AMG, the performance division of Mercedes-Benz, is well known for building seriously fast versions of standard Mercedes models. As proof of their popularity, AMG sales are up dramatically. So why are AMG products, like the latest E55 AMG sedan, so desirable? Well, it takes only one turn behind the wheel to understand that it’s more than just speed.
Not that the 2004 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG isn’t fast. In fact it’s the most powerful E- Class sedan that Mercedes has ever built! In the E55, AMG’s 5.4-liter Kompressor V8 engine roars out 469 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. Torque which is available at only 2,650 rpm. In addition to the 13.1-pounds of boost from the screw-type supercharger and intercooler, everything from cylinder heads to crankcase has been reinforced or reshaped to produce maximum thrust. Thrust which thunders to the rear wheels through a 5-speed multi-mode automatic using AMG’s SPEEDSHIFT software.
With 35% quicker shifts, SPEEDSHIFT delivers maximum acceleration and efficiency. It’s also linked to Mercedes’ TOUCHSHIFT, which allows manual gear change through buttons on the steering wheel. And allows the E55 AMG to vault to 60 in , are you ready for this? , 4.4 seconds. The 1/4 mile rips by in only 12.7 seconds at 114 miles-per-hour. That’s just a hair slower than a Porsche 911 Turbo, and real pin-you-to-the-seat acceleration. But it’s also smooth as silk, with a turbine-like drive from idle to redline. A testament to the remarkable skills of AMG.
All that power can easily unhook the rear tires, so Mercedes has equipped the E55 with its sophisticated ASR traction and ESP stability systems. They combine engine control and braking to automatically adjust cornering if your ambition outruns your driving skill. Both systems can be turned off, and this allowed our test drivers to hang the rear end out and really test the semi-active multi-link air suspension system, and sticky ZR-rated 18-inch tires. Fat 245/40s on the front, and fatter 265/35s on the rear.
With or without electronic assist, turn in is sharp and lightning quick, thanks to the precise speed-sensitive steering. Steering feedback is far superior to the stock E-Class. Despite a fair amount of body roll, the retuned air suspension delivers a tight, stable feel, even when pushed really hard.
Braking is also high caliber, with stops from 60 averaging a fine 126 feet. The big brakes discs, with 8-piston front calipers, are controlled by ABS, Brake Assist, and Sensotronic Brake Control, again with an AMG overhaul. While stability is rock solid, the fly-by-wire brake pedal is absent of feel. It’s vague and soft until everything connects to stop you in an instant.
In the less demanding environment of day-to-day driving, the E55 AMG is even more impressive. Ride quality is firm but never harsh, even over choppy pavement. And despite its power, the engine responds smoothly to small throttle inputs, making it easy to drive in stop-and- go traffic.
While the E55 doesn’t look as hot as it drives, it’s still distinctive compared to the standard E-Class. The increasingly generic lines are beefed up by a more aggressive front fascia and grille treatment, side sill extensions, deeper rear fascia, and twin chrome exhaust pipes, plus AMG-designed Twin-Spoke alloy wheels Options available on all E-Class models include the new Panoramic sunroof, and the solar-powered ventilation system, that keeps the car cooler when parked in the sun.
The interior is also a pretty cool place to be, with all the usual E-Class amenities, plus black ‘‘Birdseye’’ maple trim and chrome-rimmed AMG white-faced gauges. AMG-designed leather-trimmed sport seats provide superb support and comfort, a wide range of power adjustments, plus heat and ventilation. Controls for the standard Harmon Kardon audio system and automatic climate control are typical Mercedes, not the best or worst in their class. A simplified Mercedes COMAND system for audio, navigation and phone is optional But one of the coolest features in newer Mercedes is the KEYLESS GO system. Proximity detectors sense the key and allow you to unlock and start the car with just the push of a button.
The E55 AMG sedan is not only faster than most sports cars, but offers real rear people space, and with its 18.7 cubic-foot trunk, real cargo space as well. And like all AMG products, the E55 is expensive. Base price is $76,720. Still, that’s only slightly more than the less powerful BMW M5.
AMG products are some of the world’s most desirable automobiles. They are always fast, stylish, and exclusive. And it only takes one turn behind the wheel of the 2004 Mercedes-Benz E55 to understand that the AMG appeal is based on a whole lot more than just speed.
Engine: 5.4-Liter Kompressor V8
Torque: 516 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 4.4 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 12.7 Seconds @ 114 MPH
60-0 MPH: 126 Feet