2013 MERCEDES-BENZ E-CLASS REVIEW
What’s hot: Premium luxury with serene on-road balance... and a price cut
What’s not: E 200 petrol engine could do with a few more ergs
X-Factor: One among the “finer things in life”; the elegant E-Class defines the premium saloon sector
Vehicle style: Large Luxury Saloon
Price: E 200 Saloon $79,900; E 250 CDI $98,900; E 200 Estate $86,900
Engine/trans: E 200 135kW/300Nm 2.0 turbo petrol; E 250 CDI 125kW/400Nm 2.1 turbo diesel | seven-spd 7G-Tronic Plus
Fuel economy listed: E 200 6.4 l/100km; E 250 CDI 4.9 l/100km
As smooth and comfortable as a velvet slipper - that’s the elegant new Mercedes-Benz E-Class. More to the point, MB Australia has given the range a pricing haircut.
The three models we drove, the E 200, E 250 CDI and E 200 Estate, are exceptional cars.
Quiet, comfortable and supremely balanced on road – if not especially powerful – these are cars for buyers who place a premium on “the finer things”.
Certainly, each in the range looks sharp. Each sits on stylish alloys, twin pipes at the rear, a sleeker profile to the front guards and proud raised grille with prominent star – it’s a better looking beast this new E-Class.
Of course, even with the price drop, premium transport like the E-Class is not for everyone (or we’d all have one in the garage).
But is it good buying? No argument.
While it might be the preserve of the few, the E-Class sets the standard by which others are judged for craftsmanship, engineering and that solid feel of uncompromised quality.
We put the E 200, E 250 CDI (diesel) and E 200 Estate through their paces on a sodden day of soaking rain (you’ll need to excuse the water on the camera lens).
The slippery roads failed to ruffle the effortless grip of these big comfortable saloons, nor dampened the enjoyment at the wheel.
The seats, infinitely variable in the more upmarket models (manually adjusted in the entry E 200), are shaped ‘just right’.
They’re comfortable, padded in all the right places without excessive bolstering, and trimmed in quality ARTICO ‘manufactured’ leather.
There is a snug feel to the interior and an understated restraint that reeks of style and taste.
The instruments and controls are clear, easily navigated and smart. The attractive coloured dial-display under the sporty binnacle is especially neat and appealing.
The multi-media screen display is also crisp, and there is a gentlemen’s-club elegance to the dark polished ash-wood highlights and analogue clock set into the centre of the dash.
The refinement of the drive in all models is enhanced by the solid, cocooned feel to the interior - the rude intrusions of the world banished to ‘somewhere out there’.
I think the Estate might be the quietest wagon I have ever driven. I can’t think of a quieter one; it’s big, cavernous even, but eerily without boom or resonance.
Quiet conversation, or enjoying the clarity and imaging of the premium audio system is just a given. There is little to no wind noise nor shearing of the tyres whatever the road surface (and whatever the speed).
The wagon makes a claim to being a seven seater, but one look at the tiny rearmost backwards-facing row suggests it is not to be taken too seriously.
Good for a run to the junior football, but that’s about it.
Fortunately, it folds flat into the floor (and, no doubt, that’s where it will spend the greater part of its time).
Park those seats, and the rear hatch opens up to expose an enormous wide and deep cargo space. At least a match there for the giant – and similarly priced – Landcruiser 200.
You have to wonder why anyone buys an SUV when you can buy a wagon as smart, as swift, as luxurious and as versatile as this.
The feature and safety list is as long as the Magna Carta.
Standard to the E 200 is a leather multi-function steering wheel, auto dimming rear-view and driver's exterior mirror, reversing camera, cruise control (with variable speed limiter), climate control, dust filter, rain-sensing wipers, stop/start function, remote boot-lid release, paddle shifts and park assist across the range (among a page-long list of additional features).
Merc's COMAND APS Online Multimedia system is also featured, with a 17.8cm display, 10GB music storage, SD memory card slot, Bluetooth and audio streaming, iPhone/USB integration, phone keypad, voice-activated internet browser, and sat nav (with Google street search).
