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2004 Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Mid-Size Luxury Sedan

What was Tested?: 2004 Mercedes E55Â AMG.

Base MSRP: $79,270

Mileage: 14 mpg city / 21 mpg highway

Whenever you see the acronym AMG trailing the model numbers on a Mercedes know that you're staring at the creme-de-la-creme of performance engines for that particular model line. You see, there'­s your basic Mercedes and then there's your Mercedes-AMG - and there is a significant difference between the two.

Within each of Mercedes' nine classes (C, E, M, G, CLK, SLK, CL, SL and S-Classes) there are various models, be it sedans, coupes, roadsters, etc., and one AMG model. Although both the regular and AMG models are trimmed in high quality materials and employ top caliber craftsmanship, the AMG adds a little more tweaking to the package. Focused on performance, Mercedes-AMG follows a philosophy of "one man, one engine."

This means that a single technician (identified by the signature plate affixed to the engine) is responsible for the complete assembly of an AMG engine from start to finish. With a handful of approximately 40 master engine builders on site, only 100 engines are completed each day at the AMG headquarters in Affalterbach, Germany.

2004 E55 AMG

The new Mercedes E55 lives up to AMG's stringent reputation. Representing the fastest-ever production sedan from Mercedes, the E55 illustrates this dedication to speed the moment you press the accelerator. Boasting a whiplash-inducing 0-to-60 mph rating of 4.5 seconds, the E55 is a serious thrill ride.

Teetering on the edge of requiring a pilot's license to operate, the E55 is able to put up these kinds of numbers due in part to its supercharged 5.5-liter V8 engine, as well as some other attributes: As if placed under a small microscope, every aspect of the E55 is taken into consideration in how it affects the overall performance. The exhaust system uses four large-diameter, chrome-tipped pipes and a freer-flowing muffler, which creates a gentle growl/racing rumble, described by Mercedes as a "signature sound."

With an electronically limited top speed of 155-mph, the E55's body components, such as front and rear aprons and side ground effects, are aerodynamically designed to minimize drag and produce neutral lift at high speed. And, although enthusiasts may balk at the fact that all AMG models are only available with automatic transmissions, this five-speed driver-adaptive AMG transmission is 35 percent faster than standard Mercedes transmissions. And, letís face it, a 4.5 second 0-to-60 rating is incredibly fast no matter if youíre using a manual or automatic transmission.

E55 AMG versus class members

The best way to get a feel for the differentiation between a regular Benz and an AMG model is by taking a look at their stats. The popular E-Class (the highest selling line) is made up of five models: E320 sedan ($48,170), E320 Wagon ($50,670), E500 sedan ($56,270), E500 Wagon ($60,670) and E55 AMG sedan ($78,370). For comparison purposes, we'­ll focus on the three sedans in the group.

Right away it's obvious that enthusiasts will need to empty their wallets to obtain this overachiever. A base MSRP that outshines the other two is just the beginning. The E55 AMG also tops its two siblings, the E320 and E500, in every aspect of [not surprisingly] performance. Although respectable, the E500 only produces 302 hp while the E320 squeezes out 221 hp - both dragging behind the E55'­s massive hp rating of 469. It's the same story when it comes to torque: E320 at 232 lb.-ft.; E500 at 339 lb.-ft.; and E55 at 516 lb.-ft. - and when it comes to 0-to-60 mph speeds: E320's 7.1 second rating and E500'­s 5.8 second rating.

Interior amenities

Inside the differences are not as vast; the E55 adds dark wood trim, higher-quality and 10-way power-adjustable sport seats. There is also three-stage seat heaters and optional ventilation. The rest of the interior is classic E Class, with its opulent material and design.

In fact, it'­s this elegant layout and facade that has the E55 AMG blurring between being a luxury sedan and a sports car. It represents the best of both worlds: the room and appearance of a sleek four-door and an underlying thirst for speed that will leave most any other car on the road as a tiny speck in your rearview mirror.

The History of AMG

From its modest beginning 35 years ago as an independent, two-man racing and tuning firm for Mercedes cars, Mercedes-AMG has grown into a supplier of exclusive high-performance cars with some 600 employees, an extensive model range and customers around the world.

Named after Hans Werner Aufrecht (A) and his partner Erhard Melcher (M), AMG was founded in 1967 in Grossapach (G), Germany. Both partners had been employees of Mercedes-Benz and officially described themselves as "engineering, design and testing specialists in the development of racing engines." The fledging firm began designing high performance cars for production in Europe during the 1970s. Thirty-five years later, AMG made its way over to the States and debuted the first model: the C36 AMG.

Today, the U.S. has surpassed Mercedes-Benz's European customers in purchasing AMG vehicles, accounting for over 40 percent of sales.

The latest generation of AMG models available in the U.S. include:

  • 2004 G55 AMG SUV: 5.5-liter V8, 349-hp, 387 lb.-ft., 0-60 mph 7.2 sec.

  • 2004 C32 AMG: supercharged 3.2-liter V6, 349-hp, 332 lb.-ft., 0-60 mph 4.9 sec.

  • 2004 SLK32 AMG roadster: supercharged 3.2-liter V6, 349-hp, 332 lb.-ft., 0-60 mph 4.8 sec.

  • 2004 CLK AMG: 5.5-liter V8, 362-hp, 376 lb.-ft., 0-60 mph 4.8 sec.

  • 2004 S55 AMG: supercharged 5.5-liter V8, 493-hp, 516 lb.-ft., 0-60 mph 4.6 sec.

  • 2004 CL55 AMG: supercharged 5.5-liter V8, 493-hp, 516 lb.-ft., 0-60 mph 4.6 sec.

  • 2004 E55 AMG: supercharged 5.5-liter V8, 469-hp, 516 lb.-ft., 0-60 mph 4.5 sec.

  • 2004 SL55 AMG Roadster: supercharged 5.5-liter V8, 493-hp, 516 lb.-ft., 0-60 mph 4.5 sec.

Engine: 5.5L 24-Valve V8

Warranty: 4 years / 50,000 miles

Horsepower: 469 hp @ 6100 rpm

Torque: 516 lb.-ft. @ 4,500 rpm

Curb Weight: 4,087 lbs.