The best rocket-powered auto saloon bar none
Nothing has gone wrong as such, however, the steering wheel is slightly left-hand-down and the shoulder of the nearside front tyre is smoother by the hour. Something ain't quite right here.
Also, the car is extremely prone to stone-chipping; this may be because the front of the E-Class is very slab like; it could also be because the quality of the paint and finish is below par. Hard to say.
Basically a standard E430 Avantgarde on steroids, the E55 AMG pumps out more torque than a BMW M5 and gets to 60mph in about the same time. In terms of performance, it's on a par with most modern supercars, although is limited to 155mph.
The ride is a little too rough at times, being somewhat at odds with the Mercedes badge and the comforting, cosseting ride everyone associates with it. Down bumpy backlanes or around broken, urban roads you'll wince at crashes and jarring from the horse and cart AMG suspension.
The gearbox is extremely smooth, and seems fully capable of dishing out all that torque, but on hot summer days and after long runs it becomes prone to slipping. A number of times I've lost forward thrust altogether, and have had to coast gently to the side of the road, saw the transmission selector up and down its gate a few times, and pray for Drive to wake up again.
The interior, while accommodating, airy and pleasant, is not quite up to the standard of BMW, and the silver/black leather, although unique and striking, is actually rather crude (the Nappa option in the 5- and 7-series is a world away in terms of quality).
Other than that, it's a teenager in grandfather's clothing: it barks like a NASCAR winner and spins its tyres in second and first gear -- no mean feat for a large, automatic saloon -- and at 100mph the shove in your kidneys is really rather addictive. 120mph arrives only a few moments later; the limiter is reach soon after that.
Bottom line: sure, it has its faults, as does any car, but it's an all-round superb rocket ship with nothing else to rival it (the M5 is not automatic and has a less than desirable image). I can't think of another vehicle that's large, low-key, comfortable, well made, automatic, has four doors plus a large boot, and sprints to 60mph in less than five seconds. All wrapped up in an unassuming bodyshell without the nasty bad-boy extras on rival BMW M-sport cars. Definitely worth more than a glance if you're in the market for an ubersaloon!
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 4th July, 2001