Cape Town - It’s no secret that the E Class occupies a special place in the hallowed halls of Stuttgart.
After all it was this range and its predecessors that over the years established Daimler-Benz’s credentials as the maker of highly desirable luxury cars.
Small wonder then that the latest W213 – the tenth generation business sedan from Sindelfingen – is quite extraordinary in terms of technical innovations; presenting a new dimension in driver assistance.
The new model will arrive in South Africa in May 2016.
Lineage of E-minence
With its latest offering in the lineage of E-minence Mercedes is taking a big step into the future of motoring to enable comfortable, safe driving on a whole new level.
This latest model sporting the three-pointed star takes another major step towards fully autonomous driving, while also enhancing efficiency, safety and comfort, reducing the stress level when driving.
Limited autonomous driving
The highlight of the new E-Class is its optional Driver Assistance package, making it the most intelligent sedan in its class.
But what is it like to rely on a car’s electronic systems to guide you along the highway at 120km/h (and at speeds of up to 210km/h on German autobahns)?
Well, if you have trust issues this may not be for you, and at first it feels quite weird.
Drive Pilot represents Stuttgart’s next step along the road to autonomous driving, and now, in conjunction with Distance Pilot Distronic, the new E-Class is not only able to automatically keep the correct distance behind vehicles in front; it can also follow them at high speeds.
To engage the system, pull the control lever twice, look out for the little steering wheel icon on the digital display flashing green, keep your hands and feet off the steering wheel, pedals and control buttons and then well, uhm, just relax...
The car now controls the steering (with steering assistance from Steering Pilot), braking and acceleration, and in combination with Comand Online the Speed Limit Pilot sub-function autonomously adjusts the speed in response to camera-detected or navigation logged speed limits.
Not only will it allow you to travel safely in one lane, the radar- and camera-based Additional Active Lane-change Assistant will now allow you to change lanes. And overtake...
Activate the turn indicator for at least two seconds and wait for the Active Lane-change Assistant to assist with steering into the adjacent lane, obviously only when it detects the lane is unoccupied.
Best of all is the system really works well – even when lane lines are unclear or non-existent, and also in traffic jams or heavy congestion (it’s not always happy at slow speeds, and works best at over 80km/h).
It also works at night. However, steering input in corners is quite jerky – most likely because it then relies heavily on GPS info, and doesn’t always accurately “follow” the road.
While autonomous, the system as a safety precaution requires the driver to put his hands on the wheel at regular intervals.
If he/she doesn’t respond to this a warning graphic will be displayed, followed by audible warnings increasing in intensity. If still no response the system will safely bring the vehicle to a standstill and activate the emergency lights.
Other advanced systems
Besides Drive Pilot (incidentally, Mercedes could contemplate making the system activation signs bigger and more visible) the new W213 bristles with related advanced systems.
Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function - This system now has extended speed thresholds with respect to vehicles and pedestrians, it can detect crossing traffic at junctions and, if the driver fails to respond, apply the brakes autonomously.
It can now also detect hazardous situations at the tail end of traffic jams and initiate autonomous braking far sooner in such situations. Consequently, it is possible to completely avoid accidents at speeds up to 100 km/h or at least reduce the severity of such accidents.
Evasive Steering Assist: This new system ideally complements the pedestrian detection function of Active Brake Assist. When the driver performs an evasive manoeuvre, this function can assist by adding precisely calculated steering torque to support the steering movement.
In Stuttgart they think of everything…
New features in the new E-Class also include Remote Parking Pilot; for this first time allowing the vehicle to drive into and out of garages and parking spaces remotely by using a smartphone app.
With its improved Car-to-X mobile phone-supported information system information can now be exchanged with other vehicles further up the road, allowing early warning so the driver can now "see around corners" or "through obstacles" well in advance.
Powerful coupé-esque styling
The latest rendition of the 'E' is unmistakably Mercedes-Benz and styling wise doesn’t look that much different from its W212 predecessor, relieved from its characteristic E-Class double headlights when facelifted in 2012.
The elongated bonnet coupled with a coupé-esque roof, extended vehicle body, long wheelbase, short overhangs and large wheels creates a dynamic and striking silhouette – combining a good mix of S-Class and C-Class ques.
Compared with its predecessor, the new model’s wheelbase length has grown by 65mm, overall length by 43mm, its front track is wider by 20mm and at the rear it is wider by 7mm.
It’s slightly narrower (by 2mm) and lower (3mm), and has class-leading aerodynamics with a record-breaking drag coefficient of 0.23 Cd.
Different front end designs distinguishes the model status, with the base and Exclusive Line versions featuring the classic Merc grille with the star on the bonnet, while the Avantgarde and AMG Line models are identifiable by the sports radiator grille with a large Mercedes star as its centerpiece.
A characteristic element is the new headlights with a double eyebrow reinterpretation of the daytime running lights.
The basic E-Class comes with H7 LED headlights, while static high performance lamps and Multibeam LED headlights, each with 84 individually controlled LEDs, are optionally available.
