MERCEDES 260 E
That famous 3 pointed star has a very distinct cachet which few other cars share. It has become universally accepted as a symbol of Mercedes' continual pursuit of excellence in the fields of design, engineering and build quality, safety and comfort and this weeks test car has all of those features in full measure, which probably explains sales of over 1.2 million of the mid range saloons in the last couple of years.
Of this mid size saloon range, the 260 E has the smallest engine but lacks for little in terms of performance, either top speed or acceleration, while gaining points for fuel economy. In all respects this Mercedes quickly demonstrates itself to be a luxurious executive saloon of the first order yet shorn of some of the pseudo technological gimmickry of some of its newer competitors.
There is little flashiness in terms of the fittings and trim, the car simply offers an understated elegance allied to the confidence that the driver is surrounded by mechanical excellence.
The outward design is chunky yet aerodynamically sound and very easy to live with, again understated elegance is the phrase that most easily comes to mind and the car offers great space for its cossetted passengers, this roominess being particularly noticeable at shoulder height.
Internally these solid virtues continue with the use of muted fabrics restrained amounts of highly polished wood trim and large, comfortable seats with a very full range of adjustment. It is perhaps enlightening that my teenage children commented that the back seats were too hard on a long trip yet three 3 such lanky near adults slept quite comfortably in the back on a long late night trip, so the seats are clearly more comfortable than first appearances might suggest.
For the driver, the dashboard layout is a masterpiece of good ergonomics, only those controls and instruments which actually serve a valid function being fitted, with large clear dials and easy to use, shape coded, switches, all of which fall easily to hand. Standard equipment levels are high with power steering, ABS, electric mirror [ passenger side only ], central locking, heated mirrors and washers, a pair of powerful foglamps, electric sunroof and a very impressive Blaupunkt stereo. The heat and vent system is split longitudinally so that driver and passenger can each enjoy their own micro climate. Another good idea is the fully fitted first aid kit in its own housing on the parcel shelf.
The 2.6 litre, 6 cylinder, engine is typically smooth with some 160 BHP on tap for effortless acceleration and a high top speed all with the minimum sensation of either, the low wind, tyre and engine noise removing all of the usual sensory indicators of speed.Transmitting the power to the wheels is an equally smooth 2 range 4 speed auto matic gearbox which can provide leisurely changes or, on demand, more sporting control.
Ride quality is a very impressive compromise between softness, with near perfect damping, yet still retaining good handling characteristics, high speed cruising stability being particularly notable, all credit to the refined multi link rear suspension. Truly a car born for autobahn cruising with a high standard of steering and braking to match, ABS backing up the massive all disc system.
So confident of reliability is the company that it offers a rescue service available in 22 countries.
Simply stated, a very fine motor car from a company with an outstanding pedigree and a history which is as long as virtually any other car manufacturer, a car which can be summed up in one word, a word which carries nuances that are understood throughout the world... Mercedes.
First Published 1992 - Article © Graham Benge 2007