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Mercedes-Benz 300E

Automobile Magazine's first Four Seasons test was completed in the first anniversary issue (April 1987). The car tested was a Mercedes-Benz 300E-and we loved it, despite some troubles. In the mid-'70s, I received a call from the then-editor of Car and Driver. He wanted to discuss the future of car magazines in an era when cars would clearly never be fun again. The '70s and early '80s had not been good years for car enthusiasts. The 300E was the first evidence that there was light at the end of the tunnel, and that it wasn't an onrushing locomotive. It turned out that all of the lessons learned in the search for improved fuel economy-low drag, low rolling resistance, taller final-drive ratios, and more efficient engines-could be used to create enjoyably fast cars, too. The 300E was exactly such a car, and in the years that followed, it became the prototype for all kinds of fast, competent sedans from all corners of the automotive universe. The car had a hard edge to it, and it was sheer joy to hammer one down an empty mountain road. The car's performance capability ultimately led to V-8-powered variants, but the 300E was the one that has always stuck in our collective memory. Seeing honest burghers at the wheel of used 300Es today, we often wonder if they have even the slightest idea how much joy is stored within their vehicles' worn, faded, and sometimes dented exteriors.