It’s the fifth generation of the car Mercedes bigwigs acknowledge as the heart of the company. No pressure here, then. Although it looks very much like a larger C-Class or smaller S-Class, worryingly so depending on your point of view, the latest E-Class is a stellar technological statement.
It’s also bigger and roomier than the previous model, but uses high-strength steel and aluminium in its structure to reduce weight. The big-selling axis of the range, the 220d, also gets a radical new all-alloy four-cylinder diesel engine, the upshot being a car that weighs 100kg less than the model it replaces. There’s also a 350d, with further versions to come.
STYLING AND DESIGN ;
As suggested by the numerous spy shots we received throughout 2015, the new E-Class can be described as either a larger C-Class or a smaller S-Class. The front and rear fascia are similar if you ignore the proportions, while the profile features pretty much the same swooping roofline, muscular beltline, and similar character lines.
Upon closer inspection, though, plenty of details that make it stand out can be spotted. Up front, the headlamps have a different cluster, even though they feature the trademark LED stripe toward the hood. The A-shaped bumper, now available on almost any model, is also slightly different. Of course, many of the details will change depending on the trim level.
Around back, the shape and size of the taillights differ only slightly from its siblings. The cluster, on the other hand, is similar to the C-Class, having a three-tier configuration with the reverse lights at the bottom. More differences can be spotted in the shape of the trunk lid and the chrome trim above the license plate, as well as in the bumper. The apron is arguably the only thing that is significantly different than that of the C-Class and S-Class.
When viewing the E-Class from the side it becomes quite obvious that Mercedes aimed for a more cohesive design for its sedan lineup. Here, however, the E-Class is more similar to the C-Class than the S-Class, as both the front and the rear fascia are raked at almost identical angles. The roofline is also nearly identical, but the C-pillar is thicker, the rear doors longer, and the rear windscreen has a sportier angle. What sets the E-Class apart is its upper character line. While on the C-Class and S-Class it runs underneath the front door handles and goes down even further toward the rear fenders, on the E-Class it runs through both door handles and remains almost parallel with the beltline toward the taillights. Also, the lower character line, although identical as far as orientation goes, is more subtle. These two features make the E-Class seem less bulky than its siblings and give it a more elegant appearance.
COMFORT AND SPACE ;
Willkommen, the E-Class’ fantastic cabin invites you in. Although changes are not a world apart, the interiors of the E-Class are top-notch and you can bask in the sense of luxury. Built quality is tank like and the light colours along with the front and rear panoramic roofs make the cabin very airy. While the dashboard remains the same, out go the wood inserts, being replaced with silver and chrome bits. The centre AC vents are smaller with an analogue clock sitting right between them (instead of the hazard button which now shifts down). The old car had the clock in the instrument cluster which had five rings, the new one has only three and thus the cluster is not confusing to read on the move. The multi-information display shows vital data with interesting colours, like the Eco Display which gathers data about how long you have been accelerating or coasting.
The launch edition gets some extra bits and is offered in limited numbers. You get a 3-spoke AMG steering wheel while the regular model will be offered with a 4-spoke unit. The E-Class being a Mercedes is loaded to the gill and you get a plethora of unending features including ambient lighting with 5 stage intensity control, electric sunblinds, reversing camera with front and rear parking sensors (PARKTRONIC in Mercedes speak), 3-zone automatic climate control, electrically adjustable seats with lumbar support, programmable 3 way memory for steering and mirrors, rain sensing intermittent wipers, adaptive main beam assist, brake pad wear indicator, etc. You get the usual Mercedes safety tech too like front, side, pelvis and curtain airbags, PRE-SAFE, NECK-PRO, etc. The E-Class gets an updated infotainment system with higher resolution 5.8-inch screen offering navigation capabilities. Two additional buttons have been added near the COMMAND controller which turn on and turn off the screen.
There are abundant storage spaces inside including front and rear arm rests (opens to reveal cupholders). The front seats are extremely supportive and so are the rear. While headroom is good at all places, the rear seat is simply fantastic (for two as the transmission hump is very big) in terms of legroom and cushioning is spot-on with ample back support. However you can’t control the audio system or the front co-passenger seat from the rear (like in the Jaguar XF) which means you will have to adjust the position of the front seat before you start getting chauffeured around. Four AC vents at the rear keeps matters cool (two in the centre and one each on the pillar). The boot is ample in size with a space saver and battery sitting below it.
