Mercedes a hi-tech E-Class act
- Credit: Mercedes-Benz Cars
The new hi-tech Mercedes-Benz E-Class is much more than a simple nip and tuck facelift, says Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.
When a manufacturer opts to revise a car midway through its lifecycle the results are often more predictable than earth-shattering. With a mild tweak here and there, the car is sent packing for a few more years until something better comes along. Not so Mercedes-Benz and its E-Class, which has been subject to a considerable makeover.
The exterior caused a few raised eyebrows when it first appeared, with particular attention drawn to the rear three-quarter angle. Some liked it and some did not, but you couldn't fault Mercedes for choosing a bold and visually-arresting look. In a move that will please the critics, that nod to classic Mercedes designs of old, it has been toned down in favour of a more streamlined and simplified appearance.
In contrast, a bolder nose complete with dominant three-pointed star is now the default configuration. Complimenting this is an enlarged air intake below the bumper. Overall there's no question that the changes have resulted in a bolder stance and aligns the E-Class more closely to existing cars in the Mercedes family.
It's the mechanical changes that are the headline-grabbers, though. In a bid to improve safety and efficiency much work has been done to maintain the popular executive saloon's competitiveness.
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A new 2.0-litre petrol engine with clever turbo and fuel injection systems promises added refinement and improved performance, emissions and economy. Badged as an E 250, the 211hp unit is rated at 138g/km for CO2 despite its beefy 258ft.lb torque figure. It's suitably brisk too, which should satisfy buyers seeking the trappings of E-Class ownership but without having to spend too much in the process.
Diesel power is where it's at for most buyers, especially the company car sector, and the E 250 CDI offers a decent mix of performance and economy from its 204hp 2.2-litre four-cylinder motor. The six-cylinder E 350 CDI might be smoother but the 250 CDI offers ample performance when pounding motorways is the norm. It's one of many to gain a standard seven-speed automatic gearbox – only the lesser E 220 CDI makes do with a manual – which further adds to the car's ease of use. Factor in official an combined 57.7mpg and it's easy to see the car's real-world appeal.
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Buyers seeking more thrust can opt for the E 350 CDI, and while its 252hp might not be a big step over the E 250 CDI the extra torque is welcome and worth considering if you opt for the commodious estate.
If its hi-tech you want the E 300 Hybrid delivers. Using the 2.2-litre diesel from the 250 CDI alongside a compact battery and electric motor system, you have the best of both worlds regarding economy and extra acceleration when you need it. And there's no compromise on cabin or load space thanks to the hybrid system's compact design. Despite the price premium over a regular diesel, it's hard to ignore the impressive 109g/km CO2 and 68.9mpg.
It's also hard not to be impressed by the amount of clever safety kit being thrown at the E-Class by Mercedes. Some familiar technology remains, such as road sign-reading cameras, blind-spot warning and night vision, but the tighter integration of adaptive cruise control with auto braking should result in a greater chance of you avoiding an accident – especially at low speeds in urban areas.
Mercedes also wants to keep you safe at higher speeds with its active lane keeping assist function. Factor in intelligent headlights plus an array of sensors to help detect hazards and it's hard to fault Mercedes' commitment to safety.
Of course not all the fancy safety kit will be standard on every car but this is the exception not the rule for the new for 2013 E-Class thanks to Mercedes UK's generosity.
The new E-Class is more than a simple nip and tuck. While the car's exterior is more elegant and sporty, the wealth of smart technology on offer is impressive. With equipment levels now rivaling the more expensive S-Class and real-world economy and performance to please both the head and heart, this thorough revision of an already accomplished car should see the E-Class remain competitive for some time to come.