Category Archives: Mercedes-Benz

1998 Mercedes-Benz ML320 (195)

Overview:

Mercedes-Benz pits this ML320 against the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee. At $33,950 it debuts in a market where the competition is sterile. For the quality freak, this is a no brainer. If you want or need an SUV run right out – now, don’t pass GO / don’t collect $200, and proceed to your Mercedes dealer and buy one.

Now for the boring details. This first year model comes standard with a V6 engine (V8 is available). It is a true off-road vehicle that combines full-time drive to all four wheels with four-wheel traction control and a dash mounted low range selector button. This unique setup eliminates the need for complicated differential locks and requires no driver intervention.

The M-Class production site in Tuscaloosa, Alabama is the first Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicle production facility in the United States. It shouldn’t be any surprise that the sport-utility vehicle (SUV) has become one of the most rapidly growing parts of the overall automobile market and there should be more growth to come. In particular, the premium segment defined, as SUVs priced more than $28,000, appear to be on the move. There is little doubt that \”Image\” has become an important buying consideration so the ML320 SUV should be at the top of anyone’s list. It is a hands down winner.

Mercedes waited to get into this market and it shows. M-Class does not require scheduled oil changes. A Flexible Service Indicator tells the driver when the next service is needed. On-board computers monitor traction and transmission programs for optimum mileage in all gears. It features independent front and rear suspension where many SUVs have only independent front suspension while some use \”solid\” axles front and rear. Four-wheel independent suspension gives this car the best handling, stability and ride comfort, both on and off-road, along with lower noise levels.

I didn’t try it, but Mercedes claims the cargo area exceeds the capability of the Ford Explorer and the Jeep Grand Cherokee. For example, with the seats down MBZ will hold 82 cases of soft drinks to 54 and 56 for Ford and Jeep respectively. For parents with babies, you can haul 37 cases of diapers in your MBZ to 34 and 27 for Ford and Jeep. And of course you can\’t forget dog lovers who can tote 25 large bags of dog food in this class act Mercedes to 19 and 20 bags for Ford and Jeep. Of all the competition listed here I would pop for the Benz and buy stock in Chrysler with the money left over for not buying the others.

The competition: (Arguably)

Ford Explorer $34,115, Infiniti QX4 $35,550, Isuzu Trooper $26,550, Jeep Grand Cherokee $38,275, Land Rover Discovery $38,000, Lincoln Navigator $42,960, Toyota Land Cruiser $45,950.

Good News:

Priced well. Luxury features, new & different styling, great ride and great safety features. Mercedes generally has a great rating on JD Powers problems per hundred cars and it’s a Mercedes.

Bad News:

Styling is a bit awkward for some tastes. Side and rear visibility weakness.

Standard Equipment:

3.2-liter SOHC V6 engine with 215 horsepower, full-time four-wheel-drive, a five-speed electronic automatic transmission, air conditioning, AM/FM/cassette, power windows, cruise control, tilt steering column and six-way manual front seats. 4-wheel electronic Traction System, 4-wheel independent suspension, double-wishbone design, 4-wheel Anti-Lock disc brakes, aluminum wheels, driver and passenger front airbags and door-mounted side airbags in front. Central locking system with 4-button remote control, panic feature, automatic anti-theft alarm, illuminated entry system, Dual heated power side-view mirrors, rear-window defroster, rear wiper, 4-way head restraints for driver and all passengers, cloth upholstery, seating for five; rear seats, power windows, cruise control, tilt steering

Gas Stats:

17 City and 21 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP is $ 33,950.

1998 Mercedes SLK (199)

Overview:

The Mercedes Benz, new for ’98, SLK, which stands for Sportlich (sporty), Leicht (light), Kompakt (compact) didn’t disappoint me. Mercedes seldom does. I’m not biased; I just love what this car company does for us.

This SLK is a true four-season car with a push-button retractable hardtop that is clearly the best of the best. And under the hood is a supercharged C230 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine that needs no improvement.

If you have a keen sense of the obvious as I like to think I do, you’ll know the only competition in this cars class is the BMW Z3 and the Porsch-a Boxster. You can scratch the others listed below. I love these three equally but for different reasons. I like the top on the SLK the best. Pricewise, the Z3 is best because you don’t give up much for the Savings you’ll receive, and I love the styling on the Boxster the best. But I have to tell you, it would be an almost impossible decision to choose between these three cars.

