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2002 Mercedes-Benz C320 Station Wagon

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SAN FRANCISCO:  Car and Driver magazine used to "customize" cars. Not the lead sleds of the ‘50s, no, they built a series of performance cars. Cars like the Blue Max, a road-going version of Mark Donahue’s TransAm Camaro. Cars like the Boss Wagons. One such Boss Wagon was a M-B Turbo Diesel from around one of the gas crunches. Mercedes has the makings of one fine Boss Wagon in its C320 Station Wagon

Don’t get me wrong; this is one fine car as it sits. Like most Mercedes, the C320 seems a bit austere when you first get into it. They just don’t have many frilly bits. But spend awhile in a M-B and you’ll begin to appreciate just how fine a car they are.

Comfort in a Mercedes does not come from cushy, almost too soft suspension or over-stuffed seats. Comfort in a Mercedes comes from a structure that doesn’t bend or flex with the irregularities of the road, and from a suspension that doesn’t jar or bang through potholes. Comfort in a Mercedes comes from a seat that supports you in all the right places yet doesn’t envelope you. Comfort in a Mercedes, like safety and performance, is built in and almost invisible – you notice what is not there more than what is.

Powering the C320 in all its guises (four-door sedan and wagon) is a 3.2-liter, SOHC, 18-valve (two intake, one exhaust per cylinder) V6. This engine produces 215 hp that is sent to the rear wheels through a marvelous 5-speed automatic transmission with Touch Shift. Touch Shift allows you to shift the automatic trans manually. Realistically the only time I’ve ever found this type of device useful is when you need engine braking.

Mercedes has something they call Electronic Stability Control (ESP). ESP integrates brake application and throttle intervention for yaw control, plus ignition and throttle intervention for wheelspin control (that’s right out of the press kit folks). Basically what ESP does is make it really hard to look stupid. It works too. Going up Sharp Park Road one rainy day I got into the throttle just a tad too much. I sensed the back end start to come around and before I could react a warning light flashed on the dash and the C320 dialed back the throttle, did some other magic and the rear end got back in line. Cool stuff. And the really neat part is that it works as kind of a driving instructor – you know if it kicks in you’ve screwed up so you learn what the limits are.

One place I just fell in love with the C320 was on the highway. I swear it could drive itself. Mercedes-Benz’s have always had great self-centering, that ability to track straight or return to the straight-ahead position without steering input. This really makes it a joy to drive on the highway, especially in foul weather. There is no need to white-knuckle it, just give it some rein and keep your eyes open.

Let’s talk about performance. Mercedes says that the C320 sedan will do 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds and the wagon is 0.1 seconds slower. Not bad, not bad at all. Now consider that the wagon weighs 3,495 lbs. All of the C-series (there is also a C240 with a 2.6-liter, V6 and a C230 sports coupe with a 2.3-liter 4-cylinder), except the C32 AMG, are limited to 130 mph. And no, I did not test the limiter. Even with all that power and speed the C320’s fuel economy is still rated at 20 city and 27 highway.

Styling-wise I found the C320 Station Wagon, like most Mercedes, to be understated. Let’s face it, people notice you in a M-B regardless, so there’s no need to have styling that stands out and will be quickly out of date.

Now if Mercedes wanted to build a C320 Station Wagon for me they’d build one with the C32 AMG’s supercharged, 349 hp version of the 3.2-liter V6, and the C32 AMG’s suspension, and wheels and tires. Now that would be a real Boss Wagon – 0-60 mph in about 5 seconds and a top end of 155 mph. Goodbye driver’s license, hello nirvana.

The 2002 Mercedes-Benz C320 Station Wagon has a base price of $49,250 and the test car went for $59,985. That includes Xenon headlamps with washers, rain sensor (set the wipers on intermittent and the speed adjusts depending on the rain severity), glass sunroof, Bose sound system, integrated phone with voice control, and leather upholstery. It was fully loaded and for $60 Grand you get what you pay for in a Mercedes. By Bruce Hotchkiss   AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  For $60 Grand you get what you pay for in a Mercedes
Topic:  2002 Mercedes-Benz C320 Station Wagon
Word Count:   849
Photo Caption:  2002 Mercedes-Benz C320 Station Wagon
Photo Credits:  Mercedes-Benz Internet Media
Series #:   2002 - 10

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