First at all, excuse my English. It is not my maternal language as I'm German.

Back in february 2003, I ordered a E55 AMG at my local dealer, including the active curve lights and the COMAND (DVD-based navigation) system.
Delivery was scheduled for end of april or latest mid of may but around mid of may I had to learn that my car has been delayed for at least another 6 weeks.
As I didn't trust the dealer's promises too much anymore, I decided to go for his only new E55 AMG stock car, unfortunately built in january 2003.
This car didn't have the active curve lights and it didn't have the COMAND system but after a written confirmation from my dealership that I'll get the COMAND retrofitted as soon as the retrofit kits are available in Germany in july, I agreed to buy this car. (Little sidenote for US E55 owners: a COMAND retrofit is not possible on US bound cars. Owners who got a car with the APS 50 are getting an offer from MBUSA to get a new car with COMAND or cash instead.)
Another problem with the dealer's stock car: it had three options I didn't want to order, the panoramic roof, the driving dynamic comfort seats and keyless-go.
Instead, one of the most important options was missing: the 300 kph speed raise by AMG (Little sidenote for US E55 owners: the 300 kph speed limit raise is not available to US bound cars). I called AMG and made arrangements for raising the speed limit to 300 kph and I had to learn that I was lucky my car had the right tires for the speed raise, the Continental SportContact 2 with M0 specification on the rear tires.
When I picked up my car at my dealer, I was pretty surprised how huge it looked.
I testdrove a silver E55 before but my car was obsidian black metallic and apparently the black color made the car look much bigger.
The other suprise was how easy the keyless-go works and how much easier it makes opening and closing the doors and the trunk and to start and stop the engine.
All you need is to wear the key in the pocket or to hold it in your hand.

First look impression: great build quality.
Second look impression: great build quality.
The quality of the interior is impressive, the E55 doesn't look cheap and the materials used for the interior look very good and classy. I compared it to the Cayenne Turbo I testdrove lately and I have to admit that the E55 easily beats the Cayenne's interior quality. Not something Porsche would like to hear I bet.
The display in the speedo is a great thing to have, I just love it. It might take some time to move through all the menues using the buttons on the steering wheel but it is fun, it looks great and it provides some pretty interesting functions.
The APS50 system with the optional sound system provides great sound but the navigation screen is too small, so I just can't wait to get the COMAND retrofit.
The optional 6-CD changer works great and I love it that it is installed in the middle console and not in the trunk as on most cars, including Porsche.
The many buttons on my seat are a little bit confusing and I'm not sure the dynamic seats are really working but the massage function is one of my favorites. It is pretty much the most unnecessary function on the whole car but it is nice to know you have it, even if you don't really need it. I also don't like where they put all the buttons because you can't see them when you're sitting in the seat. It isn't difficult to guess the function because the buttons are shaped individually but it is still confusing.
The seat itself is great, I was surprised to find such a sporty seat on a Mercedes limousine. Porsche should learn from Mercedes in this case. Side grip is great and one can even adjust it to one's liking if the automatic dynamic function doesn't satisfy.
The leather quality seems to be great too, very impressive.
I also love the safety cushions all over the car, a total of 8 airbags protect the passengers.
The panoramic roof is nice but not something you really need on this car. I am however happy I have it because I ordered my first E55 without any sun roof and this would have been a big mistake. During the last few days we had a lot of sunshine and I really enjoyed the sun through the open roof and of course the sound of the V8 engine.

This car looks huge. Much bigger than on pictures.
This car looks nice. Much nicer than on pictures.
Exterior quality looks great, everything seems nicely build.
The LED brake lights are something special and improve safety.
The 8-piston brakes with drilled 360 mm discs on the front wheels look impressive but even the 18 inch wheels looks somehow too small on this huge car.
A 19 inch wheel might have been the better choice.
The overall design of the E55 looks great but I think this lies in the eye of the beholder and it might not satisfy everybody. However I think that the E55 looks elegant, sporty and somehow aggressive too, especially in black.
I got a pretty good feedback from by-standers at fuel stations and parking lots, so I think that Mercedes and AMG did the job right. Even a hardcore 911 owner I know liked the E55 immediately and his last question was "does this huge thing really keep up with the 996 Turbo?". Well, he couldn't be more surprised.

