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Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedans



  • cce182cce182 Posts: 40
    Observations to lhcleung & footie

    Gee, fellas. An M-B is supposed to be a mecanically robust car that will last forever if properly maintained. Downshifting for engine braking has been around since automobiles were invented: I'm not sure that a lack of an owner's-manual description of its use is any indication at all that it's not recommended. The operator's manual is not driving instructions (except for the "warning" additions required by their liability lawyers).

    Why would M-B include a downshifting function if it were possible to inflict excessive wear or damage on the car by using it? In fact, if you ever use the speed control on this car, IT downshifts! The M-B "electric foot" is more than just a throttle control (as found on most cars). If you've set the speed and the car finds you accelerating down a steep hill - it downshifts! Try it!

    My 2000 E430 operator's manual includes six pages of transmission operation instructions. The only thing it warns against is coasting for a long time in Neutral. THAT will void your warranty. This section also describes the elaborate protections for the engine and transmission even if you do command a shift.

    Downshifting for performance and upshifting for economy are well-established automobile operating techniques. The manual warnings have to do with over-riding the protections of ABS and ESP - not for wear reasons.

    Check with those knowledgable (??)folks at your M-B dealer, and I'd bet they'd tell you that the system was designed for this. The "strain" on the drivetrain should be no greater than a quick acceleration followed by a quick lift off the gas pedal.

    IMOH, cars in this class are meant to be driven, not babied. In an E320, there should be no problem since the same transmission shows up in the E430, E500, and probably other, bigger, heavier MB's, too.

    Perhaps I'll eventually regret it, but I use the touch-shift function all the time.

    Drive on!

  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    Well, the fun thing about these forums is difference of opinion and I am sure how I feel will get me some face-pies, but...

    I feel that MB's track record with both Consumer Reports and JDPowers long term dependability would give one pause before believing " An M-B is supposed to be a mecanically robust car that will last forever if properly maintained." That's a very big supposed to be... and the reason behind my cautionary advice.

    In fact MB dependability is shown by both of the long-term monitioring by both of these companies to be average or below, depending on model and year. And we aren't talking about light bulbs here. Recent E-class were Average 97-98, Below Average 99-00, Average in 01. The 2000 S (first year, please forgive them for beta testing 70K cars with consumers) was Poor dependability.

    Since maintenance is "free" (i.e. built into the car's price) and the car bugs you to death about getting serviced, you have to assume that most Benz get the love and care they need, and still don't hold up as well as other vehicles.

    Plus, if your Benz is equipped with traction control and any of the Vehicle Stability Programs, it seems like to me that down-shifting in any conditions other than boulevard-straight line has you fighting the algortihms in the computer, much like trying to pulse the brakes in a car with ABS.

    I'd also point out that BMW's move to the steering wheel paddle-shifting, but still clutch-based, SMG transmission for the M series is a pretty good indicator that for performance reasons, automatics as we know them must have some drawbacks to the quick upshift, downshift issues.

    But hey, if someone wants to run around in a 3600 pound sedan, downshifting away like it was a sports car like Mazda Miata that's their call.
  • finadvfinadv Posts: 59
    Just to clarify things, if anyone has the 2003 Consumer reports buying guide, turn to page 199. There you will see the E-class as Average 97-98, BETTER THAN Average 99-00, Average in 01. People should learn how to read charts before they quote them.
  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    Well shame on me! You are correct! I don't have the 2003 guide, but the 2002 in our local library says that you are right.

    When I had gone over this some time ago, I must have misread the red check marks as 'below' when they are 'above'.

    The E's overall rating is 'average', like this writer's eyes. Must be time for a trip to get them serviced.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    I have an M5 6-speed and I rarely downshift to use the engine to brake the car, except for very enthusiastic driving on relatively rare occassions. And all I'm endangering is a $1,000 clutch.

    Intentionally downshifting an automatic transmission to induce engine braking is, IMO, just plain stupid. You might get away with it for a long time (or not) but don't fool yourself into thinking that it doesn't wear on the transmission components. You've all heard the advice that brakes are cheaper than clutches? Well apply that formula to brakes are cheaper than Mercedes Benz transmissions. I hear $5k is a good deal.

    Footie may have slightly misquoted Consumer Reports, but I agree with his conclusion. If you feel compelled to play with the shifter in your E Class, then perhaps you should have gotten a BMW 5 series 5/6 speed instead? They throw in better handling at no extra charge (sorry, cheap shot). Admittedly, I'm not a mechanical engineer, but I employ a few in my company (one of whom drives a 2000 E430). A quick poll at the lunch table has them fully agreeing with me (and the year end bonuses have already been determined).

