The Mercedes E-Class is the luxury brand's full-size, executive-class sedan. The 2006 model continues the evolution of the current generation (which was introduced in 2003) with the addition of a new E350 sedan and wagon. Also new are active front head restraints, which are designed to reduce whiplash injuries in rear-end collisions.
The E-Class is available in sedan and wagon body styles, with either rear- or four-wheel drive (4MATIC), and with gasoline or diesel engines. The model lineup begins with the E320 CDI sedan, which is powered by a 201-hp, 3.2L inline six-cylinder diesel engine. This model provides compact-car-like mileage of 27 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway in a full-size, luxury car package. The diesel engine features a substantial 369 lb.-ft. of torque that is routed to the rear wheels through a five-speed automatic transmission. Gasoline fuels all other E-Class engines: a 3.5L V-6, a 5.0L V-8, and a 5.5L V-8, which is hand-built by AMG, Mercedes' in-house tuning shop.
The E350, E500, and E55 AMG are available as sedans or wagons, in rear- or four-wheel drive (4MATIC). Rear-wheel-drive versions have seven-speed automatic transmissions, while 4MATIC and AMG models have five-speed automatics. The E350 is a new model for 2006 that draws power from a 268-hp V-6. This engine, which is part of Mercedes new V-6 engine family, features double-overhead camshafts, four valves per cylinder, and variable valve timing for enhanced efficiency and power delivery. The E500 is propelled by a 302-hp V-8. The E55 AMG produces 469 hp from its V-8 engine. The E55 AMG rides on specially tuned suspension components with 18-inch wheels, and is stopped by huge disc brakes. It also receives special interior and exterior trim enhancements.
All E-Class models have new active front head restraints that move forward and upward in a rear-end collision to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash injuries. Also available are Bi-xenon headlamps that turn with the steering wheel to illuminate corners. The E500 and E55 AMG ride on an air suspension system that is also available on the E350 as part of a special option package.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class competes in the Midsize Premium Conventional segment of the U.S. light-vehicle market. This segment accounts for little more than 2 percent of all sales, but is a highly competitive and prestigious category.
According to the J.D. Power and Associates Sales Report,SM the Lexus ES leads this category with 67,577 sales in calendar year 2005. Next are the BMW 5 Series (52,722), Mercedes-Benz E-Class (50,383), Cadillac STS (33,497), Lexus GS (33,457), Infiniti M Series (24,000), Volvo V70 (21,381), Lincoln LS (19,109), Audi A6 (18,074), Acura RL (17,572), Volvo S80 (10,181), Jaguar S-Type (8,897), and Saab 9-5 (6024).