You’ll hear some say the engine is wrong for the SLK, but I say it’s perfect for this car. And the car is so Mercedes in character you know you’re in a Benz. Some sports car purists will complain about not having a manual transmission, but I much prefer the automatic and agree with Mercedes who says there\’s \”no U.S. demand\” for such a transmission. If you want a manual, buy the Z3, Boxster or two Miatas. On the other hand, the real sports car enthusiast will feel right at home with the stiff ride that is sure to disappoint many

people who will see the SLK as a classy cruiser. In any case it is a wonderful car and a 10 on my \”I don’t want to give it back\” index.

The Competition:

Audi Cabriolet $34,600, BMW Z3 $29,425 – $35,900, Mazda MX-5 Miata $19,770, Mitsubishi Eclipse $15,740 – $26,660, Porsche Boxster $41,000.

Good News:

Best top in any class. No question, it’s a Mercedes. Fits both Men and Women.

Bad News:

Tinsy weensy trunk. Price won’t fit many budgets. Automatic Trans responds poorly when driven aggressively.

Standard Equipment:

2.3-liter 185-horsepower supercharged 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed automatic transmission. front and side airbags, two fixed roll bars, anti-lock brake system (ABS), traction control, child-seat recognition system, leather upholstery, an anti-theft system, power windows and door locks, fog lights, tinted glass and polished alloy wheels.

Gas Stats:

22 City and 30 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP is $39,700.

1998 Mercedes-Benz CLK (194)

 

Overview:

The CLK coupe is easy to get used to and with a suggested retail price of $39,850, that might be enough for some of you who are looking in that price range. It would be enough for me, because in answer to a very often asked question, \”what car would I buy for myself\”, I quickly respond – I don’t know, because there are too many variables. How much money do I have to spend on a car?

Mercedes is at the top of my list, but if you’re like me, your mood and your situation in life will dictate which car you buy. If money weren’t an object, one of each would do just fine, but since that isn’t likely for most of us, the car that satisfies most of my wants and needs right now would probably be Mercedes.

It is simply the best overall car in my opinion. It is elegant, safety conscious and a real performer. Simply put, no other car feels like a Mercedes. It’s a wonderful handling car for such an elegant, smooth riding, powerful, quiet and one that makes a statement about the quality of life we choose to live. It is 500 pounds heavier than the BMW M3 and other competitors, for example. It is as macho as Jaguar is dainty, which explains why Jag’s appeal more to the female driver.

In the area of reliability, Mercedes-Benz is rated very good on the list of problems per 100 cars according to J.D. Powers. In addition, this CLK has great styling and it gives the impression that it is much larger than it is. It feels like a four door; however, if you take a lot of long trips with four people this coupe will quickly show its size. Although the CLK resembles the E-Class it is lower and its grill, headlights and windshield are more swept back, which I like a lot.

It has a spacious trunk that is nearly the same size as in the C-Class sedan and is 11 cu ft as compared to the BMW M3 Coupe that has a 9 cu ft trunk. In addition the standard 60/40 split folding seatback allows for even more carrying capacity. To make it easier to get in and out of the rear seat, CLK provides an Easy Entry system that quickly moves the seat forward. My engineer friend, Merkle, owns the new M3 and takes exception with the industry inclusion of M3 as a competitor of the CLK. He says they are very different kinds of cars. He feels the M3 is more of a performance car and the CLK is more of a luxury car. Ok Merkle, I’ll give you that, and take the luxury over 0-60 in 5.7 seconds.

Speaking of power, the CLK320 comes with an all-new 3.2-liter V6 215-hp engine that will take you from 0-60 miles per hour in a respectable 6.9 seconds. The sports car handling and the luxury car ride that I love, comes from the same double wishbone front suspension as the SLK roadster and the same five-link independent rear suspension design used on all Mercedes passenger cars.

I also love high tech stuff and it doesn’t get much better. Mercedes is tops on such features as the ASR traction control that keeps you safe on slippery roads whether caused by rain, snow or even gravel. It detects when one rear wheel is spinning faster than the other and selectively applies the brake to that wheel to restore traction, and if that’s not enough it will reduce engine power by backing off the electronic throttle, more quickly than the driver could possibly react.

The Competition:

Arguably – BMW M3 $39,700 – $45,900 Cadillac Eldorado $38,495 – $42,695 Lexus SC 300/400 $40,900 – $52,700 Lincoln Mark VIII $37,830 – $39,320 Volvo $38,995. But in my book Mercedes is unique and in a class of its own.

