Tested: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 400E Is Your Rational V-8 Benz

Tested: 1992 Mercedes-Benz 400E Is Your Rational V-8 Benz

From the April 1992 issue of Car and Driver.

Pssssssst! Hey, buddy. Yeah. you with the alligator attache. Drooling over that Mercedes-Benz 500E but can’t quite swing $87,365? Think you could come up with $60,195? Yes?

Do we have the Mercedes for you. This one’s called the 400E. Okay—in many ways it’s clearly the 500E’s little brother. But in many ways it’s nearly the 500E’s equal. Let us fill you in.

Like the 500E, the 400E is new for 1992. And, like the 500E, Mercedes created it by dropping one of its V-8 engines into a 300-class body.

That V-8, in the 400E’s case, is the 32-valve 4.2-liter unit that’s offered in Mercedes’ baronial S-class cars. This may not be the lionhearted 500E engine, but it’s strong: 268 horsepower at 5700 rpm and 295 pound-feet of torque at 3900. You might miss some power if you’ve driven a 500E—the 400E doesn’t strain at the leash like its burly brother—but if you haven’t, you probably won’t. Even with “only” 268 horsepower, the 400E nails the sprint to 60 mph in just 6.8 seconds. It runs with ease to its top end of 147 mph. Its engine makes impassioned sounds. And the four-speed automatic clicks off the shifts at the same 6000-rpm redline as the 500E. The same symphony, in other words—just played at a slower tempo.

Aaron Kiley|Car and Driver

This barely tamed ferocity is housed in a package that’s considerably more restrained than the 500E’s. Though the 400E’s subskin pieces have been beefed up to handle the increased power of the V-8, the bodywork is unchanged. Indeed, the only external differences between the 400E and its six-cylinder 300E sibling are its alloy wheels and the badge on its tail. Which makes the 400E the obvious choice for devotees of stealth motoring.

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Once inside. you’d be hard-pressed to tell the 400E from the 500E. Excellent leather seats are standard, as are an automatic climate-control sys­tem, dual air bags, and beautifully finished burl-walnut trim. Our test car was plumped up with such options as heated front seats, Mercedes’ ASR traction-control system, and a trunk-­mounted CD changer—bringing the total tab to $65,360.

That price is sure to elicit an “ouch” or two—especially with Lexus and lnfiniti offering superb sedans for about two-thirds as much. That said, how­ever, let us add that there is still nothing like sitting at the helm of a Mercedes­-Benz.

This is a conspicuously substantial automobile. You feel the 400E’s 3826 pounds—not in sluggish performance, but in the heft of the doors and the firmness of the seats and the solidity of the body at speed over harsh pavement. Combined with the dual air bags, the standard ABS, and the well-fitting, adjustable seatbelts, this solidity makes the 400E an especially reassuring car to ride in.

This is a heavy-effort car, too. The steering demands firm pressure on the wheel but rewards you with precise turn-in and fluid response. The con­trols—the turn-signal lever, the head­lamp knob, the climate-control switches—”thunk” from position to position. The throttle pedal is tightly sprung but smooth in its action. You’d think this car’s parts were filled with molasses.

Which is why the 4.2-liter V-8 is such a wonder in this body: the 400E is anything but molasses-slow. The V-8’s torque adds light feet to the 400E’s mass. Around-town punch is abundant, though the transmission—annoy­ingly—prefers to start in second gear unless the throttle is prodded sternly. And cruising is effortless, with loads of passing power in reserve at almost any speed.

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The 400E is not as dazzling as the 500E. But it’s good enough to make you wonder if more performance is really worth $27,170.



1992 Mercedes-Benz 400E
Vehicle Type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 5-passenger, 4-door sedan


Base/As Tested: $60,195/$65,360

DOHC 32-valve V-8, aluminum block and heads, port fuel injection

Displacement: 256 in3, 4196 cm3

Power: 268 hp @ 5700 rpm

Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 3900 rpm 

4-speed automatic 


Wheelbase: 110.2 in

Length: 187.2 in

Width: 68.5 in
Height: 56.3 in
Curb Weight: 3826 lb


60 mph: 6.8 sec

1/4-Mile: 15.2 sec @ 95 mph
100 mph: 16.9 sec
130 mph: 31.8 sec

Rolling Start, 5–60 mph: 6.8 sec

Top Speed: 147 mph
Braking, 70–0 mph: 173 ft

Roadholding, 235-ft Skidpad: 0.74 g 


Observed: 17 mpg


Combined/City/Highway: 16/15/20 mpg 


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