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Mercedes-Benz E430 Tiptronic

Dad's Business Ride on Steroids

Mercedes-Benz E430 TiptronicModel year: 2000
Odometre reading: 1300km
List Price: (Nov.2000) R514000

Pop the hood and behold a:
4297ccm V-formation 8 cylinder, SOHC-24 Valve engine
205kw @ 6000rpm (280bhp)
400Nm @ 2000rpm
5 speed Tiptronic/adaptive automatic gearbox
0-100km/h: 7 seconds
v.max: 250km/h (electronically governed)

Yes, yes. I hear you. Half a million for a car, and that on a website for a town filled with students? But hey, you've gotta dream… Tata ma chance, my friend. (please, please, please…)

Anyhow. Stand next to this beauty and besides the fat tekkies and fog lights, nothing sets it apart from, say, an E200 worth half the price. Silly really, once I got into this prime example packed to the hilt with every optional extra.

It's an E-Class, allright. But this one comes with all the bells and whistles, everything that opens and shuts, and then some. A big crowd-stopper (and rather useless in this country… I couldn't receive EGOLI on the TV) is the LCD display for onboard television and navigation. It's all part of the 5-digit COMMAND extra, which gives you the multifunction steering wheel with 4 tilt buttons and a central display in the speedometre, which corresponds with the LCD monitor. While driving, you can check the car's mileage, odometre, oil temp, fuel level, range, average consumption, service interval and of course the navigation… which, if it worked in this country, would show and TELL you the directions to your desired destination. In fact, this system can be trained to receive voice commands, but the COMMAND user's manual was exaccctly twice the thickness of the car's manual. So I just kept my hands off that feature.

The 12-speaker BOSE sound system, frontloader CD, 6 disc shuttle and radio (which rival a grand concert hall in acoustics) can also be controlled from the wheel. Oh, and the Phone to.

The seats look and feel great, especially when you've got the seat ventilation on full blast. No more sticking to the seats. The driving position is impeccable, with that lovely three-pointed crosshair on the bonnet guiding you in the general direction of lesser and slower cars.

Insert the stubby plastic key into the ignition and the chip unlocks the steering lock, to be followed by a barely perceivable rumble and then, nothing. Check the rev-counter (after 200 lights and park distance control beeps have died down) and yes, she's alive. Snick her into Drive and off you go. The Benz feels more agile and nimble than it's exterior proportions would suggest, the pedal and steering feel being very light and responsive. The E430 is a joy to drive, park and show off around town, and the Park Distance Control provides constant amusement at pedestrian crossings or the local parking lot. Two arrows embedded in the dashboard (with 3 amber and 2 red sections) show you the way, while a VERY audible beep warns you about the impending damage you are about to inflict to the car and a year's worth of salaries. Engage reverse and the same two arrows can be found in the roofline above the rear windscreen.

The E430 is full of surprises, and the engine is undoubtedly the biggest and most wonderful of all, closely followed by the Tiptronic gearbox. While driving, shift the gearlever to the left, and a little display in the digital clock changes from “D” to “4”. It's a wonderful, wonderful toy to have, especially when mated to 280 or so horsies. Overtaking, pink slips, cruising, it all becomes abundantly easier. 4 clicks to the left and you're in first. Four to the right, and the autobox takes over again.

Leave the lever alone and the E430 will dordle along happily in city traffic, but bury the loud pedal and you're flying... plenty of power from the big motor and the smoooothest gear changes from the autobox. “It keeps you glued to the seat right up to 200km/h and happily marches on. 3000rpm in fifth means 160km/h. 3500 translates into 190!”

One thing, though. If you've got the BOSE system going and the Climate control working hard, you won't hear the engine. Not even under full load. I had to turn off noise and wind, open all windows and the sunroof so I could hear a very smooth and refined grumble of a V8 being tortured. Needless to say, this Merc was designed as an effortless powerhouse of luxury and refinement (and boy, did they succeed!), not a high-octane drag racer. Buy an AC Cobra if you want noise.

Keep the enthusiastic driving up and fuel consumption becomes disastrous, the COMMAND system will immediately remind you of this. While cruising in town, the consumption hovered around 11L/100km, until I put my foot down from one traffic light to the next. The ASC system went bananas, warning light flashing as the 235 rubber fought hard to bring 280 horses down onto the tarmac. My facial features were re-arranged, my cell phone slid right across the console into the back foot well and I think I might have heard a few squeeks from the tires, accompanied by a heavily muted symphony of 8 cylinders. Consumption check, 20 seconds later? 14,5.

And that's my overall impression of the beeeeeg Merc. Elegance, Luxury and Technology, with a reassuringly vast reserve of power. The 430 is an excellent long distance cruiser, it's got toys and entertainment aplenty, performance is amazing, overtaking is child's play (kickdown up to 200km/h) and the brakes feel very solid and confidence inspiring.

With the E430 you get awesome power married successfully to a super-smooth gearbox, in a sure-footed limousine that oozes luxury, refinement and elegance.
Mom's Express Taxi or Dad's business ride on steroids.

For:
Power, Power, Power.
Silky smooth autobox with amusing tiptronic
Interior finish, extras and toys
Passive safety
Timeless looks nicely updated

Against:
Price, Price, Price.
For 50g's more you get an M5 Beemer
Lack of decent exhaust note

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