Mercedes 500E Proves That Automatics Were Faster Than Manuals, Even In The ’90s

The 1992 Mercedes 500E goes to battle against the 1994 BMW M5 Touring and the 1994 Audi RS2, both of which have manuals and more favorable power-to-weight ratios

September 30, 2023 at 21:06

 Mercedes 500E Proves That Automatics Were Faster Than Manuals, Even In The ’90s

While enthusiasts tend to acknowledge that modern automatic and dual-clutch transmissions are faster than manuals, there remains the presupposition that they once weren’t. In the latest Cammisa Ultimate Drag Race, the Mercedes 500E proves that autos were fast, even in the ’90s.

Admittedly, the video only addresses the 1992 super sedan’s ability to run through the quarter-mile, not the corners. However, against the manual-equipped 1994 Audi RS2 and BMW M5 Touring, it trounces the competition.

Of course, the transmission isn’t the only advantage the 5.0-liter V8 Mercedes has. The BMW is powered by a 3.8-liter inline-six, while the Audi has just 2.2 liters and five cylinders to go to war with.

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Read: New BMW M3 Touring Is Just Too Quick For The Audi RS4 Avant

 Mercedes 500E Proves That Automatics Were Faster Than Manuals, Even In The ’90s

However, the RS2 is turbocharged, meaning it makes a healthy 311 hp (232 kW/315 PS). Meanwhile, the Euro-spec M5 makes 335 hp (250 kW/340 PS), which is actually more than the Mercedes, which only churns out 322 hp (240 kW/326 PS).

Its big engine is capable of generating 354 lb-ft (480 Nm) of torque, which is considerably more than the competition can muster. While the turbocharged Audi can churn out 302 lb-ft (409 Nm), the BMW’s straight-six only makes 295 lb-ft (400 Nm).

That torque helps the Mercedes 500E a lot through the quarter-mile. As Cammisa explains, the big displacement and the variable valve timing mean that the engine delivers ample torque to the wheels throughout the rev range. But that’s not its only advantage.

“Despite its long, 49 mph first gear, it’s almost even with the other two cars on the launch,” he says. “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.”

That means that the Mercedes is 0.9 seconds faster than the Audi, and 0.8 seconds faster than the BMW through the quarter-mile. To put that into perspective, the video shows how the 500E is 7.5 car lengths ahead of the other two cars at the line — all despite having the least favorable power-to-weight ratio of the trio.

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