When one starts the engine, one hears some kind of a hidden growl but nothing spectacular. But as soon as one presses the throttle further, the classic V8 growl sounds out of the four exhaust pipes and it sounds great.
It could be a little bit more loud to my liking but it definetely is worth listening to.
Especially on full throttle, the engine sounds great and it really sounds sporty.
A deep and pretty noticeable V8 growl is the result and sometimes my wife even had wished that the sound was less loud.
The impressive power output of this supercharged engine is difficult to describe.
You can't feel the acceleration too much in your seat but you hear it and you definetely see it on the speedo when the speed numbers rise up extremely fast.
It is almost unbelievable how fast the E55 reaches up to the 250 kph speed limiter.
Actually this is a pretty annoying experience and I just can't wait to get the speed limit raised by AMG to 300 kph. The E55 is probably capable of a top speed of 320 kph but due to safety reasons, AMG limits the speed to 300 kph.
However it is no secret that most E55 with raised speed limit run at least true 305 kph.
It is also no secret that the E55 engines are pretty close to true 500 HP output and that the E55 is actually faster (if only by a tiny margin) than all over supercharged V8 AMG models.
There might be a little bit of confusion here about the power output of the engine, US models deliver 469 HP, german models have 476 HP. US power is clamied as SAE as far as I know, german power as DIN. So it is pretty difficult to compare both but power should be aprox. the same.

The 5-speed automatic transmission is great, it shifts extremely fast and always finds the right gear. Unfortunately when driving at lower speeds especially in the city, it shifts into the 3rd gear which is sometimes a little bit annoying if you just slightly press the throttle because you get a pretty strange whining sound from the supercharger and not much of an acceleration. As soon as one presses the throttle further and the Speedshift called auto tranny downshifts, you get full power and fun.
The Speedshift automatic transmission offers three shifting modes: C, S and M.
Forget about the comfort mode, I don't like it too much. It might be great however in winter time. The S mode is just right for everyday driving and offers everything you need to forget about a manual gearbox. Which leads me to the M mode, the so called Manual mode which allows to shift gears using the two buttons behind the steering wheel. The M mode is pretty nice because the gears stay in the chosen position and it doesn't upshift automatically. This sounds great and it works great but unfortunately the position of the shifting buttons behind the steering wheel makes the nice M mode pretty much useless because the position of the buttons changes all the time as soon as you turn the steering wheel. I don't understand why AMG has chosen to position the buttons behind the steering wheel or why they didn't use the same system as Ferrari does with their sequential shifting system. But it takes away a good portion of the fun using the M mode.
Maybe I just have to get used to it but I have to confess that I drive most of the time in S mode and let the automatic tranny do the job for me. It is still fun, no kidding.
One thing which shocked me is fuel consumption. I assumed that the 25 litres/100 km over the first hundred of kilometers were due to the brake in period.
Now I have more than 1600 km on my car and I can't get it below 20 litres, not even if I drive it pretty slowly in the city. Usually I have a fuel consumption between 23 and 26 litres which reminds me a little bit of the Cayenne Turbo.
I actually don't care much about fuel consumption but at over 5 USD a gallon over here in Germany, I have to worry at least a little bit about fuel cost.

