Wanting to look smooth and smart, but with an eye on something a little amusing? The Mercedes E-Class may drive you wild
This is not exactly what one would expect from a large Merc.
Big cars are dull, boring, fit for cruising and do not resonate with the heart of a passionate car lover. Forget about these misconceptions and try out the (not so new anymore) E Class.
Having visited my local importer, I took the 200 horse-power machine in its grey shiny armour for a spin. And I can tell you, this car offers everything you would expect from it and a bit more.
The new version of the E Class has been around for a couple of years, but still remains a head turner on the roads. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has always been a benchmark in this group. In Romania many representatives of the diplomatic corps drive one and I do believe it is the most popular car for ambassadors. It is easy to imagine why, as it is simply the best if one requires space, comfort, quality and a decent image.
In the demanding class of executive saloons, it is a matter of taste to choose from the few runners who make it into the final sprint.
The E Class is full of smooth curves and sporty lines from every angle.
Quite different from the boxy appearance of the previous model, it is now closer and closer to a more BMW feeling of sportyness. Mercedes believes it was critical to keep the four-lamp face. The design was without doubt one of the priorities for the engineers and it shows plenty of that.
Entering the cabin, the curves of the outer shell continue to be present from the dashboard and door handles to the design of the central console and the hand rest.
The dash and door trim on the car I test drove consisted of real walnut.
A square information screen occupies the centre of the speedometer's dial, which is very easy to read and receive information from the onboard computer. The drawback is that the speedometer is only seen as a tiny needle of around one centimeter in length.
The E Class comes with the standard equipment buyers expect in this category, starting with fully automatic dual-zone climate control, a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, ten-way power front seats, real walnut trim, a ten-speaker stereo, power windows with one-touch express operation up and down, auto-dimming mirrors and rain-sensing windshield wipers.
Extras include adaptive cruise control; Keyless Go, a credit card-sized transmitter which allows unlocking the doors and starting the car by touching the door handle and the gear selector. A Parktronic obstacle-warning helps with parking and enhances safety by alerting the driver to objects in front of and behind the car. Also available: DVD-based GPS navigation, an in-dash information management system; voice operation for the phone, audio controls and navigation system, ventilated massaging seats and solar-powered interior ventilation for those hot summer days when the car is parked for long periods. There's even a power trunk closer.
No new Mercedes would be complete without safety advances. E-Class cars come standard with eight airbags (dual front airbags, side bags for front and rear and head-protection curtains that run the length of the cabin on both sides). The E-Class employs a new airbag management system with more impact sensors, that account for the weight of a front-seat passenger.
Though it looks sportier, with a 0.27 coefficient of drag, the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is slightly larger than the pre-2003 models. The E-Class is the first Mercedes to use aluminum body components extensively, starting with the hood, front fenders, trunk lid and front subframe.
On the road
The test car was equipped with a 3.2L V6 cylinder configuration gas engine, 18 valves and 221 horse power.
I took advantage of the empty road and tried to get the best out of the car both on straight lanes and curves. According to Mercedes, the E320 can accelerate from nought to 100 kph in 7.1 seconds. Performance is somewhat disappointing as it lacks a bit of responsiveness and has a hesitant throttle. However, the E320 cruises well at high speeds and the V6 is smooth and quiet from idle to the 6,000-rpm redline.
The five-speed automatic transmission that comes standard in the E320 shifts quickly up and down through the gears, though it sometimes seems slow to respond. It doesn't hunt back and forth for the right gear, even in hilly terrain, and it rarely shifts unless the driver changes the angle of the gas pedal, both of which are good. When the driver prefers, an auto-manual shift mechanism allows a high level of control over gear selection. Toggling the shifter left or right, the transmission shifts quickly up and down through the gears. The system will hold the selected gear indefinitely just below the 6,000-rpm redline, but it won't let you bump the engine off its rev-limiter without shifting up a gear.
The E-Class cars offer the cornering of a sports sedan along with smooth, though firm, ride comfort. It has quick steering compared with other cars in this class. The variable power-steering system works well, with more boost for easy turning at low speeds, and less for more progressive steering response and feedback at higher speeds. The light steering makes maneuvering through crowded parking lots easier and more pleasant. Overall, this latest generation E320 is far more pleasurable to drive than the old E320, which itself was a good car.
Not every experience in the E320 is sublime, but this car, certainly provides more than its share of fulfillment. On the highway it is profoundly quiet and there is very little vibration anywhere in the cabin and almost no wind noise.
Mercedes's E Class cars are rear-wheel drive, which provides stable, sure-footed handling, even in the top-heavy wagon. Standard safety features include electronic brake assist, which helps intensify stopping power when you need it, and stability control, which may save the day in an accident.