Road test: Mercedes-Benz E-Class is looking ultra fit
IF 30 is the new 20, and 40 is the new 30, what does that make the more youthful-looking E-Class?
A "D-Class" might be a tough sell, but Mercedes-Benz should have no difficulty moving the new range of mid-size saloons and wagons.
Following customer demand and reflecting society's quest for a rejuvenated and healthy skin no matter what age, Mercedes has given its E-Class range a sporting makeover.
Highlighting the youthful exuberance is the fact you can no longer get the three-pointed star ornament on the hood. Nope, it's the modern emblem embedded in the grille, a design style which the company calls "Avantgarde".
The seven-vehicle range starts from $79,900, and tops out with the power-packed E63 AMG at $249,000. Gone from the line-up is the E500 V8, replaced by a six-cylinder bi-turbo called an E400.
While the entry-level price is similar to the previous variant the new E-Class gains more kit and more efficient powerplants across the line-up. Mercedes estimates that taking improved features into consideration, it has improved the customer value of the cars by between $7000 and $20,000.
Four models are currently available, with the hybrid E320 BlueTec (which will be Australia's most fuel efficient large car) arrives in July, while the E400 and E63 touch down in September.
Crisp legibility and sophisticated but easy to use operations are the hallmark of the E-Class.
While it's typically regimented in set-up, finding controls for the dual zone air-con, fan and stereo take little analysis.
The cruise control stalk has been moved below the indicator but it remains one of the easiest systems on the market to use.
In E200 and E220 guise the layout is more basic with no leather-trimmed dash and you also have to make do with man-made leather seat trim.
Ash wood trim inserts on the doors and dash raise the bar and give the cabin a contemporary prestige feel. Things get plusher in the E250 with real leather although you don't feel like you're slumming it in the base model.
Four adults can be carried in the lap of luxury, three across the back seat is pushing things with centre leg room impeded by the drive shaft.
On the road
While not a sports car, the E-Class can masquerade as a performance machine.
Even the base model turbocharged four-cylinder in happy to get up and boogie with a reasonably punchy response.
We sampled three engine variants and all performed admirably, the chassis felt taut and when pushed the E-Class hunkers down in the bends for flat cornering. Bumps and lumps failed to upset the ride quality.
The seven-speed automatic is intuitive, and when you stamp your right foot it will happily let you rev to the redline accompanied by snappy and timely changes. Rarely would there be a need to make use of the paddle shifters for manual-style control.
Our choice would be the petrol E250. It has a creamy power delivery and while the diesel offers more torque it's not head and shoulders above to warrant the extra outlay or deal with the grimy pumps when filling up.
What do you get?
Safety is one of the key improvers, with more radars and cameras used to help a suite of systems that are aimed to help Mercedes one day achieve a virtually crash-proof vehicle.
Standard gear includes Attention Assist which lets the driver know to take a break if it detects signs of drowsiness, 11 airbags, blind spot assist, a range of collision prevention or warning functions, as well as the modern day givens like stability control and anti-lock brakes.
Up-spec models have radar cruise control with a function that will keep the car in the centre of its lane as well as an ability to completely stop the car at speeds less than 40kmh if a pedestrian is detected.
Other complimentary items include a slick three-spoke sports steering wheel, 17-inch alloys, automatic reverse (it can also take you out again) and 90 degree parking, 17.8cm colour display with sat nav, a 10GB music database, Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming as well as an ability to connect to the internet using the iPhone 5 and Android smartphones.
Storage space is excellent through the centre console courtesy of the gear shifter being mounted on the stalk.
There are dual cup holders, a large console and ample spots for your phones and other items.
None of the four current engine offerings are thirsty… the worst is averaging 6.4 litres/100km, that's outstanding for a mid-size car.
Up until July 31 customers who pre-order can take advantage of the $2100 service pack which looks after the annual maintenance for three years. It rises $600 from August.
An assured value deal is also available so buyers can upgrade in three years to the latest without losing too much coin.
With space for four and excellent storage options, there is plenty of common sense about this luxury offering.
The rear seats have a 60-40 split-fold function and the seatbacks drop at the pull of a lever in the boot.
Those wanting more flexibility can opt for the estate which also comes with two rearward facing pop-up pews for seven-seat flexibility.
New E-Classes can be spotted via the Avantgarde grille, new single headlamp lens, and a different shaped rear bumper with chrome strip.
We could be easily enticed to add the AMG kit ($7800 on E200/E220 and $5700 on E250s/E250/E400) for bigger alloys and cool body skirts for extra bling.
What matters most
The good stuff: Impressive powertrain line-up, chic looks, interior design.
What we'd like to see: Foot operated park brake banished, frontward facing third row of seats in the estate.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is at 25,000km or annually, capped price package available for three years.
Mercedes really is on top of its game. Some may not like the new modern styling, but it gives the saloon and estate an improved presence and contemporary feel.
The mid-sizer is actually quite dynamic especially in E250 diesel and petrol derivatives.
Model: Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Details: Luxury four-door rear-wheel drive saloon or five-door wagon.
Engines: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 135kW and peak torque of 300Nm; 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol 155kW and 350Nm; 2.1-litre two-stage turbo diesel 125kW and 400Nm; 2.1-litre two-stage turbo diesel 150kW and 500Nm.
Consumption: Petrols 6.4 litres/100km; Diesels 4.9L/100km (combined average).
CO2: Petrols 148g/km; E220 CDI 133g/km; E250 CDI 129g/km.
Bottom line: E200 $79,900; E250 $96,400; E220 CDI $82,400; E250 CDI $98,900.