A huge limousine with more than 1835 kg weight. How can this be a sporty setup?
Well, the E55 actually does the job pretty good, especially if one thinks of it as a high power limousine and not a true sports car.
The Airmatic 2 air suspension does a great job providing the driver with a pretty sporty drive feel. Especially in the manually chosen Sport 2 position, the E55
performs almost like a Porsche 996 and what impresses even more, it doesn't show a bit of a sideroll. Completely nothing. The setup is pretty neutral, no understeer and only a little bit of oversteer. With ESP turned off, the oversteer becomes pretty strong but it is nothing an experienced driver can't cope with. It is actually a lot of fun to drive the E55 with ESP turned off but only when the pavement is dry. I tried turning off the ESP on a wet street and I almost hit a tree with my rear, doing a nice drift over the whole street width. Definetely not recommended to turn off the ESP on wet streets.
Sometimes the ESP is pretty annoying, especially if you fully press the throttle and turn the steering wheel. However when going straight, there usually isn't any traction problem, unless one fully accelerates from standstill. And this is actually the weak point of the E55, there should be a button where you can somehow switch to a more sporty setup of the ESP for red light to red light racing. I know this sounds somehow stupid but it takes a sensible foot and a very dry pavement to obtain those fantastic 0-60 mph times from car magazines. As soon as one drives at higher speeds, the traction problems are usually a part of the past.
So using the Sport Setting 2, the suspension setup is very sporty and very satisfying but as soon as you throw the car into a fast curve, you feel the weight and the car slips over all four wheels which isn't something you really want to happen all the time.
So the E55 is definetely not the perfect track car but a very fast high power limousine which can cope with most sports cars out there with the right driver at the steering wheel.
There have been claims of understeer with ESP turned off but personally, I can't confirm it. Maybe it has something to do with tires, the Conti SportContact 2 are definetely good tires for the E55, no doubt about it. And I usually don't like Continental tires too much.
I never tried to drive the E55 with the automatic setting of the Airmatic suspension because even the Sport 2 setting isn't sporty enough for me. But at least it reminds me somehow of my former 996 Turbo, so I always drive with the same setting activated. Therefore I can't say much about the automatic setup.
What I tried is the height raise of the Airmatic. As you can see on one of the pictures, the E55 looks almost like a SUV with the height raised. Overall, I love the Airmatic, it is a great thing to have on a car. It also has great potential for the future, imagine dozens of different suspension setups on the same car. Only disadvantage I see is additional weight but maybe the future will bring lighter and more refined air suspension systems.
At 250 kph top speed (still without 300 kph speed raise), the E55 feels very stable and very safe. No doubt, this car can do 300 kph without any problem.
My wife's SLK 32 AMG feels pretty strange at 250 but the E55 feels like a rock.
Sometimes I couldn't believe I'm driving 250 kph and even my wife was impressed.
Surprisingly, you can even discuss with your passengers or hear music when driving at 250 kph. No such thing on my former 996 Turbo.

The new SBC brake has been discussed on many internet forums.
Some people like it, some not. I didn't decide yet but I tend to dislike it because it provides a strange (I'd say artificial) brake feel at lower speeds and needs a firm foot on higher speeds. Maybe Mercedes updates the software of the SBC with a better version but the one I got on my E55 is definetely not the best one.
Brake performance is very good but brake feel isn't what I expected from the SBC and a high power limousine like the E55. The SBC definetely needs a lot of improvement and I hope that the SBC is at least safe.

Steering feels better than I thought but it moves too light.
It is pretty direct to my surprise but the steering wheel moves too easy, something which could be corrected by adjusting the power steering setup.
I also had the impression that the steering wheel moves easier as soon as I switch the suspension from Sport setting 2 to automatic setting and vice versa but maybe this is just a false impression.
The steering wheel itself is too thin, it should be slightly more thick to provide a better grip for the hands.

Final conclusion
Mercedes AMG has created a great high power limousine which suprisingly provides a lot of fun. The build quality is impressive, the car itself and it's design looks classy.
The engine power is impressive too, it is as fast as a 996 Turbo and provides space for 5 passengers and a pretty large trunk for luggage.

However there are a few things which I don't like:
1. steering wheel too thin
2. shift buttons behind steering wheel (M mode) pretty useless
3. at low speeds, the Speedshift shifts into 3rd gear
4. the ESP is too intrusive sometimes, especially from standstill
5. seat control buttons (massage, dynamic function, etc.) should have been placed somewhere else
6. fuel consumption incredibly high, higher than on my 543 HP 996 Turbo
7. rims look too small such a huge car (19'' rims would have been more appropiate)
8. tire size seems to be a compromise between comfort and sportiness (255s front and 285s rear might have provided much more fun)
9. exhaust sound should be slightly louder, especially at lower speeds

Overall I can really recommend the E55 if you need a fast and classy car for you and your family. If you're single, there are more sporty and less heavy alternatives. For daddy, his wife and his two kids, the E55 is just the perfect compromise.
It is a pitty however that Mercedes wasn't able to keep the weight of the E55 below 1700 kg. BMW will surely make a point here with their new M5, how ugly it may be.