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Old 07-27-2000, 09:21 PM
DuckMuck's Avatar
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Location: Chandler, Arizona, USA
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I was wonderin' why Mercedes and BMW remain true to recirculating ball, especially in the upper-model cars. I am aware that MB switched to rack & pinion for the new E-class, but was the switch made in order to save production costs, or was there some OTHER logical advantage for the change (I think there was another thread where somebody asked why MB switched to 3-valve technology, and a moderator posted that it was purely to "cut costs", so I am unsure if MB is makin' changes nowadays to IMPROVE cars, or just to SAVE $$$)? In my experience, I've always found rack & pinion to be more responsive and "quicker" to driver input relative to recirculating ball. However, recirculating ball seems to do a very good job of isolating the driver from the imperfections on the road, so that the steering is very clean and smooth, worthy of a luxury car. I don't know how accurate this description is, since the rack & pinion vs. recirculating ball comparison is between a BMW vs. MB. Anyhow, any feedback would be appreciated. Thank you.

1995 Mercedes-Benz E420 (W124 - Black Pearl/Black)
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Old 07-27-2000, 11:45 PM
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Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio
Posts: 1,935

You hit the nail right on the head. Recirculating ball is very accurate and does indeed tend to let one feel the road without all the little imperfections. If you remember reading articles back in the old days when the 450SEL, etc... were in their prime, all the editors raved about how precise the Mercedes steering was compared to other comparable cars. I really don't have an answer for you as to why they switched to rack and pinion for the new E, but I'm sure Chrysler had something to do with it

Aaron Greenberg
MB technician
Precision Motorcars, Cincinnati, Ohio
'67 250SE Cabriolet
'77 450SL
'80 300SD
'85 380SE
'86 420SEL
'89 420SEL
'93 300E 2.8
'74 Jensen Interceptor Mk.III
'81 DeLorean DMC12
'84 BMW 745i Turbo
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Old 07-28-2000, 08:12 AM
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Tucker, Ga USA
Posts: 12,153
The ?? is why did they across the line switch to R & pinion? The new E, M, & S-class all have r & p steering, also the W203(new c-class) has it. I'll bet it's about $$$$$$. cause it's cheaper to build.

27 YEARS DEALER M.B. Shopforeman
1986 190E 16V
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Old 07-28-2000, 08:45 AM
Posts: n/a
The E Class was designed, introduced and on the road long before Chrysler came into the picture.

I would like to think that Chrysler will have very little to do with MB's engineering.

Have a nice day,

Larry Bible
'84 Euro 240D, 523K miles
'88 300E 5 Speed
'81 300D Daughter's Car
Over 800,000 miles in
Mercedes automobiles
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Old 07-28-2000, 09:50 AM
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Location: Chesapeake, VA
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Interesting. Any change=cheap. I don't subscribe to that argument. As I understand it, the rack & pinion steering saves quite a bit of weight and it does respond to the various car mag editor's constant complaints about MB steering (feels like molasses, feels dead, etc.). That is probably the biggest complaint I have with MB now; I think they are responding TOO MUCH to customers, rather than relying on their engineer's intuition as to what is right. However, the rack & pinion steering on my E430 is nice and accurate, only lacking a bit of the straight line stability of the recirculationg ball cars (it actually feels similar, with a bit less feedback, to the steering in the Porsche Boxster). And, there is a whole lot of rational thought in the three valve engines. They are cleaner, as powerful and return far better fuel ecomomy than the old four valve engines. If anyone is interested, I can e-mail them some MB press releases on the three valve engines; there is some good info in them.
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Old 07-28-2000, 12:26 PM
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Look at all the press feedback compared to their #1 rival (BMW, of course). ALL publication support that steering in the MBs lacks the direct-feel, precision and turn-in that make BMWs so much fun to drive. Plus, for years now (and have a look at the majority of posts here), customers and the press have called for MB to put their engineering to the test of making cars as sporty and responsive as the BMW. I think the cost benefit was just an added bonus. The people want more twitches through the wheel - they think that's a good thing - so be it.
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Old 07-28-2000, 01:44 PM
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Location: Toronto, CANADA
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I think Mercedes should stick with the RC steering. I don't know where people are getting the idea that r&p is better. The first thing I noticed about my 86 420SEL when I took the test drive was how smooth the steering was at low speed and how responsive it was at high speed. I've never been in a car that handled so well. As far as comparing Mercedes to BMW, I think its apples and oranges. Some people, especially those unfortunate enough to have never owned one (these guys who write for car and driver and have fors escorts as thier daily drivers) tend to lump all luxury cars into one category. I don't think Mercedes and BMW have any models you could compare head to head or dollar for dollar. They both make different cars for different driving styles. One is not better than the other. Each has its place.

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Old 07-28-2000, 03:56 PM
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Location: Chandler, Arizona, USA
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I don't think Mercedes NEEDED to switch to rack & pinion to rival BMW's steering "prowness". Even the BMW M5 uses recirculating ball. Mercedes coulda improved their recirculating ball design to match BMW's, instead of doin' a total swap to rack & pinion, which BMW ONLY elected to use on their 3-series (and a few other random cars, most notable the Z8).

1995 Mercedes-Benz E420 (W124 - Black Pearl/Black)
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