    P.S. For the record, my old 300SEL 6.3 is still running (with another owner) on it's original engine and transmission. Cheap shot above notwithstanding, I am a MB fan, too.
  • r1_97r1_97 Posts: 181
    "They will not/not downshift at speeds which can hurt the engine, they will delay down shifting until it is done at safe RPM to avoid engine stress. MB Pre 2000 transmission shifts are gated just for this purpose."

    What about POST 2000 MB transmissions?
  • mbdrivermbdriver Posts: 426
    Pardon me, but I resent being called stupid (even if it is your opinion) because of the fact that I use the downshift feature when slowing or stopping my 2000 E320. Do you believe that clutch wear bears any resemblance to transmission wear? If so, IMHO, you are missing something (note: I didn't insult you!). And why should I heed "the advice that brakes are cheaper than clutches and apply that formula to "brakes are cheaper than Mercedes Benz transmissions"?

    As for footie's assertion about MB reliability, did the Consumer Reports coverage apply to MB transmissions?
  • cce182cce182 Posts: 40
    Well, finally - - a discussion here that's more exciting than whether someone got a black or a gray interior.

    First, for EPN2 - -

    I'm astounded that you can buy a BMW clutch for $1000. And, BTW, it's the flywheel, the pressure plate, the clutch disk, throw-out bearing and the actuating mechanism that are at risk from clutch abuse. The clutch was the first part they picked up when they started building the engine/transmission sandwich outside car. I'd bet clutch-replacement labor alone is $1000-plus. No car manufacturer I'm familiar with will do warranty repairs for their manual-transmission-clutch-based cars, and you can bet it's for a reason. My son's BMW (which he bought used) has already eaten a clutch in it's first 50k miles. And, it is more than $1000 to fix it, fer. sure. Automatic transmissions have fully lubricated (and thus cooled) band and clutch actuation and linkage, and also have the "cushion" of the torque converter to mitigate the mechanical abuse arising from disagreement between transmission input and output RPM. Moreover, the M-B tranny is a 5-speed. This means that the gear ratios (and thus the RPM discontinuities) are smaller gear-to-gear, further reducing mechanical stress on the system. When you downshift an M-B transmission, there is really very little exciting happening, e.g. passenger heading for the windshield, air-bag deployment, or other signs that the system would rather you didn't downshift.

    For footie.

    I said that M-B's are "SUPPOSED to have mecanical robustness that will last forever if properly maintained". Sadly, this doesn't square with my experience, and the scary part is that most of my car's recurring maladies have little to do with mechanical issues. In terms of thwarting a computer's algorithms - the computer isn't looking out my windshield and I reserve the right to override what the computer is thinking to adjust for conditions I see that the "computer" can't. That doesn't mean that I "downshift(ing) away like it was a sports car like Mazda Miata" as you imply. Rather, that the function is there to be used as the driver sees fit and one should not shy away from using it for fear that the drivetrain won't take it. On "fighting the algortihms in the computer": some of the "software" in this car's computer bears scary kinship with a Microsoft Beta release. At any rate, M-B gave me the device to override the car's "algorithms" - - the "+/- gate" in the D position of the transmission - right at my elbow. This is much easier and more direct than that silly zig-zag shift-gate system that was part of the older M-B designs (and the current Jaguars, for example). In any event, the shifting patterns described in the owner's manual suggest that it's far more difficult to abuse the tranny (even if you are determined to do so), compared to the havoc a ham-fisted manual transmission driver can wreak. BTW, my 2000 M-B E430W4 doesn't weigh 3600 lbs. It's more like 3944 lbs and to that you need to add a full tank of gas (127#), a driver and 4 Pax (using the FAA bogey for passenger weight of 170# figure 850#) - some small packages in the trunk, and you're up to about 5000#. Even then, reasonable downshifting is probably OK - at least with an automatic. Okay, so it's not a miata, but it's still fun to drive.

    My question for everyone - - do you think a downshift of one gear is more or less abusive than, say, stomping the gas from a dead stop and taking the car right to 100+mph at full engine power while going up through the gears? Remember that these shift points are chosen to maximally bracket the highest torque the engine makes at the next shift point. The performance of the E430 and E55 certainly encourage this, and the E320 is no slouch in the acceleration department, either. The major reason in this case for leaving the shifter in "D" is that at least one review of the car (Car & Driver, as I recall) found the performance of the car to be better left in Drive than with the testers fiddling with the shifter

  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    You're right, I should exercise more restraint. I intended to question the appropriateness of the action, not the intelligence of the person employing it. My apologies.

