- Published: Wednesday, 09 March 2016 08:57
Estoril, Portugal -
The new E-Class is packed full of tech that almost lets the car drive itself, if you choose.
It’s all fun roving around the countryside around Lisbon and famous coastal lookout Cascais with the press of a button when lazy, then grabbing the wheel with both hands (figuratively, since the Pilot system requires you to do so) when the road becomes interesting.
For now though, there’s isn’t much news on the sharper end of the E-Class stick just yet. Judging from the other ‘E’ segment models like the 2016-launched-in-Singapore GLE and GLE Coupe, the E-Class could get the ‘500’ V8 twin-turbo, or it might not. An E-Class with the GLE Coupe 450 AMG’s 367bhp V6 engine would be more than quick enough, but then again, unlike the C-Class, we’re talking a buying segment that makes a non-AMG V8 feasible.
At launch, the top model on hand was the E 400 4MATIC which for now holds the title of sportiest E-Class. It packs the ‘400’ V6 engine - twin-turbo, 3.0-litre and 333bhp - and the test car came with AMG Line touches (hence the aggressive body kit and menacing matte grey paint). It also has the sporty suspension option ‘Dynamic Body Control’ which is a non-air, active damper setup that’s 15mm lower than standard, in addition to firmer tuning.
Out on public roads, compared to its siblings, the E 400 puts the power down in a more direct, linear fashion. There’s more of a high-strung (slightly) purr than the easy-going ‘burrrp and go’ diesels that seem to generate momentum so effortlessly. The V6 here feels like it’s working, which is exactly what a enthusiastic driver wants.
One positive point was that leaving gear selection to the nine-speed automatic gearbox was smooth sailing. Previously, the 9G Tronic gearbox in the GLC and GLE Coupe felt confused at times - as if it didn’t know which gear to settle in - but we surmised that the issue would go away with ‘bed in’ time and software tweaks from Mercedes. That seems to be the case with the E-Class, since the gearbox is standard in all models, and we didn’t notice any lurches or mis-steps this time around.
Estoril circuit is a balanced collection of fast, medium and slow speed turns - in fact it’s not particularly quick overall - but that gave us the chance to see how the E 400’s natural balance is.
There’s more body control than the air suspension equipped units, though only marginally less comfort, and the only thing we missed was the ability to raise the car when going over bumps.
That wasn’t a worry on Estoril with the E 400 displaying lots of grip, despite the cold temperatures and some dampness on track. Being a big sedan, it didn’t feel particularly nose-sharp, especially in the slower bits, but the 4MATIC and plentiful torque meant it was easy to build lots of speed booting out of slow corners.
It was a pity there wasn’t more intruiging ‘go-faster’ W213’s at launch, but the E 400 shows that there’s a strong base for all but confirmed V8 models.
Mercedes-Benz E 400
Engine 2,996cc, 24V, V6, twin turbo
Power 333bhp at unknown rpm
Torque 480Nm at unknown rpm
Gearbox 9-speed automatic
Top Speed 250km/h
0-100kmh 5.3 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.7L/100km
Availability Q3 2016