You may or may not be aware that before 1993 the E in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class stood for Einspritzmotor, which essentially translates into fuel-injection motor, and what’s more, its production dates back to 1953 or if you’re looking to split hairs, technically beyond. Anyway, it’s now in its 5th generation AND had a facelift, so Mercedes-Benz NZ let us take a look.
Sitting just below the top of the line S-Class, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class has traditionally been one of the brand’s more luxurious and robust models, (so much so that it’s been seen all across Europe as a taxi) and its space and refinement had made it a ‘go to’ for the executive that’s climbed many rungs up the corporate ladder. On top of all that, it’s been a brand best seller and a test bed for new technology, the latter part of which comes in the form of a Haptic steering wheel in the latest version – but I digress.
Despite its history and heritage, much of the new E-Class’s latest facelift’s design tweaks have been done to bring the model more in line and in tune with Mercedes’s current brand language.
The bonnet is long and domed and the grille is more subtle without any heavily chromed frame and is more A shaped than V. The headlights have a more horizontal orientation and appear sleeker in design. Same goes with the tail lights, they are split level and inspired by the new A-Class. The rear shoulders seem to have more volume to them, making the tail look more substantial and Mercedes-Benz NZ have made the AMG-line standard so even my lowly E200 came with AMG wheels, AMG body kit and plenty of chrome touches.
The interior is as spacious as expected and hasn’t really had much done to it and why should it, it’s quite a special place. There’s lovely line flow to the dashboard that regresses for the passenger before extending out to the doors. The finishing is upmarket with woods, chromes and piano blacks and the huge ‘one screen’ infotainment and instrument cluster takes up over half the top dash.
Then there’s the new steering wheel. The Mercedes tech department has gone Haptic Happy and replaced any form of dial or tactile button with capacitive style haptics. Everything is still there from before, and possibly even moreso, but now things like volume or setting the adaptive cruise control just takes a glancing swipe or touch. It does require a little more attention at first, especially those of us with more meat on our boney fingers but it does get easier.
The other improvement is the wheel itself, apparently one of the issues with the highly-effective adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assists was that it often didn’t require any steering input from the driver, so those of us that like to just rest our weary hands on the wheel and let the system to its job were often reminded to ‘PUT YOUR HANDS BACK ON THE WHEEL’, well turn it a little at least. Some even went to the effort of attaching drink bottles to the wheel to avoid the interruption… So the new wheel now has capacitors around the whole surface that registers your hand’s impedance – allowing you to just hold the wheel and not be told to ‘PUT YOUR HANDS BACK ON THE WHEEL’. I agree that it’s a bit of a first world problem but it’s these little things that make the E-Class so desirable.
My nigh-on one week with the E200 zoomed by and not necessarily because of the 2L (145kW/320Nm) turbo-charged engine under the domed bonnet. It’s not the fastest in the range that’s for sure but it puts the power down elegantly and has you into treble figures in a shade over seven seconds. It’s actually more efficient than the figures would lead you to believe too, the paperwork suggests 8L/100km but I returned it with well over half a tank despite having been to Hampton Downs and back (amongst other duties).
Above all I felt important, almost to the point of sitting in the back and being driven (did I mention that it’s rather roomy?). The steering feels exact and the ride, even on the open-pore tarmac, is soft and quiet.
Saloons and Sedans may be a bit of an anachronism right now, like wearing a tie to work, but to me, there is something timeless in both and I hope that Mercedes-Benz continue with this E-Class tradition in spite of the increasing demand for SUVs.