    However, you may be convinced that downshifting an automatic to create high enough RPM's to actually brake a 3,600+ lb sedan doesn't strain or wear on the transmission. I'm not. And I do believe that certain driving habits that produce excessive manual clutch wear will, in the case of an automatic, produce long term transmission wear.

    I guess it's the point of doing it that I don't quite get. I've driven both the E55 and C32 and must admit that AMG automatics, while still not my preference, are simply supurb. Both automatically downshifted under braking and appeared to always be in the optimal gear for quick acceleration. They also have excellent brakes that did their job quite adequately with no engine/transmission assistance. I understand that standard MB transmissions aren't as quick shifting as AMG versions.

    I can't say for certain, but I sincerely do not recall from my two peformance driving courses (Porsche and BMW) any instances of the instructors using engine braking around the courses. Downshifting was done almost seamlessly in conjunction with braking in order to keep the car in the sweet spot for acceleration. But not as an alternative to using the brakes.

    I suspect - and please don't take this personally - that most automanuals and steptronics are not really performance enhancing, but rather aimed at giving the driver the perception of driving a manual. For me, I prefer the real thing.
  • jean7of9jean7of9 Posts: 192
    In 2000 MB came out with the Touch-Shift to make it easier for driver to Down/Upshift. Hence, you can have a leisurely drive by letting the transmission do its work alone, or, if you want spirited driving use the Touch-Shift.
    I am driving MB's since 1975 with no/no transmission problems. Sometimes, in Europe (and elsewhere) I drove through mountains over 10,000ft. There no way you can rely on your brakes when driving through steep down hills, the heat will fry the disks and you will lose control. Only engine/transmission brakes (with little braking)can slow you down and help you take those tight turns on such mountains. Whoever driven up/down Haleakala Volcano in Maui or Hana Road (also in Maui) knows well what I mean.
    The only enemy to Auto Transmissions is heat, that is why today's transmissions are equipped with their own radiators to dissipate heat.
  • pathdocpathdoc Posts: 126
    I agree that most automatic transmissions are meant for shifting which makes me belive that the shifter function in the new BMW 745 is the worst feature rather than idrive or looks. I have owned many manual cars from Porsches to Vettes to Miatas to MGBs and have always enjoyed shifting however was warned many years ago that downshfting to help brake to a stop was not a good idea since brakes were much less expensive to repair/maintain than clutches.
    Currently I drive a Jag XKR and Mercedes S 500 and continue to use the shifter to keep the rpms at the proper level for passing or turning. I never drive in "drive" around town leaving it for the freeway driving. When I drove a new BMW 745 it was the transmission set-up that convinced me that I wasn't interested.
  • mbnut1mbnut1 Posts: 403
    Brakes are cheaper to replace than transmissions / drivelines. The bottom line is the more power you transmit (accelerating or decelerating) the greater the rate of wear. It's your choice as to which device you want to wear more quickly.
  • footiefootie Posts: 636
    For cce182

    You wrote: At any rate, M-B gave me the device to override the car's "algorithms" - - the "+/- gate" in the D position of the transmission - right at my elbow.

    I don't think you can turn off ABS and don't know if the VSP has an on/off switch either. Maybe you can - I learn things every day, even how to read Consumer report graphs right. :=)

    But I wouldn't think the algorithms are overridden - constrained maybe - perhaps it can't shift gears up/down to affect acceleration to increase/decrease rotational speed on different wheels, if it thought it needed to...

    But the Stability Control system is constantly watching the entire vehicles dynamics with sensors much faster than us, using programs (hopefully not from Microsoft), to figure out whether the car is doing what seems to be intended. I think we are always better off doing that ...

    It has the most freedom to do that when it has the full range of brakes, active suspension, and engine / transmission to work with.

    I think part of the magic in newer MBs, BMWs, etc. is the car's ability to make you think you are driving better than you are.
  • finadvfinadv Posts: 59
    According to the 2003 Consumer Reports Guide, E-Class transmissions were rated as follows: 96 Excellent, 97 Good, 98-99 Very Good, 00-01 Excellent.
  • mbdrivermbdriver Posts: 426
    You say it' pretty simple -- "Brakes are cheaper to replace than transmissions / drivelines." No argument there.

    You also say that it's your choice as to which device you want to wear more quickly. Right again!

    But what you seem to be missing is the fact that the expected life of a Mercedes transmission, with or without downshifting, is probably many times more than the expected life of a clutch with a manual tranny. So, it stands to reason that the transmission will last for the expected useful life of the car.

    epn2 -- thanks for the response. I guess the bottom line is that you believe what you want to believe, and I'll do the same. I'll continue to downshift to brake or whenever, and I'm convinced that I'll never have to worry about abusing the transmission. NOW -- if I had a manual tranny, I'd wear out the brakes and NOT the clutch.
  • There is some sort of 'secret code' to shut off ABS, although it is a complicated set of button-pushing on the dash computer that nobody would bother with while moving.

