One of the most successful luxury sedans on the market, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class gets a massive makeover for 2003. The E320 comes as a sedan or station wagon; the E500 is a sedan only. The E320 models are equipped with a 3.2-liter V-6 engine; the E500 has a 5.0-liter V-8.
Gadgets and innovations: Standard is Sensotronic Brake Control, an electro-hydraulic brake-by-wire system that is faster and more precise than conventional brakes. Also standard is an intelligent restraint system with front, side and window airbags; a child-seat-recognition system; and a rollover sensor. Available is Airmatic DC, a semiactive air suspension that keeps vehicle ride height constant and minimizes body roll.
Telematics: The optional navigation system can be controlled using voice commands. The COMAND system can receive e-mail and other online services.
The rear-drive M45 is positioned between the top-of-the-line Q45 and entry-luxury G35. It shares many of its major parts with the Q45, including its 4.5-liter V8 engine rated at 340 horsepower. Although tuned to be sportier than the Q45, the M45 has plenty of luxury fare.
Gadgets and innovations: Features include Vehicle Dynamic Control to improve stability during emergencies, traction control for wet and icy surfaces and steering that adjusts to speed. Options include memory seats, Home-Link for opening garage doors and security gates, climate-controlled seats and a tire-pressure monitor.
Telematics: Options include a DVD-based navigation system, Intelligent Cruise Control that maintains a set distance from cars ahead and a voice-recognition system. Satellite radio is available from dealers.
Volkswagen has been moving upmarket. This year it introduced the W-8, a version of the midsize Passat with a bigger engine and, at about $40,000, a bigger price. In mid-2003, VW moves higher with its limousine-like sedan called the Phaeton. It is powered by a 3.2-liter six-cylinder engine with a six-gear transmission for the front-wheel-drive version. VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive is available as well.
Gadgets and innovations: Standard are a stability-control system, a brake assist that adds braking in emergencies and active headrests. The rear seat comes as either a bench or individual seats with separate adjusters, as well as massage and air conditioning. Also available are a heated steering wheel, a sliding solar roof, doors that unlock as the driver approaches and cruise control that maintains a set distance from the vehicle ahead.
Telematics: A 7-inch infotainment center is in the central dash for controlling climate, audio, television, navigation, on-board computer and telephone systems.
Also to consider: Acura RL; Audi A6, S6, RS6; BMW 5 Series, M5; Cadillac Seville; Infiniti Q45; Jaguar S-Type; Lexus LS 430, GS300, GS430; Saab 9-5; Volkswagen W-8; Volvo S80, S60R
The $4 billion remake of Cadillac’s product line began last year with the CTS entry-luxury sedan, which embodied the edgy new styling direction of General Motors Corp.’s flagship division. Later in 2003, the CTS becomes the first Cadillac to bear the V-Series logo designating a special edition. The CTS V-Series will feature more horsepower than the regular CTS; different wheels, tires and seats; a performance suspension; and styling cues different from the CTS.
Gadgets and innovations: StabiliTrak, the Delphi Corp.-developed stability-control system, is standard.
Telematics: Standard equipment includes GM’s OnStar communications system, which automatically notifies authorities of an airbag deployment, tracks the vehicle if it is stolen and can unlock doors by remote. The infotainment system is on the center dashboard and can be operated with knobs and buttons near the system or by a steering-wheel-mounted mouse. XM satellite radio is available.
Infiniti has added an entry-luxury sport sedan and sport coupe to its line for 2003. A 260-horsepower V-6 mated to a five-speed automatic transmission that can be shifted manually powers the rear-drive G35 sedan. The sport coupe uses the same 3.5-liter engine, but horsepower is higher at 280.
Gadgets and innovations: Standard is a feature that enhances vehicle stability in emergency maneuvers, as are anti-lock brakes and emergency brake assist, which applies added brake pressure in panic situations. Both use an electronically controlled drive-by-wire throttle system.
Telematics: A DVD-based navigation system is available with a retractable 6.5-inch monitor.
Ford says more than 500 components and systems have been redesigned on the LS. The V-6 and V-8 engines are more powerful with improved fuel economy. The 3.9-liter V-8 achieves 28 more horsepower for a total of 280; the 3.0-liter V-6 adds 12 horsepower for a total of 232.
Gadgets and innovations: The five-speed automatic can be ordered with SelectShift to allow manual shifting of the automatic transmission. Lincoln’s AdvanceTrac traction and stability system is upgraded. Pedals can be electronically adjusted to suit the driver. Front seats heat and cool; rear seats heat. Windshield wipers automatically turn on when they sense rain. A park-assist system warns of objects behind the car when it is in reverse. Side curtain airbags are optional.
Telematics: The LS marks the debut of the industry’s first THX-certified car audio system. Filmmaker George Lucas founded THX, now THX Ltd., in 1983 to ensure superior sound quality in theaters. The touch-screen navigation system operates with the audio system.
At long last, Saab has replaced its entry-luxury 9-3. The completely restyled first model in the series debuts as a front-drive, five-passenger sport sedan. A convertible and a crossover version will be added later. With Saab now wholly owned by General Motors, the 9-3 uses the automaker’s worldwide architecture shared with Opel models in Europe and with the upcoming Chevrolet Malibu and Pontiac Grand Am. The 9-3 sedan comes in three versions. The Linear is outfitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 175 horsepower. The Arc and Vector have the same 2.0-liter engine, but horsepower is increased to 210. A five-speed automatic transmission is available on all models. The Linear offers a five-speed manual; the Arc and Vector get a six-speed manual.
Gadgets and innovations: The 9-3 comes with second-generation Saab Active Head Restraints, dual-stage front airbags, side curtain airbags and anti-lock brakes. The front door is fitted with a mechanism that does not allow the car to be unlocked unless the correct key is used. Outside mirrors tilt down when the car is in reverse. Windows and the sunroof can be remotely opened or closed.
Telematics: The 9-3 is available with GM’s OnStar communications system, which automatically contacts authorities if the airbag deploys and can provide access to the Internet.