Meet the latest version of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class – an executive saloon that sets new benchmarks for interior design and technology.
The E-Class has been at the heart of the Mercedes-Benz range in one form or another for some 60 years – a real workhorse of a car, albeit with a pedigree. However, all that has changed with the 2016 version.
The 10th generation E-Class is a formidable package. It may not seem like it from outside, but even the evolutionary design hides secrets, including a drag coefficient that has improved from 0.25 to a class-leading 0.23.
The car comes with a choice of two diesel engines at launch – a four-cylinder 2.0-litre and a V6 3.0-litre.
I tested the former which is an all-new 195hp 2.0-litre diesel (badged E220d) and is expected to be the biggest seller.
Starting at £35,935, the car is capable of a frugal 72mpg on paper, a top speed of 149mph and CO2 emissions of just 102g/km. All that is impressive enough, but for me it’s the state-of-the-art interior that’s a game-changer.
Go for the optional ‘Comand’ infotainment system, dominated by a widescreen 12.3-inch central screen, then add an optional second 12.3-inch dashboard display and you end up with a stunning sweep of digital splendour that seems to float across the cockpit. Touch-sensitive control buttons on the steering wheel (a first) respond to finger swipes like a smartphone.
Elsewhere, ambient lighting makes use of energy-saving LED technology, offering a choice of 64 colours and adding touches of light to areas such as the door pockets, front and rear footwells and overhead console. The E-class isn’t just a visual treat to behold, it’s also fitted with a glorious Burmester 3D surround sound system with 23 loudspeakers.
Delve deeper and the E-Class is even more cutting edge. In fact, it’s about as close as you can get legally to a fully autonomous car.
It’s capable of steering itself, changing lanes and braking to a complete standstill on a motorway. It will also stop if it detects you are not concentrating and even check both directions at a junction.
It’s so advanced that the change-lane feature is disabled in the UK because our legislation has not caught up with the advances in self-driving technology.
The E-Class also has a party trick. With smartphone in hand and a little finger swirling here and there, it will remotely park itself into the tightest of spaces and autonomously drive out to where you’re standing when it’s time to go.
The driving position is superb and the front seats are comfortable with plenty of adjustment available – there are even heated armrests in the doors and centre console.
Thanks to a longer wheelbase than the outgoing car, there’s limo-like space for rear passengers too, though the transmission tunnel is not subtle. Meanwhile, there’s a mighty 540-litre boot which should be more than enough for the average executive – and a family. If that’s not enough, an estate version will follow in 2017.
Driving the new E-Class is all about cruising in comfort – arguably, the exciting stuff is left to competitors such as the Jaguar XF and BMW 7 Series which are more overtly sporting.
The 9-speed automatic gearbox is as slick as they come, helping the E-Class to 62mph in 7.3 seconds. The steering is light, the ride is smooth and the engine is wonderfully refined, though like all diesels it will make its presence felt under harsh acceleration. There are also a host of driver aids and safety features to add to the sense of overall calm.
Verdict: Beautifully made, economical and bursting with tech, the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is refined, spacious and safe, boasting a game-changing, futuristic cabin. All this comes at a price, so just be careful with the options list which can soon bump up the price from £36,000 to something nearer £45,000…