- Published: Monday, 15 August 2016 11:54
The fifth-gen Mercedes-Benz E-Class breaks its mould slightly and can be semi-autonomous, but at a price
We've been under a rock for most of modern history. What's the E-Class about?
As far as ‘traditional’ models go, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class ranks right up there with the Toyota Corolla Altis in terms of regular sales and undiminished popularity through the decades.
It's the sort of car that's recession proof, and even sells relatively well in a time of cholera. I mean, high Certificate of Entitlement (COE) prices. The E-Class, and its strongest rival the BMW 5 Series, rocket to the top in such situations. As recently as 2014 has seen the W212 E-Class dominate Singapore’s best-seller list (5 Series in tow, although it also had a place on the top in 2013), and it was the same case in 1994 when a COE for a big sedan like the E cost in the region of $120,000.
It looks familiar...and big...
You’d be forgiven for walking right past the new W213 E-Class in a parking lot. Shown here is the Exclusive model (one of three variants of the sole E 200 engine choice, as detailed in our launch story) for it looks, drum roll here, just like the current S-Class and C-Class.
The new E is positively huge. It's larger in all dimensions, length, track and wheelbase, but the latter sees the largest increment – 65mm, which gives it theoretically the best legroom in class, and it also nabs boasting rights for being the largest car in its class too. But thanks to new materials in the body and platform, it's competitively lighter - approximately 1,605kg, some 65kg less than a current 520i.
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What's an E-Class like to drive?
In E-Class tradition, stately and/or sedate. Selectable drive modes ('Dynamic Select') lets you choose modes from Eco to Sport+ and also an Individual mode, which changes the drivetrain, steering and suspension. Eco and Comfort see the expect, laid-back E-Class experience. It's refined and comfortable, and you'll find yourself in no hurry, driving slower than you usually will, which is actually quite refreshing.
Sportier drive modes do turn up the fun a little bit. In fact, in all modes, the suspension seems to have a more sporty bias overall – roll and pitch are well controlled, but it is busy over smaller bumps. 184 bhp and 300Nm deliver more than enough thrust for daily use, and the E 200 is actually quite fast in a straight line – not something the lesser engine of a big sedan line-up can typically say.
And we expect the inside is lovely too..
Like the (upper spec) C and standard S-Class models, the test car we drove came with a 'glass cockpit', or two 12.3-inch dual displays that form the centrepiece of the cabin, with the rest of the interior festooned with piano black, wood trim and luxurious leather – in this case, in an attractive shade of mocha brown. Legroom is, as expected, very generous.
Mercedes shows it knows how to marry old (analog clock, chrome and leather) with new (ambient lighting, sharp displays and infotainment) although its COMAND infotainment system is a bit difficult to use – it lags occasionally and the menu system is multi-layered and not as directly simple as BMW's iDrive.
READ MORE: The Lexus GS with turbo power – a fitting rival for an E
What was that about optional equipment?
As detailed in our launch piece the car comes in three flavours – this is the Exclusive model with more leather and bling trim. The test car shown here came with $30,600 of extras which up the experience considerably including the full-featured COMAND online infotainment ($11,200), air suspension ($9,100), the dual 12.3-inch displays ($4,100) and Burmester sound system (also $4,100) among other things.
But if we had that sort of cash to splash we'd make a self-driving E-Class, like the one we tested at the car's debut in Portugal earlier this year. Adding the 'Driving Assistance Package Plus - Pre Safe Impulse Side' for $11,500 and 'Distance Pilot Distronic' for $4,300 lets the E-Class brake, accelerate and steer for you and takes a lot of load off the driver for jams or long-distance jaunts. Cheaper than hiring a full-time chaffeur, too.
Mercedes-Benz E 200 Exclusive
Engine 1,991cc, 16V, inline 4, turbocharged
Power 184bhp at 5500rpm
Torque 300Nm at 1200-4000rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 240 km/h
0-100kmh 7.7 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.6L/100km
CO2 149 g/km
Price $277,800 with COE