These automatically illuminate the road with unsurpassed precision-controlled distribution of light – without dazzling other road users.
All functions of this Intelligent Light System in low-beam and high-beam mode can furthermore be depicted purely digitally including, as a world first, a purely electronically implemented active light function.
At the rear, single-piece tail lights with a two-bar design clearly identify the newcomer and optionally available rear lights with a specially configured surface structure, making its debut on the E-Class, creates a most interesting “stardust effect” reminiscent of the Milky Way or the glow of a jet engine.
Interior: emotion and intelligence
All the launch cars were equipped with Merc’s optional next-generation hi-res displays – two screens of 12.3 inches that visually conflate into a wide-screen cockpit that seems to hover in thin air.
As the instrument cluster, this wide-screen cockpit (with great graphics, one must add) contains a large display with virtual instruments in front of the driver, as well as a central display above the centre console. Three different instrument style selections – Classic, Sport and Progressive - are available.
Also new is touch-sensitive control buttons ('Touch Controls') on the steering that is operated by finger swipes – like on a Blackberry smartphone interface.
A touchpad with controller in the centre console, which can even recognise handwriting and the Linguatronic voice control system, provides further controls for the infotainment system.
High-quality materials, including open-pore woods, inlaid woods and a novel metal fabric, define the interior style. The look and feel is created through good craftsmanship, while numerous material and colour compositions allow for a variety of personalised interior designs.
Interior lighting makes exclusive use of LED tech, including the enhanced ambient lighting with 64 colours, offering a host of possibilities with touches of light to different trim parts, even the overhead console and tweeter speakers (when equipped with the Burmester 3D surround sound system).
Force-fed engine line-up
As reported by Wheels24 earlier in March 2016, the E-Class models earmarked for local introduction in May will initially be available with a choice of two force-fed petrol and diesel engines:
The entry petrol E200 is powered by a 2-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine delivering 135kW and 300Nm of torque, with a quoted fuel consumption of 5.9 litres/100km and CO2 figure of 132 g/km.
The second petrol model is the E400 4Matic due in the fourth quarter of this year whose six-cylinder petrol engine has an output of 245kW and maximum torque of 480Nm.
The new E220d’s four-cylinder diesel unit marks the birth of a new Mercedes-Benz engine family.
Despite having a lower displacement (1950cc) than its predecessor the new mill produces 143kW/400Nm of torque, and delivers a combined consumption of just 3.9 litres/100km, equating to CO2 emissions of 102 g/km, according to Mercedes.
Further model variants will later be added, including the E350e plug-in hybrid (only coming to SA in 2018) that can do around 30km on purely electric power. Its four-cylinder petrol engine, in conjunction with a powerful electric motor, gives a total system output of 210kW and system torque of 550Nm.
The E350d, the most powerful diesel variant, has a six-cylinder engine with advanced SCR exhaust technology, for an output of 190kW and peak torque of 620Nm. Merc claims it sprints from 0-100km/h in 5.9 seconds and has an average fuel consumption of 5.1 litre/100km.
Further variants will later complete the engine range, and this will inevitably include AMG Line and Mercedes AMG models...
On the road... and track
What immediately struck me on the test route around Lisbon was the whisper quiet cabin of the new E and as its super smooth ride quality.
Equipped with the optional Air Body Control multi-chamber air suspension – it’s the only vehicle in its segment to offer this – the Merc simply wafted over the undulations and glided over broken road surfaces.
It also features all-round self-levelling that automatically lowers the vehicle depending on speed to reduce fuel consumption. Ground clearance can also be increased at the push of a button using the ride height adjustment switch.
Dynamic Select enables you to select from four modes – Comfort, Eco, Sport and Sport+ – while the additional Individual option allow you to configure the vehicle to suit your own preferences.
I found the Individual setting, with the suspension and engine in Sport mode, but the steering in Normal (in Sport it feels too heavy for normal driving), the best option in all derivatives.
The performance of the new lighter, shorter and more compact OM654 diesel in the E220d was an eye-opener. Coupled to the super smooth nine-speed 9G-Tronic auto transmission (standard in all models) the small, yet torquey, oil burner delivered power smoothly and quietly – and was my favourite of the available model mix.
The E200 was a bit more audible at high revs, and felt short of breath compared to its diesel sibling, while the muscular, yet relaxed, E350d will probably become the highway cruiser of choice.
We also had the opportunity to try out the powerful 245kW E400 4Matic, with 15mm lower Avantgarde suspension, around the quite tight and technical Estoril circuit.
It felt nimble and agile in the flowing turns, belying its size, with quite crisp turn-in and predictable cornering behaviour, and in Sport+ settings its power delivery was potent, yet smooth.
The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class again set standards in terms of technical innovations, and takes comfortable, safe driving, as well as efficiency within its segment to new levels. We can’t wait to see how this intelligent luxury sedan will fare on South African roads.
E 200 - R707 100
E 220d - R759 100
E 350d - R946 300
As with all Mercedes-Benz passenger cars the new E-Class come standard with a six-years or 100 000km maintenance plan.