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New Mercedes E-Class driven

2009-06-24 12:32

Hailey Philander

Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Mercedes-Benz
Model E-Class
ABS with brake assist and ESP
Airbags dual front, side and curtain
Front Suspension Three-link suspension, anti-dive, coil springs, gas-pressure shock absorbers, stabiliser
Rear Suspension Multi-link independent suspension, anti-squat and anti-dive, coil springs, gas-filled shock absorbers with electronically controlled infinitely variab
E-Class Coupe gallery
E-Class safety gallery

Mercedes-Benz's E-Class has, in various iterations and with various nomenclatures, been around for more than 60 years and bears testament to Stuttgart's seemingly ironclad reputation of being able to provide the best that German engineers have to offer.

The luxury carmaker has walked a gauntlet of sorts over the past decade or so, being plagued by concerns that the once solid build quality and reliability of its products had been replaced by something a lot more sinister.

And despite selling more than 1.4 million units of the previous E over the past six years, the new car had, in its test phase, been subjected to more than 36 million kilometres of exhaustive testing. That's a whole lot of time to be testing, but Mercedes is convinced this has paid off, reckoning the all-new model is the safest vehicle in its class. But more on that later…

Unlike the latest-generation C-Class, which took an undisguised stab at the younger market (with the abundance of models bearing the Avantgarde package with the attractive three-pointed star inset usually reserved for coupe and SUV models evidence of this) E-Class should appeal to the traditional Mercedes-Benz driver.

There are some classic E elements littered throughout the car, but the most notable of these is the retention of the four-lamp headlamp arrangement that has been given a modern twist with its sharp angles and lines meeting the bonnet shutline and extending up the front fender towards the A-pillar.

The E-Class remains a handsome vehicle, with solid lines and a sharp profile tapering off to a rear end distinguished by burly-looking wheelarches. In contrast to the eye-catching front end, the rear light clusters look rather generic, with lights that could easily have been lifted from the Lexus LS460.

Prettiness perpetuated

Despite this rather uninspired move, at least Mercedes-Benz did not allow the ball to drop as far as the design of its Coupe model goes.

Replacing the very pretty CLK is the new E-Class Coupe which is far and away the sexier, more inviting, of the E twins.

Its coupe roofline swoops dramatically from the A-pillar, across the pillarless B region and down towards the more ample, but also more statuesque, derriere.

And in traditional Mercedes coupe fashion, the grille bears the three-pointed star with three chromed slashes across the face, instantly lending the car's appearance a heightened sense of drama.

De rigueur daytime running lights - either as twin bulbs on the Elegance or LED "hooks" on the Avantgarde and Coupe models - are standard on all models.

However, one does get the feeling that it is not this car's intention to be trendy or fashionable. Once on the road, E-Class is a true executive cruiser. Suspension is weighted heavily towards the comfortable end of the dynamic spectrum and this car's ride quality cannot be faulted.

The car wafts and floats over any annoying road imperfections like a giant marshmallow. It's extremely comfortable, although this does come at the cost of its dynamic appeal. Entertaining.

Even the coupe, which is meant to be the sportier of the two, was decidedly unimpressed by the idea of being shoved hastily through a set of tight bends. Steering was a little too light on turn-in and the rear threatened to lose its grip as lift-off oversteer kicked in. Fun, for sure, although I'm not sure that's quite what Mercedes had in mind for this car.

After all, the Coupe comes standard with an Agility Control suspension with variable shock absorbers. Optionals are the sports suspension and dynamic handling package that allows for changes between sport and comfort modes to adjust the throttle inputs and shift patterns on the standard 7-G Tronic gearbox.

Safe as houses

Now for the safety stuff.

The list of standard and optional safety and comfort equipment is, frankly, meticulous. Standard safety equipment - on both the sedan and coupe models - includes ESP, EBA, ASR, ABS, Neck-Pro active head restraints, dual front, side and curtain airbags.

As for the options, these include the very clever predictive Pre-Safe system that Merc has been using for some time now and makes its way into E-Class in its latest iteration. Working primarily with the ESP system, Pre-Safe gauges when an accident is near inevitable and prepares the cabin for the crash by performing a host of functions including closing the windows and sunroof, and preparing the headrest and seatbacks for impact.

Further additions include Attention Assist that detects when drivers are about to nod off, Adaptive Brake, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Lane Keeping Assist with Blind Spot Assist, Parktronic (although, unlike the self-parking system on the A-Class, it just assists the driver by using a rearward facing camera and issues prompts via a radar-based system.

After building a driver profile, the system recognises movements on steering and indicators and, when reduced movement is detected, issues an audiovisual alert (using the image of a steaming cup of coffee) and suggests a break.

The Adaptive brake system includes a hold function (to maintain brake pressure when pulling off at an incline), a brake drying feature and adaptive brake lights that flash under heavy breaking and activate the hazard lights when an emergency stop is performed over 70 km/h.

Distronic Plus, which is Mercedes-Benz's radar operated cruise control system with the stalk annoyingly positioned above the indicator stalk, has been upgraded too, and the variable system is able to stop the vehicle when an impending collision is detected.

Launch edition

All the safety kit is, of course, very clever even if it is mildly over the top in the greater scheme of things. The desire from any manufacturer to advance safety standards is always commendable, but adding all manner of kit to any car would, as a result, also push the price up rather dramatically.

At launch, the E-Class sedan and Coupe ranges are available with six- and eight-cylinder petrol engines only. The E300 (only on the sedan) and E350 are powered by a common 3.0-litre V6 engine with outputs of 170 kW and 300 Nm, and 200 kW and 350 Nm, respectively. The range-topper, for now, is the E500 using a 5.5-litre V8 with 285 kW and 530 Nm on tap.

All cars come standard with Mercedes-Benz's 7G Tronic gearbox.

From August, two four-cylinder BlueEfficiency models, in the form of the E200 CGI and E250 CDI, join the line-up. A turbodiesel V6 E350 CDI model will be added too. And for the petrolheads, the bahn-storming E63 AMG arrives in South Africa in October. Happy days, old chap.

This E-Class can be kitted to the owner's heart's desire, although, of course, this is then reflected in the car's price. However, if you're an E-Class owner and you're considering an upgrade, we have little doubt that you'd be thrilled by the new product.

It remains a stately Merc, offering enough space to really kick back in a cabin that is so silent, it's eerie. And if you're one of the first 300 buyers, Mercedes-Benz South Africa offers a launch edition E300 with different wheels, a host of additional safety features, the Avantgarde package and a panoramic sunroof.


E300 Sedan R 558 000
E350 Sedan R 634 000
E500 Sedan R 788 000

E350 Coupe R 670 000
E500 Coupe R 820 000

E-Class Coupe gallery

E-Class safety gallery

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