    For CCE182: Oh, I have the charcoal interior. Thanks for asking.
    (heh heh)
  • jean7of9jean7of9 Posts: 192
    ABS and ESP control the brakes only. They have nothing to do with the transmission which is connected directly to the engine computer. One can enjoy manual shifting as he pleases and let ABS/ESP/TRC do their valuable support work. ABS/ESP will not stop the car shorter but will provide you with better brake control on slippery roads. When the wheels have good traction both ABS/ESP are inactive. When I got my car in late 98, I spent many hours driving on frozen lakes just to get the feeling of the ABS/ESP/TRC/4matic combination. No doubt without them driving on ice sheets could be very tricky for a rookie. But I also discovered that ESP have a tendency to brake and disconnect the throttle when all wheels are slipping. The car comes to to a sudden stop then rolls again and again. My passengers were wondering why I was pumping the throttle which I was not, it is ESP doing its job, badly. Recently we were blessed by 30 inches of snow in 8 days and plenty of icy roads. During heavy traffic I switched-off ESP to prevent these sudden stops which can surprise the cars behind me and kiss my bumper.
    Please do not assume that I am encouraging other people to change driving habits and start hitting the gearshift. I am only trying to share some of my experience after 500k miles of driving on four continents. The beauty of this board is in its wealth of info. I learned a lot from it, and only trying to pay it forward.
  • stvirstvir Posts: 13
    "ESP compares the driver's intended course, via steerig and braking inputs, to the vehicle's response, via lateral acceleration, rotation (yaw) and individual wheel speeds. ESP then brakes individual front or rear wheels and/or reduces excess engine power as needed to help correct understeer (plowing) or oversteer (fishtailing)."

    The last sentence is what ESP is designed to do. ESP is not intended to stop the car; rather, it is designed to keep the car 'going straight' ... i e, no sideways motion allowed. One doesn't need to hit the brakes for ESP to activate. A real sharp turn at excessive speeds will call on ESP to activate. If ESP is turned off, one is relying on pure driving skills to avoid plowing or fishtailing.

    ABS, on the other hand, simply prevents wheel lockup which may cause lose of steering control. It is therefore designed to keep the vehicle rolling until coming to a complete stop. ABS cannot be turned off.
  • microrepairmicrorepair Eastern MassachusettsPosts: 508

    (I can't seem to make the [img src="URL"] thingie work, so you'll have to copy and paste the above URL yourself..)
  • cce182cce182 Posts: 40

    You are almost correct, but missed one important point.
    ESP also controls the throttle!

    ESP's primary design objective (according to the owner's manual) is to "counteract over/understeer by applying brakes to the appropriate wheel to create a countervailing vehicle movement." It's watching driver's steering wheel position to determine "driver intent". But, in an obscure reference in the Owner's manual, ESP also has a "torque-reduction feature", which is, in effect, a throttle control. I have experienced the effect of this "feature" personally - - it makes climbing a slippery hill far more difficult than when ESP is disabled.

    What we all should get out of this is that it's important to read the manual and understand exactly what ABS, ESP, and BAS (heretofore unmentioned on this website) are thinking about and the corrections they try to make to mitigate what "they" (these systems) see as a problem. (there are parallels in aviation - - understanding exactly what the autopilot is thinking and how it reacts to it's perception of the environment). In severe slippery conditions of the kind we experience in New England (and now, evidently, going on in North Carolina) it is possible that the better course is to disable (that is, turn off) ESP and drive like you were taught before these "autopilot" systems were put into their cars. I have 4-Matic and Blizzak's and still have found occasions where ESP is not helping.

    BTW rbrenton88: Oh, I, too, have a charcoal interior. And a Brilliant Silver exterior, CLK wheels, E1, E2, K2a, COMAND, etc. (heh heh). Do you really care? By the way - re: Nappa Leather - - What's a "Nappa"? Is this similar to a "Nauga"?

