German luxury carmaker Mercedes Benz started its Indian operations with the E-class. Since then this model has been the backbone of the company. When it first arrived, the E-class had no competition and Mercedes would take its own time to bring in the latest model.
But now, the new E-class is coming to India sooner than you think. It will be here this October before Diwali and aims to hit back at BMWs 5-series.
The latest E-class — the W212 — has received a radical facelift. Mercedes-Benz has delivered a saloon with an upright, angular and overtly three-box shape. Parts of it are even reminiscent of the Mercedes models of the 1950s — like the bulge over the rear wheel arch stretching into the wings.
The four-headlamp front comes with a a new twist, and the standard daylight running lights next to the fog lights look great. It also gets boomerang-shaped LED bulbs and a more upright V-shaped grille. At the rear, the winged lights are quite dramatic and the crease on the centre of the boot lid is prominent. The new car is longer by 16mm, wider by 32mm and lower by 10mm than the outgoing W211. And despite the squared-off styling, Mercedes has achieved a drag coefficient of a creditable 0.26.
The body is a blend of steel, aluminium and glass fibre and plastic composite. The new E-class, despite a beefier power train, weighs only 50kg more than the outgoing E280.
On the inside, the new E-class has precise switchgear and lots of soft-touch plastics. You can choose between beige and classier black interiors. The interior comes into its own at night. The waterfall lighting effect, which splits the dashboard and the down lighting on the door, looks simply surreal.
The dashboard comes in straight lines. All major controls are well-located and simple to use. Taking pride of place is the high-mounted screen housed in its own binnacle. A single knob lets you scroll through the on-screen menus to operate most functions. This arrangement, called COMAND, dramatically reduces clutter.
The quality of the buttons and switches is beyond reproach. Even the metal-finish air vents have a solid, made-to-last feel. The insides are more practical, thanks in part to the column-mounted gear shifter, which frees space in the centre console for cup holders. There are three power sockets to charge all your gadgets and the door pockets are as generous as ever.
Mercs traditional seat pictogram on the door guarantees a good driving position. The seats themselves are fantastic with a new combination of foam, a longer backrest and added length in the cushion. The rear seats are even more comfortable. The roofline has been raised to provide a larger rear door aperture. The backrest angle is slightly more reclined adding to comfort.
The sound system is beefed up, parking sensors are standard and so are the cornering lights. Safety features have been stepped up a notch too, with more airbags than before and a unique Attention Assist system, which detects drowsiness and gives a warning!
Under the hood
The Indian E350 is powered by the 3498cc V6 from the current S-class. The 272bhp provides enough grunt for the E-class. This four-valve per cylinder, twin-cam unit is a proven engine and delivers the goods in a silky smooth manner. The throttle response is surprisingly sharp. Mash your right foot into the carpet and the big E lunges forward, acceleration always strong and linear. The responsiveness is great in traffic. Its deceptively quick and goes to 160kph in under 20 seconds before going on to a claimed top speed of 250kph. The ease with which the Merc gets to Vmax is important here. The engine is super silent and even at max revs, theres just a murmur from under the bonnet. And the stress-free nature of the engine makes it a fantastic cruiser.
Even more impressive is the seven-speed, 7G-Tronic gearbox. It is very responsive and the kickdown is pretty quick when driving in D as well.
The agile new E-class is a more engaging drive. The brilliant handling is aided by Mercedes variable ratio Direct Steer system. The car darts into corners with a lot of enthusiasm and little body roll. The two-stage hydro-mechanically self-adjusting dampers give the best of both worlds — a supple ride for relaxed driving and a stiffer set-up when you want to barrel into corners.
The new E-class also boasts enhanced low-speed manoeuvrability. It covers ground with greater poise and straightline stability is better than ever before.
The city figure of 6.3kpl is in line with expectations. The insanely tall seventh gear allows the car to cruise at very low revs to achieve an impressive 11.4kpl on the highway.
Its no surprise that the E-class comes across as a brilliantly engineered car with outstanding comfort, refinement and top-notch quality. Its new-found dynamic abilities make it a much more entertaining drive. Its hard to fault the latest Merc. Priced at approximately Rs 55 lakh (on-road Mumbai), the new model is packed with the latest technology. We have a new benchmark in this segment of the luxury market.
mercedes benz e350
Engine: Petrol/ front, longitudinal/ 6 cyls in-vee, 3498cc/ multi-point fuel injection
Power: 272bhp at 6000rpm
Torque: 35.6kgm at 2400-5000rpm
Gearbox: 7-speed auto
Tyres: 225/55 R16, Continental/ ContiPremiumContact 2, tubeless
Suspension (F/R): Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar/ independent, multi-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar steering
Brakes (F/R): Ventilated discs/ Discs