The high performance family car frenzy of the early 1990s was so pronounced that Britain’s CAR magazine followed report on its first drive of the 377 bhp Lotus Carlton with two pages on the Mercedes equivalent, the 326 bhp V8 engined E class saloon. Like the Lotus Carlton, the 500 E required some serious surgery under the standard issue body and, like General Motors, Mercedes framed the project out in the case to Porsche. Rather than spend time radically modifying the engine to fit in an ex factory car, Mercedes fitted an ex factory engine into a heavily modified body shell. The entire front section of the car had to be redesigned in order to accommodate the V8 power plant, and heavier gage steel was used for better crash performance. Outwardly, the only clue was the flared wheel case, which allowed for a wider front tracks. Two massive catalytic converters under the floor meant that the 500E’s transmission tunnel had to be widened; the upshot was that the car had to be homologated as a four seater.
The suspension and braking systems were pretty much carried over from the SL sports car, with some modifications including ASR, one of the first sophisticated traction control systems. Thanks to the sophisticated traction control system. Thanks to the massive competence of the chassis, and the help from ASR, the 500E was described at the time as a ‘can do no wrong car’. It was extremely fast, rode surprisingly well, had exceptional roadholding, but it was remarkably easy to drive flat out.