Motoring – Mercedes-Benz E-Class flaunts cosmetic 'tweaks'

2013-06-30 14:00

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Merc’s flagship cars enjoy across-the-board styling improvements and mechanical updates that offer a glimpse into the future

OK. So what to do, then, if mum wants to watch the Oprah Winfrey Show on TV but dad insists on the latest clash between Kaizer Chiefs and Orlando Pirates?

Well, it’s easy. Come to a compromise and watch Loyiso Gola. That’s good fun all around.

The only problem is Loyiso’s time slots won’t solve the Oprah versus soccer clash. So, the answer, really, is to have two different TVs.

Which is exactly what Mercedes-Benz’s latest version of the E-Class will give you. It’s not an entirely new E-Class. Rather, it’s a face-lifted model.

As the trade calls it, it’s a midlife refreshment in terms of small styling improvements and mechanical updates, which normally appear three and a half years into the life cycle of any given model.

But before we analyse styling and mechanical issues, let’s just complete the first thought: the face-lifted E-Class offers split-screen functionality, which means the driver will get all the info he or she needs on the infotainment screen – like satnav maps, routes and guidance – while passengers can watch their favourite Will Smith or Denzel Washington DVD at the same time, on the same screen.

There is obviously some trick technology involved, but don’t see it as the exception to the rule. The refreshed E-Class is crammed with trick technology.

It is, for instance, the only car in its class to offer LED headlights as standard. LED, by the way, is short for light-emitting diode, an advanced form of lighting.

Is all this talk about LED headlights too technical for you?

Don’t worry. The E-Class is a peek, in its entirety, into the far-off future.

But instead of doing it through the four-eyed version of the current car, the new car has returned to two single-lensed headlamps.

This is undoubtedly the single most important styling revision, especially in terms of giving the car a friendlier and more accessible look instead of the austere, technological face of the model being replaced.

Buyers also have the choice between two grille designs: Elegance versions of the new E-Class have the traditional Benz star on the bonnet, while sportier Avantgarde models carry the star in the centre of the grille.

But Merc have reserved the biggest changes on face-lifted models for what’s hidden under the bonnet.

The range starts off with the E200, which is driven by a 2.0?litre, 4 cylinder (135kW, 300Nm) engine; followed by two E250 versions: a petrol (155?kW, 350?Nm) and a diesel (150?kW, 500?Nm).

But don’t think the E250 petrol is a 2.5?litre. It isn’t. Like the E200, the E250 is driven by a 2.0?litre, 4?cylinder engine, but with a stronger turbocharger.

One step up from the E250 CDI on the diesel front is the E350 BlueTec, a V6 diesel model (185kW, 620Nm) driven by 3.0?litre capacity (and not 3.5) engine, while the E300 BlueTec Hybrid uses the same 4?cylinder motor as the E250 CDI (150kW, 500Nm), but mated to an electric motor (20kW, 250Nm) for startling consumption figures of 4.1?litres/100km and emissions of only 107g of CO2/km.

Last on the list of 6?cylinders is the E400, driven by a 3.0?litre, V6 engine with twin turbos (245kW, 380Nm).

And then we move into the big leagues, which dad should only be too happy with if he’s not allowed to watch Premier League soccer. We’re talking V8 country now, and for 70 grand less than a million, you can buy the E500, powered by a twin-turbo 4.6?litre V8 (300kW, 600Nm) that will sling you from standstill to 100km/h in less than five seconds.

Not satisfied with this? Well, for just short of R1.3?million and R1.4?million, you can go for the E63 AMG (386kW, 700Nm) or E63 AMG S (410kW, 720Nm) – the kind of power from a 5.5?litre twin-turbo V8 engine that will thrash the 0-100km/h run in 4.2 seconds and 4.1 seconds, respectively.

It is the way this car handles, though, that elevates the refreshed E-Class to a new level of competence – something that can be said of the overall range.

Merc has jacked up the front suspension bushings on all new E-Classes, thus gaining in handling without losing anything in ride comfort, while air springs on the V8 models will be another technological marvel to keep mum happy and unflustered while she’s watching reruns of Oprah on the new split screen.

Real peace of mind, though, will be provided by 10 new safety systems, among them an optional driving assistance plus package (R25?300), which includes pre-safe, distronic plus, active blind spot assist, active lane-keeping assist, rear-end collision warning, brake intervention for pedestrian safety, and more.

Technologically advanced?

We warned you.

»?Pricing for the refreshed E-Class range starts at R541?000 and ends at R1.4?million, with the Estate, Coupe and Cabriolet ranges all capped at less than R?1?million

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