Driven to distraction

26 May 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Driven to distraction
Mercedes-Benz E-Class

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First Drive | Madrid, Spain | Mercedes-Benz E-Class |

The E-Class is a core model in the Mercedes-Benz range, the executive saloon selling over 12-million units since its 1947 introduction. With every new edition it has become safer, more efficient and better to drive and the new car boasts excellent economy and emissions performance, a myriad of safety equipment and phenomenal refinement and comfort. It’s also a good drive, some of the driving mojo Mercedes delivered with its C-Class making it through to its larger relative.

In the Metal

The lines of the new E-Class that jarred on the motor show stand and the unveil in Detroit look softer and far more appealing in natural light. It’s a more assertive looking car than before, which retains the familial look of its predecessors thanks to its quad lamp set up and contoured bonnet. The front is perhaps the fussiest aspect, the edgy lights looking a bit contrived; the LED driving lights on the Avantgarde and Sport models even look like an afterthought.

Bold rear wing treatment which apes that of the 1953 ‘Pontoon’ model works particularly well in the metal, the E-Class looking its best from the back and in profile. Inside it’s all similar to the C-Class in layout, though thankfully the designers have done a better job at integrating the main screen into the top of the dashboard. The seats, as ever, offer remarkable support and comfort and the boot is absolutely vast – one option well worth having to stop stuff sliding between the time zones in the gargantuan boot is a slide-and-push-down luggage holder that’s perfect for holding shopping, laptop bags and the like.

What you get for your Money

You get a lot more than you got with the old E-Class in the new car. Mercedes is being quite aggressive with both the pricing and specification to give it the best chance possible in these tougher economic times. All cars come with the new Attention Assist, a driver drowsiness monitoring system, along with the usual luxuries like climate control, Bluetooth connection, heated and electrically adjustable front seats and parking guidance front and rear.

The UK market get three simplified and well specified trim levels – SE, Avantgarde and Sport – with the SE trim only offered on the four-cylinder cars.

Driving it

The E-Class has never matched the dynamic excellence of the BMW 5 Series for serious drivers and that remains the situation with the new car. That’s no complaint though as it rides far better, is more refined and also offers greater comfort. As a long-distance business machine the E-Class is exceptionally competent.

Mercedes has absolutely crammed the E-Class with its latest assistance systems, the E-Class offered with Brake Assist, Pre-Safe, Adaptive brakes, Adaptive headlight Assist, Distronic Plus, ESP, Speed Limit Assist, Intelligent lighting, Night View Assist Plus, Lane Keeping Assist and Blind Spot Assist – along with standard Attention Assist as mentioned earlier.

There’s no arguing with the technology behind the vast amount of safety equipment, but many are a real distraction on the road. The near constant flashing of lights and bonging of warning chimes in traffic and the vibrating of the steering wheel when you cross a white line combined with unnecessary information like the speed limit being displayed after you’ve passed a big red and white sign with it on already is hugely distracting. Thankfully Speed Limit Assist doesn’t currently work in the UK thanks to our different signage, and we’d forget about optioning things like Blind Spot Assist and Lane Keeping Assist too as they simply get in the way of enjoying the E-Class’s impressive driving characteristics.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Refinement is sensational with there being virtually no wind, road or engine noise. The suspension is supple too, giving the E-Class remarkable ride comfort. The steering is rather inert but turn in is crisp enough, the E-Class handling tidily when the roads get twisty.

The majority though will never see an alpine pass and instead will pound out countless miles on motorways where the E-Class really feels at home; it’s about the most comfortable and quietest car we’ve ever driven.

The engine range is hugely impressive too. We’ve sampled three of the units so far: the 220 CDI and 250 CDI turbodiesels and the 350 CGI V6 petrol unit. All are ‘BlueEfficiency’ units, the diesels all offering a remarkable combined consumption figure of 53.3mpg and CO 2 of 139g/km. They’re smooth and revvy too, the 220 CDI’s 170bhp being enough for most, but lacking a touch in mid-range grunt, which is addressed comprehensively by the muscular 250 CDI.

It is so punchy that you could easily be convinced it’s packing at least two more cylinders – it’s an incredibly rounded performer both on the road and for the environment. The petrol engines, smooth and able as they are, lack the CDI’s mid-range muscle, ensuring the diesels remain the obvious choice – diesels make up almost 90 per cent of the outgoing model’s sales.

Worth Noting

Mercedes’s economy and emissions figures for the E-Class are pretty remarkable. With reductions of around 20 per cent over its predecessor, the E-Class (and the diesel models in particular) allows you to drive your executive saloon with a clearer conscience. So important are those CO 2 figures that Mercedes fits the four-cylinder cars with a smaller fuel tank, presumably to reduce the maximum weight when full of fuel – allowing a lower CO 2 figure on the official test cycle.

The headline 139g/km figure for all the four-cylinder diesels will rise if you opt for the automatic, which costs Ј1,458. Eco stop-start models will arrive next year and Mercedes is working on hybrid drivetrains too, which will be introduced during the E-Class’s life.

Summary

A key model in the range, it is hardly surprising that Mercedes has thrown everything it has got behind the E-Class. Much of the technology offered is overkill – and to us to the detriment of the relaxed drive the E-Class offers. An E 250 CDI automatic with the Sport trim – which brings AMG exterior styling – is all the car you could ever need.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Mercedes-Benz E-Class

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