ENGINE AND PERFORMANCE ;
This is where the E-Class gets its 220d badge. This is an all new four-cylinder engine which replaces the 2.1 block that powered the previous E-Class. This engine produces 194bhp@3800rpm and 400Nm@1600rpm. Power is sent to the rear wheels via a nine-speed AT. The newness of the engine shows in its levels of refinement. While the old mill had a bit of vibration and gave out that typical diesel clatter, this one is a lot more refined and quieter, especially on the go.
Gas the throttle and you get a linear surge of torque available just past the 1600rpm mark. Keep going and you will be into the three digit speeds much faster than you expected. In fact, for what is essentially a five-metre long luxury sedan, it is deceivingly quick and this is aided by the excellent NVH insulation which filters out most external noises and to a certain extent, numbs you to the sensation of speed.
This linear surge is no doubt aided by the nine-speed box which shifts smoothly and works without hesitation to keep the engine going in the torque band. It is not as sporty as the units found in its rivals, but then again, sportiness was never high on the E-Class’ priority list and this box works just fine for everyday driving. Our testing data revealed that the E-Class dusted the 100kmph sprint in 7.81 seconds which is impressive for such a large vehicle with a four-cylinder engine.
This E-Class gets a regular suspension with steel springs as compared to the 350d’s air suspension. But this is hardly an issue as this one works just fine. It gives the E-Class the ability to smoothly glide along on the road, absorbing bumps and imperfections like they were small rumble strips and in fact you would have to drop the car into something pretty hard to really feel and hear it in the cabin. The setup may be oriented towards comfort, but the car still handles decently at speed although that’s a relative term due to its size and weight.
RIDE AND HANDLING ;
The E 350d is offered with air-suspension for all four wheels and this multi-chamber system delivers quite an impressive experience. The ride quality is also helped by Mercedes India’s decision to use 17” rims instead of 18” or 19” wheels, as the taller sidewall helps improve comfort while reducing chances of tyre failure.At low speeds, bumps and potholes seem to just vanish when in Comfort mode. But, drive just a bit faster and there is a notable amount of up-and-down movement which feels troublesome. In Sport mode the suspension firms up such that there is less body movement without compromising comfort distinctly, and as such would be the ideal mode to cover long distances in. In Sport+ the ride is much firmer, such that you can feel the tarmac’s unevenness clearly. While the E feels tidier in the sportier modes, the sense of its length and weight when hustled through corners reduces, but doesn’t disappear. As you dial up the modes the steering weighs up and the gearbox becomes more eager. When driven fast through bends, the E-Class is surprisingly neat for a car of this size, but it isn’t much fun. For poor road conditions, the air-suspension equipped diesel also has a Lift mode to increase ground clearance by 15mm.
Standard safety features for all 2017 Mercedes E-Class models include antilock brakes, stability and traction control, a driver drowsiness monitor, front-seat side airbags, front pelvic airbags, side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag, and the Pre-Safe system that cinches down seat belts, adjusts the front passenger seat and closes windows when a collision is imminent. Also included is Mbrace telematics system, offering smartphone integration and web-based apps that include remote controls, driver monitoring and emergency services. The convertible additionally features automatically deploying rollover hoops.
Mercedes-Benz also has some unique features for the redesigned E-Class, such as a new communication system that networks with other Mercedes vehicles to alert nearby drivers of possible hazards. A Pre-Safe Sound system is also included and reduces hearing damage by emitting a specific noise before a collision that triggers a muscle reflex in the inner ear to reduce hearing damage. An optional Pre-Safe Impulse Side system detects impending side impacts and inflates a chamber in the front outboard seat bolsters to move the occupant farther from the door.
Safety options include a rearview or surround-view camera, rear-seat side airbags, forward collision warning and mitigation, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, active or passive blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and automated parking systems. The Pre-Safe Plus option protects passengers in a similar fashion as the standard Pre-Safe system but is activated by impeding rear collisions. It also applies the brakes to prevent secondary collisions.
People who drop Rs 50 lakh on a car know exactly what they want out of it. In the current class, the Jag XF provides the style. Enthusiasts drool over the BMW 5-series. Technological converts hanker after the Audi A6. Even the bargain hunters have their choice in the Volvo S80. The E-Class sticks to what it does best – give the impression of being a tank. It is a throwback to its glory days of the W123/4 when the E really was indestructible. If you want a comfortable executive saloon that you might drive occasionally and that has impeccable engineering, put your hard-earned Rs 45 lakh down on the E250 CDI.