponsored an event at the Texas Motor Speedwway called "E-Motion". For the weekend, you can drive (if you new about the event and registered in advance) the 2003 E320 and E500 on a test track outside the Speedway, not on the race track.
The event is catered and encompasses a half dozen climate controlled tents where you register, eat, view a promotional video and get debriefed about the cars. My buddy and I drove my car over, expecting there to be lots of owners' sweet MBs in the lot, but were a little disappointed in that regard.
Didn't drive the E320. Went straight for the gusto. Had to wait in line about ten minutes to get in the car. They must have had 8 E500s they were cycling through the track, one about every 30 seconds. I have to say the cars were really nice and muscular looking, big wide tires and I think 18 in. wheels. No salesmen anywhere.
One man to a car. First impression of the interior was "Lexus GS 400". Same size, a little too plush for what I am used to from an older Benz. Tiptronic style shifter. Everything starts getting rushed from here, moving too fast to absorb the car. Pull up to the start, the "acceleration" portion of the track. The guy tells you to drop it down into first, four bumps left with your palm. He said go ahead. I used a little brake torque to get a quicker launch, through an immediate left/right S turn. Pretty quick. I don't know how fast, but got the RPMs up there. Then you have to immediately lock up the brakes to make a full stop. Car handled braking beautifully. I had underestimated the braking ability and eased up to the stop sign. From there, a series of turns, all in 1st or 2nd. The car at times was able to overpower itself. I had to slow down in turns. As I turned in and accelerated, the car's rear end did not come around. Felt almost like front wheel drive, the wheels turned right but the car kept going straight. There were a series of strips in the road to mimic bumps, which the car handled well, but did not feel as solid as I am used to. I think the tires were Continentals.
I was embarassed as I pulled the car back up for the next driver, as there was the smell of burning rubber all aroung the car as I got out. The guy working there asked me "did you enjoy that?" My adrenaline was pumping a little and I almost felt like he was accusatory. Most of the people there were just ambling through the track.
My impressions: I have never driven a 93-95 E500 but know they must be fantastic. I had high expectations for this car today. They were not met. This is a $55,000 car. That is a lot of bread, but considering the cost of an E500 10 years ago, inflation and the cost of new technology, etc. you might anticipate a higher priced car. I have to say that there is just no way that DCX can produce the quality car that was coming out of Germany pre Chrysler, for less money than they were made 10 years ago. If you are luck enough to have an older E500, drive it to the dealer and test drive a new one. I bet you will be happy to give the keys back to the salesman.