Forewarned that this car would probably be too techy for me, I was apprehensive about trying it out. I’d eyed it up in the garage, noting it was wider than all the cars in the row. The breadth of the E200 sparked the immediate worry of how I was going to get this out the garage without embarrassing myself. Though nerves would never be enough to stop a car fanatic trying out a new Mercedes, especially the long awaited E Class since the 2016 version’s reveal at Detroit Auto Show.
The 4.92 meter-long sedan does have some of the largest seats of its kind, especially the rear seats (74cm long and 144cm wide). This has been taken out of space in the trunk, which has been dropped by 10L for this update. The interior is stunning, and high-tech adjustments can be made all round and saved with the Memory Seat function. The E200 was considered especially for the backseat passengers. Mercedes wanted anyone to be able to work on a laptop in the back seats and this is perfectly doable.
The initial apprehension took root as all the features were explained. In an abnormally large car that is verging on robot autonomy with remote driving and self-parking, a tactile control handle where the gear stick should be, a paddle gear stick where the window wipers should be, and everything adjustable on the wide-screen dashboard, “work it out as you go along and hope for the best,” was clearly not the message with a MX$780,000 (US$45,900) car to test drive. To start the ignition, your smart phone can act as the key, to open and close doors remotely and to set the active parking assist. Unfortunately, only Samsung is compatible and not in every country. This is a small oversight on Mercedes’ part of the 1 billion Apple users in the world. To get going, double-flick the paddle for drive, being careful not to accelerate too excitedly because it’s quick off the mark!
Technology was the unequivocal focus for the designers. New seats and an all-new dashboard design is accompanied by endless gadgets for weeks of fiddling and discovering. The fully adjustable seats are moved with buttons on the doors, no ungainly bending and scrambling under the seat for Merc-drivers. The ambiance lights go through the full rainbow of colors, adjustable with the touch-sensitive gear stick, which does everything except change gears. The wide-screen dash board has three options to change the speedometer display to different styles, and the exterior lights can be adjusted to provide greater visibility, including those below the wing-mirrors.
In spite of many dauntingly modern features, the E200 is a dream to drive. All of the extra features are just that, extra. You can simply get in, pull off and enjoy as the Mercedes careers into the road, eager to show you what it can do. The E200 has a 184bhp gas engine, but is admittedly more expensive than the competition. An Audi A6 1.8 TFSI ultra has 190bhp and the BMW 520i matches the E200’s engine at 184bhp. The average fuel consumption of the Merc is 5.9 l/100 km, which puts it half way between the Audi A6 and the BMW 520i on efficiency. Not that this matters if you’re a die-hard Mercedes fan. The 4-cylinder turbo engine has been upgraded to a 2.0L, which is a step up from the previous version. The new model in no way lacks the get-up-and-go of the previous generation.
The drive is exactly what you would expect from an E Class. It feels soft but holds on tight to body control. The E200 can’t be said to match the dynamism of the BMW 520i, or any of the 5 series but its cornering ability is on the verge of being fantastic. It is less involving to drive than certain competitors but for most roads, any driver would find this vehicle perfectly up to standard, not compromising on comfort nor handling.
The safety features are top-notch. All E Class come with Agility Control and Air Body Control suspension to adapt to bumps and potholes. The update can also autonomously make a decision whether to brake or not on noticing a vehicle approaching from a side road. It can detect a stationary vehicle and slam on the brakes to avoid a crash from 100km/h. Even the safety fanatics at Volvo can’t beat this, having managed the same at up to 50km/h. If this gets your heart racing, the new Mercedes can catch a medical emergency such as a heart attack, and in 60 seconds will bring itself to a calm stop and activate the hazards.
The lights in themselves are impressive. The tail-lights look similar to several Mercedes models, especially sedans. But, again, the technology on board is what really shines. Each 109-LED headlight can be set in Smart Mode, wherein the vehicle will detect when full beam is needed and when to dip the headlights by turning off certain LEDs. This incredibly intelligent trick ensures you don’t blind the driver in front but that their vehicle is surrounded by high-beam illumination. While not unique to the Mercedes, the E Class’ high beam technology has been one of the best in speed and accuracy, thanks to those hundred tiny LEDs. The tail lights have similar reactions to avoid blinding drivers sat in traffic behind you, by dimming the 84 LEDs in the brake lights after the initial warning.
The heating and air conditioning seems a bit sleepy compared to comparable brands, but we are struggling to find the unavoidable downsides to this vehicle. At a stretch we could criticize the plastic Start/Stop button, but these minor details are paled in light of the direct-injection turbocharged engine under the hood. Overtaking is a breeze. Quickly getting the revs up to speed off into the distance is effortless. The quality and design is a cut above the rest and all the advanced technology is a boon, far from over-complicated as first feared. The E Class does everything with style. As any classy car should, the E200 makes driving look smooth and seamless.