Good News:

Luxurious features, new exciting styling, plush ride and great safety features, few problems per hundred cars.

Bad News:

Road feel is numbed for a performance car.

Standard Equipment:

3.2 liter V6 215 hp engine, 5-speed automatic trans, dual air bags plus side air bag, 4-wheel disc ABS brakes, traction control, leather upholstery and burl walnut wood trim; Bose 8-speaker audio system with cassette player and weatherband; dual-zone climate control with filter; 10-way power-adjustable front seats with 3-position memory, express-down power windows & door locks, tilt steering, dual heated power side-view mirrors; rear defrost, cruise control, alloy wheels, and the most advanced anti-theft system called SmartKey

Gas Stats:

EPA numbers are 21 City and 29 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP is $ 39,850

 

1998 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C280 (190)

Overview:

The C-Class is the entry-level Mercedes-Benz, but how can you not love ‘em all. Perhaps my most memorable Mercedes experience was on the autobahns of Europe. I got so used to driving fast with confidence I wondered why we don’t have \”no speed limit\” freeways in this country.

The confidence I felt came from driving a car built to handle the \”no speed limit\” autobahns, plus the universally \”good\” drivers of Europe. The requirements to get a license in Europe are much more stringent than here in the U.S. And another observation I made was that three cars dominate the fast lane in Germany. Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi. Porsche was hardly to be seen.

Not all European countries are as liberal with the speed laws as is Germany. I got nailed in Austria for speeding, and it wasn’t that I didn’t know there was a limit there, but rather because a Mercedes is so at home at high speeds you can easily forget how fast you’re going. And in the wide-open spaces Mercedes gives you that feeling of standing still at 70 mph. At 200 kilometers per hour or about 120 mph Mercedes-Benz really shines.

The C-Class was introduced in 1993 and it replaced the 190. It is available in two trims: C230 and C280 4-door sedans. The number simply indicates how big the engine is in liters, or in this case 2.8 liters. Mercedes have changed little in appearance over the years except for performance engineering. Perhaps that’s what I like about European cars. They avoid fashion changes and fads that might be ok in women’s fashions, but not as necessary to woo a man into buying or not buying a car. Apparently I’m not the only one who appreciates the same look from year-to-year that we get from cars like the Mercedes-Benz, because they sell tons of ‘em. Anyway one typical kind of change that Mercedes-Benz has made for 1998 is a sensor that de-activates the passenger airbag if the weight in the passenger seat is less than 26 pounds. That innovation will surely become a requirement on all cars to protect small children. SmartKey is another slick innovation in the new Mercedes that is perhaps the most unusual. It is an electronic space age device that looks a bit like the typical remote keyless entry controller without the notched metal key part. The plastic remote unit emits a radio frequency to lock and unlock doors, and a separate system to start the car. You insert the key fob into the slot on the dashboard and twist. An infrared beam electronically unlocks the steering column and starts the engine. Not all design innovations have been stellar from Stuttgart. I’ve owned two Mercedes and hated the airbag suspension design on the 300SEL but totally loved everything about the 450 SEL.

The Competition:

Acura TL $33,150, Audi A6 $33,750, Cadillac Catera $33,610, Infiniti I30 $31,500, Lexus ES 300 $30,790, Mazda Millenia $36,595, Mitsubishi Diamante $33,050, Volvo S70 $34,010.

I\’ve driven all and it would be a tough decision. Snob appeal would prompt buying the Mercedes. A sense of value would prompt buying the Volvo. My patriotic sense would prompt buying the Cadillac. My sense of risk would prompt buying the Audi, and my fondness for the Japanese people would prompt buying one of the others.

Good News:

Affordable (same pricing as 1997). First class engineering and solid construction. New V6 engine for American drivers. Back windows roll down all the way. Big trunk\’s low opening allows easy loading.

Bad News:

Not as roomy as much of the competition. Center rear seating is uncomfortable. Narrow rear doors make getting in and out difficult.

Standard Equipment:

2.8-liter V6 194 horsepower engine, 5-speed automatic trans, dual airbags, 4-wheel anti-lock brake system (ABS), climate control, anti theft and remote entry system, 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels, side-impact protection, power windows, central locking, cruise control, 8-speaker sound system with cassette, burlwood trim, traction control and passenger weight sensor.

Gas Stats:

EPA numbers are 21 City and 27 Highway MPG.

Pricing:

MSRP is $ 35,400