  • y2k4my2k4m Posts: 9
    I just had my "B" service performed and inquired about the cabin filter. The service manager said that these were good for ever and DID NOT need to be changed. Is this true? I find it hard to believe that the filters would "last forever". I await your humble responses.
  • jean7of9jean7of9 Posts: 192
    Well said, thank you for making the point. Although I wrote that ESP disconnects the throttle, I should have elaborated that this happens during heavy yaw on ice or slippery patch. While I have some reservation about ESP I must assure every one that the overall combination of ESP/TRC/4matic/ABS can sometimes provide an exquisite experience, (as you well know Charles). Soon our snowmobile season will start. Like every year my 4matic will take me with full confidence to our station where no other car can go except 4WD trucks and the likes of Audi Quattro. There I will put all MB systems to test again on a huge frozen lake where we could reach speeds achievable only on racing track. Only a 4matic is more enjoyable on frozen lakes than snowmobiles (we call them Ski-doo).
  • r1_97r1_97 Posts: 181
    My '98 E320 needs new front breaks. I was told the rotors also needed replacement because they were "undersized" from wear and that it is usual for the rotors to last only between every other pad replacement. I was quoted $390.00 for the complete replacement of front brakes and rotors. Is this right or am I getting screwed?
  • jean7of9jean7of9 Posts: 192
    If your disks are undersized you must replace them otherwise they will warp one day under heavy braking. Usually MB disks last longer than twice the life of the pads because MB pads contain 90% carbon. That design is meant to wear the pad and keep the rotor in good shape for a long time. That is why we have to endure that infamous carbon dust on the MB wheels. If you do lot of city driving, the rotors will wear much earlier than express ways.
  • Yes, what the dealer said sounds about right. I have yet to replace either my rotors or my pads, but I measure the thickness of the rotors with a micrometer screw, and check the lateral runout of the rotor with a dial indicator.

    If you are really worried that your dealer is screwing you, I would simply measure the rotor thickness myself.

    That being said, what the dealer told you sounds reasonable enough. And as Jean indicated, rotor and pad life is strongly dependent on your driving habits.
  • I have a problem with the ASR indicator coming on in the instrument panel when I start the engine. It disappears when I hit the reset button. My question is whether this is just a minor problem with the indicator light or whether the parts that run the ASR function itself is no longer functioning. The dealer earlier told me that I simply had to change an ECU unit to make the ASR light go away. But I still wonder whether there is more to the problem. I would appreciate any enlightenment on the AR function. Thanks.
  • habitat1habitat1 Posts: 4,282
    Is it my imagination, or has the E-class had some significant price creep over the last few years, culminating with the new model? It seemed to me that the E-class and BMW 5-series were pretty close in pricing (with BMW being slightly cheaper). But now it appears that the E320 is a $50k+ car and the E500 is a $60k+ car, or about $10k+ more than their BMW counterparts through European Delivery.

    I am still hoping to get a good deal on a 2003 E320 Wagon to replace our SUV before they change body styles on it, but I'm guessing the $2,000 under invoice I could have gotten one for in June/July 2001 (i.e. 4 matic w/ E2 for about $47.5k) is history.

    Also, saw a 2001 E55 with under 10k miles in "showroom condition" advertised in the Washington Post today for an asking price of $55k, obo. Similar vintage M5's seem to still be going for the low $60's. The S class as well doesn't seem to be holding it's value on the used market as well as I would have thought. I'm wondering if Mercedes isn't pushing their new E class MSRP's into the territory that got them in trouble many years ago.
  • joeadpjoeadp Posts: 68
    I think the used car market is soft.

    20% year one depreciation on a Porsche or Mercedes seems to be the norm.

    As for E Class price creep I paid about 50K, 3 years ago for a 320. The BMW was at the time 10K less. Yes, that does seem like a big spread to pay between the 2 vehicles.

  • When I first picked up my 97 E-420 a couple of months ago, I noticed the triangular yellow light in the instrument cluster coming on. Also noticed the ASR message when I turned the car off and on again. It turns out I had inadvertantly pressed the ASR switch on the console (turning it off) when I was trying to lower the driverside window. As soon as as I turned the ASR switch on again, the messages and warning light stopped coming on.
  • merc1merc1 Posts: 6,081
    The E320 has always cost more than the 6-cylinder 5-Series BMWs. The 528i and now 530i was never close to the E320 in price when loaded. The 530 can touch 50K with everything, but the E320 soars past 50K and is more like 55K with a healthy dose of options. The E430 and 540i were virtually the same whenever you optioned either one of them, but now the E500 has the S-Class style option sheet, i.e. endless. So the average price of a E500 is around or above 60K, right where the 540i normally tops out. The current E-Class is still a much better value than it was some years ago. A 1993 300E started at $49.9K, and it doesn't even begin to approach today's E320. The old 400E's base price, around 55K is more or less what today's E500 costs, again the current car being far and away superior in most respects. Going purely by badges todays E500 is about 25K cheaper than the 1994 E500. Though the old E500 was a purpose built throughbred, and probably the best E-Class ever made until now.

This discussion has been closed.