Mercedes 500E

Mercedes 500E: Automatics Were Faster Than Manuals, Even in the 1990s

In a showdown reminiscent of the ’90s, the 1992 Mercedes 500E takes on its rivals, the 1994 BMW M5 Touring and the 1994 Audi RS2, both equipped with manual transmissions and more favorable power-to-weight ratios.

While it’s widely accepted among enthusiasts that modern automatic and dual-clutch transmissions offer faster acceleration times than manuals, there’s a lingering notion that this wasn’t always the case. In the latest Cammisa Ultimate Drag Race, the Mercedes 500E sets out to demonstrate that automatics could be impressively fast even in the 1990s.

It’s important to note that the video primarily focuses on the 1992 super sedan’s quarter-mile performance and doesn’t delve into its cornering abilities. However, when pitted against the manual-equipped 1994 Audi RS2 and BMW M5 Touring, the Mercedes convincingly outpaces its rivals in straight-line speed.

Mercedes 500E
Mercedes 500E

Certainly, the transmission isn’t the sole advantage the 500E possesses. Under its hood lies a potent 5.0-liter V8 engine, while the BMW is propelled by a 3.8-liter inline-six, and the Audi relies on a 2.2-liter, five-cylinder powerplant.

The RS2 benefits from turbocharging, generating a robust 311 hp (232 kW/315 PS). In contrast, the Euro-spec M5 produces 335 hp (250 kW/340 PS), surpassing the Mercedes, which delivers 322 hp (240 kW/326 PS).

The Mercedes’ substantial engine displacement translates into a hearty 354 lb-ft (480 Nm) of torque, a notable advantage over its competitors. The turbocharged Audi produces 302 lb-ft (409 Nm), while the BMW’s straight-six engine manages 295 lb-ft (400 Nm).

This torque advantage significantly aids the Mercedes 500E during the quarter-mile run. As explained by Cammisa, the large displacement engine with variable valve timing ensures a continuous delivery of torque throughout the rev range. However, that’s not the only trick up its sleeve.

Cammisa notes, “Despite its long, 49 mph first gear, it’s almost even with the other two cars on the launch. Its old-school automatic slam shifts, instead of cutting power, so each of the two times it shifts, it just gains even more ground on the two other cars.”

As a result, the Mercedes outpaces the Audi by 0.9 seconds and the BMW by 0.8 seconds in the quarter-mile dash. To put this into perspective, the video illustrates how the 500E establishes a lead of 7.5 car lengths over its rivals at the starting line, despite having the least favorable power-to-weight ratio among the trio.

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