By Miles Downard
There’s no doubting that the Mercedes E Class is the heart of the company’s range. In fact I’d even go so far as to say the E is an iconic car. Accordingly Mercedes puts a huge amount of emphasis on making it all that and more, something that’s achieved by making a serious luxury and technology statement. So, can the new one deliver on such high standards?
On the outside
Whether you think it looks like a grown up C or a baby S Class one things for sure, it blends well into the rest of the range. I think the new E Class carries its dimensions better than most mid-sized premium saloons, not suffering from upscaled-photocopier-syndrome.
This one is of course bigger than the outgoing model and by virtue of that fact it’s roomier inside too, but thanks to use of fancy materials is significantly lighter than before. That means better power to weight and better fuel economy.
On the inside
Well just look at that cabin. Easily the most stylish and dramatic of the mid-sized saloons on the market today. My E250 had a Mercedes’ widescreen cockpit feature that conjoins two 12.3-inch screens to create a seemingly panoramic infotainment system. The dials can all be personalised with an array of different information based on your preferences and drive mode. On the steering wheel you’ll find touch sensitive bi-directional pads to toggle through menus, making things less cluttered. And so the list goes on (check out Merc’s car configurator for details).
Regarding all those everyday things that matter – like space, intuitive controls and quality of materials – the E Class gets it just right. The seats require special mention because they are quite marvelous, with almost infinite adjustment, allowing for good support and comfort.
Read also: Mercedes C Coupe, instantly thrilling?
Behind the wheel
The E250 sports the same 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol unit from the C250. It’s good for 155kW and 350 torques, leading to a 6.9 second sprint from 0-100km/h and if driven carefully a claimed 6.3 litres/100km on the economy side. A nine speed automatic ‘box gets power to the wheels. In my books that’s more than enough go for everyday use and the gearbox is smooth and decently responsive.
But now things get interesting because Mercedes has pushed the boat out when it comes to autonomous driving technology. It’s called ‘drive pilot’ and operates with adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, brake assist and a camera that reads road signs. Basically at speeds up to 130km/h the system will follow the car in front, maintaining a set following distance, navigate fairly sharp bends in the road, read speed limit signs and adjust accordingly, stop or assist you to swerve in the case of an emergency and detect crossing traffic at junctions to ensure you’re not about to have an accident. I cannot quite convey how much stress this can relieve, be it while driving in heavy traffic or on the open road. In fact in traffic you can basically leave the car to manage itself, keeping up with traffic and avoiding accidents with very little input.
The one thing I didn’t find particularly nice about the car is that it tends to crash over larger road imperfections. It’s as though it’s very comfortable until it suddenly isn’t, with no in between.
The E250 starts at R766,700. That’s a bit less than a BMW 5 series. Some of the nicer tech costs a bit extra of course, like Drive Pilot at R43,100, or the widescreen cockpit at R15,300 or some super fancy seats and interior trim at R107,800. There’s a 6-year/100 000 km maintenance plan included.
What I like about the E Class over other offerings in the segment is that it doesn’t try throw gimmicky, but ultimately useless technology at the customer. Rather it focusses on being a great car first, then applying technology to make your life easier and less stressful. That’s what makes this E Class stand out in the segment.