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Audi A6 3,2 FSi vs Mercedes Benz E350 

Broadcast dates : 24th July 2005
30th July 2005

The Mercedes-Benz E350 is a new model on the market, having replaced the previous V6-engined E320. The new engine is also a V6, but itís an all new design, moving from three to four-valves-per-cylinder.

There has been a dramatic 24 per cent jump in power with the new engine, which now displaces 3,5 litres, instead of the previous 3,2 capacity.

Internal refinements to the engine include variable camshaft timing on both inlet and exhaust camshafts, the first V6 to feature this.

At R459 000, the price for this Merc is actually competitive.

The E Class is perhaps the most conservatively styled Merc at present, lacking the nimbleness of the C Class and the sheer presence of the larger S Class. Nevertheless itís rich in elegant detail.

But exterior appearances are only half the story. The interior is beautiful, and the Mercís controls are easy to suss out. As easy to understand as those beautiful ivory-backed dials.

The E Class comes with a variety of wood trim options, which are extremely elegant.

And one system David quickly got to grips with was the back-massage device in the driverís seat, which he described as " verrry nice."

The Sat-Nav screen has a bright, pleasing display thatís easy to read, which is an additional safety factor.

Mercedes is justifiably proud of its new engine, first seen in the SLK 350 sports car.

Itís mated to a seven-speed automatic gearbox for exceptionally smooth thrust.

The Merc is quicker off the mark and marginally faster on top end. Surprisingly, the Mercedes is some R7 000 less expensive than the Audi A6 3,2 FSi, which costs R466 000.

The Mercedes takes the "Comfort is King" approach. Many motoring journalists take the view that Mercs are un-involving, boring even. But this outlook ignores the special blend of easy driving and dynamic ability thatís part and parcel of every Mercedes. The ride is just so silky smooth that itís deceptive in its effortlessness.

Ergonomically too, the Mercedes is thoroughly thought out as a user-friendly car. The premium experience is translated in every facet of this exceptional motorcar.

Spring and damping control over ripples and speed bumps is superior to the Audi. The Merc feels less sporty, the feedback is less immediate, but does this really matter in a premium-level express?
The Audi V6 has a similarly-lauded powerplant. Displacing just 3,2 litres, it has a very similar specific power output to the Mercedes engine and develops just 12 kiloWatts less than the Mercís 200 kiloWatt benchmark.

This is thanks to Audiís advanced direct-injection FSi system which introduces fuel directly into the combustion chamber, rather than into the intake manifold.

In the real world, both engines stack up well against each other, with the bigger Merc having a slight edge on acceleration and top speed.

Thereís more extroversion in the A6ís body language. Apart from rather apologetic tail lights, the Audiís stance is more muscular, the wheels more race-orientated.

Audi interiors set the standard in todayís luxury cars. The materials used are slightly superior to those of the Mercedes and indeed, those of Audiís other rival in this class, the BMW 5 Series.

The steering wheel, somewhat surprisingly, is manually, rather than electrically adjustable. But the combination of rich wood and aluminium trim surrounding the cockpit makes up for any equipment short falls.

Functions for the Navigation and cabin climate-control are operated by a central knob with satellite buttons. This is similar to BMWís I-drive, but in fact easier to use.

Being a Quattro, the Audi A6 has more drive-train components. And along with firmer suspension, is more rigid than the Merc in overall feel and ride quality.

It imparts exceptional confidence to the driver, while the occupants feel pampered by the cockpit opulence.

David had already discovered the sports setting on the gearbox, as well as the paddle shift change for the Tiptronic six-speeder.

But thereís no cabin switch to soften up the suspension, and quite frankly, over the bumpy roads of suburban Saxonwold, the ride was jiggly.

The reason for this is one of corporate philosophy. Audi sees itself as more of a sporting brand than Mercedes. At the Ingolstadt firm, autobahn stability takes preference over comfort.

Mercedes-Benz E350: Engine
  • Engine: V6 petrol, 3 498cc
  • Power: 200 kW @ 6 000 rpm
  • Torque: 350 Nm @ 2 400 rpm
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive
  • 0-100 km/h: 6,9 seconds
  • Top speed: 250 km/h (limited)
  • Fuel consumption: 11,8 litres/100 km (manufacturerís claim)
  • Price: R459 000

Audi A6 3,2 FSI Quattro Tiptronic

  • Engine: V6 petrol, 3 123cc
  • Power: 188 kW @ 6 500 rpm
  • Torque:330 Nm @ 3 250 rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed automatic, four-wheel-drive
  • 0-100 km/h: 7,9 seconds
  • Top speed: 240 km/h
  • Fuel consumption: 13,0 litres/100 km
  • Price: R466 000

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