There’s absolutely no denying that the E-Class is practically the heart of Mercedes-Benz. After all, the German automaker’s beloved executive saloon has reportedly sold over 13 million units since 1953.
That already covetous figure continues to climb with the release of its latest model, which has again raised the bar over predecessors, thanks to a facelift. For a start, the entry level E 200 comes in three options: Avantgarde, Exclusive and the sporty AMG line.
It is the Exclusive, distinguished by its three-louvre radiator grille and high-gloss ash wood trim, that I take on the roads.
Given its size, you’d think it’d be stiff and not particularly responsive. But the drive doesn’t disappoint. Instead, the car’s body control is absolutely fluid with every fraction of a turn of the steering wheel or tap on the pedal. Fitted with a two-litre, four-cylinder engine, the E 200 powers up to 184bhp with 300Nm of torque. And thanks to the new 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission, the executive saloon allows for fast gear changes and low-engine revs that benefit the car’s efficiency and noise levels.
In terms of rated output, the E-Class doesn’t quite have the same stats as BMW’s 5 Series (245bhp), Jaguar’s turbocharged XF (240bhp) and the Audi A6 (250bhp and 370Nm in torque), but it is by no means significantly underpowered nor slower than the rest. The trade-off is that it scores much higher in fuel efficiency, running on 5.9 litres per 100km. That’s two litres less than both the BMW and Jaguar, which would lead to enviable cost-savings in the long run.
Equally, if not more, significant is the range of technology that the E-Class has been equipped with — all of which are Merc’s way of moving into autonomous and accident-free driving. A whole host of standard features — including the new Active Brake Assist, Parking Pilot and 360-degree cameras, Pre-Safe system, tyre pressure monitoring system and adaptive brake lights — are packed into the car.
And the sheer number of optional innovative systems are something else altogether. The lengthy list includes Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Distance Pilot, Traffic Sign Assist, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Evasive Steering Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, Steering Pilot, Speed Limit Pilot…and so on. Of the lot, the one best worth mentioning is the optional Driving Assistance package, which includes the Drive Pilot system designed to keep the car at the correct distance behind the vehicle in front. It also actively helps with steering, even when lane markings are unclear or non-existent, by taking into account surrounding vehicles and structures. The package’s Active Braking and Evasive Steering Assist function also detects danger of collisions, providing autonomous braking or exactly computed steering torque for a controlled evasion manoeuvre, where necessary.
As for the cabin — perhaps the true measure of every E-Class — expect the usual stately comforts. Not only is cabin noise at the minimum, the car’s previously ample interiors are now nappa leather-lined and even larger, thanks to a longer wheelbase of 2,939mm (65mm more than its predecessor) and overall length of 4,932mm (43mm more). Boot capacity has been maintained at 540 litres, which is still fractionally roomier than that of the A6 or a 5 Series.
The E-Class is not a sporty ride, nor does it pretend to be. It is after all an executive saloon, not a supercar and its selling point is luxurious comfort and driveability — and in that, it more than excels.