There is also the expected complement of safety features (and then some - it is a Mercedes after all): 11 air-bags, ABS, ESC, attention assist (that interacts with the driver), blind-spot assist, belt tensioners, lane departure warning, collision prevention assist, tyre pressure warning… and the list goes on.
ON THE ROAD
Part-saloon, part executive express, large, but with the steering response and balance of a smaller car, it is difficult to encapsulate the driving experience of the E-Class (beyond saying it is seriously good).
That it’s designed for high-speed autobahns is obvious - each in the range is imperiously swift and entirely unfussed on the open road.
The electric power steering is among the best you’ll find. It is direct and connected when cornering – turn in is a match for performance sports saloons – but relaxed at the dead-ahead so as not to be twitchy.
It provides a good feel with what’s happening at the road, but free of jarring over heavily pot-holed or broken sections of tarmac.
The suspension too has that near-perfect balance of compliance, comfort and control. As compromises go, for Australia’s variable roads it’s hard to immediately think of a better balanced suspension.
We drove first the 2.1 litre turbo-diesel E 250 CDI. With 150kW and 500Nm under the toe, this is a cracking engine.
The key to it, why it works so well, is its effortless mid-range torque. Mated to the seven-speed auto, if you kick it down a couple of cogs it simply pulls and pulls with a rising wave of acceleration.
And despite hauling around a large four-door sedan, that liquid-smooth diesel can fling the E 250 CDI down the road at an unholy rate of knots.
More, it revs and sounds not at all like a diesel; you wouldn’t know except for the torque, the redline on the tacho, and the absolutely static fuel gauge.
There were too many drivers in and out to get anything like a real-world reading, but Benz is claiming 4.9 l/100km. Whoever heard of such a thing in a car of this size?
Getting into the E 200 2.0 litre turbo petrol after the diesel comes as a bit of a let-down. It is not expressly slow, but is simply not as eagerly responsive as the diesel.
That said, the 300Nm of torque sits in just the right spot.
Once on the highway, the seven-speed transmission is settled (free of the ‘hunting’ of lesser drivetrains), is untroubled by hills and kicks down readily when overtaking.
With this engine, you can get more value out of the paddle-shifters at the wheel (they fall very nicely to hand).
Paddled manually, the 2.0 litre petrol will sing its head-off if asked the question, makes a not-unpleasant ‘zing’ when doing so, and is spry enough with a few revs on board.
Of course, it doesn’t pull out of a corner as willingly as the alert diesel, and is a little slower to pick up its skirts when overtaking, but is certainly no slouch.
Ditto with the E 200 Estate, despite the extra kilos of that wagon back.
FIRST DRIVE VERDICT
It’s a given really: the E-Class is one of the world’s great saloons.
Now cheaper, but not cheap, it’s carrying a hod-load of high-end features, is as safe as a lie-down on a feather bed, and looks and feels every inch the premium buy.
Each we drove at launch, wagon and sedan, E 200 and E 250 CDI, is quiet, sophisticated, refined, and effortless on-road. These are very fine cars.
And yes, there is something special in travelling behind ‘the three-pointed star’.
If the price of entry is not too scary, any from among the E-Class range you’d have in a heartbeat (wouldn’t you?). For mine, the E 250 CDI diesel is the pick.
Of course, we haven’t driven the E 400; that one arrives in September with an asking of $128,900. It certainly looks enticing (too bad about the severe case of collapsed wallet in the O’Brien domicile).
Now with sharp new pricing, the new E-Class demands a very close look.
Pricing (excludes on-road costs)
The E 200, 220, 250 and 300 models are available now, while the E 400 and E 63 AMG S models will arrive in August.
Mercedes-Benz has also confirmed that the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet models will arrive in September, with details to be confirmed closer to launch.
- E 200 - $79,900
- E 220 CDI - $82,400
- E 250 - $97,400
- E 250 CDI - $99,900
- E 300 BlueTec Hybrid - $109,900
- E 400 - $129,900
- E 63 AMG S (430kW) - $249,900
- E 200 - $86,900
- E 250 CDI - $107,700
- E 400 - $137,700