Mercedes-Benz started overhauling its products just over two years ago. After shaking up both the C-Class and its flagship model, the S-Class, it was time for its E-Class mid-size luxury sedan to go under the knife. The 2017 model year is the tenth generation, which is noteworthy because, since its introduction at the beginning of the 1950s, the E-Class has been at the centre of Mercedes-Benz’s history. Since then, no fewer than 13 million units have been built.
If you’re interested in the E-Class, you have undoubtedly also taken a look at its main rivals, the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Lexus GS and Cadillac CTS. In addition to its historic past, what sets the E-Class apart is the tremendous comfort it offers on board and on the road.
A four-cylinder engine?
While awaiting the numerous other versions that are in the works, including the beastly AMG versions, the 2017 E-Class will be offered in just two trims when it arrives this summer. As the entry-level version, the E 300 will, for the first time in the history of the model, feature a gasoline 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. You read that right, folks: four cylinders. As in 2+2.
A decade ago, an E-Class equipped with such a small engine would have been unthinkable. During a roundtable discussion, we said as much to Dr. Zetsche, the top dog at Mercedes, and his answer was simply that times have changed. The congested roads of the concrete jungle have slowly relegated power to the back burner. These days, technology is becoming just as important. And for thrill seekers, there will always be the AMG versions.
At the same time, and in the manufacturer’s defense, we have to mention that despite smaller displacement, modern engines perform much better than they used to. Direct injection and turbochargers help the E 300’s little four-cylinder generate 241 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s not overpowering, but it favours better fuel consumption.
Factory-standard all-wheel drive, nine-speed gearbox
Can’t do without a good old six-cylinder? The E 400 4MATIC is back again and powered by a 3.0-litre, twin-turbo V6 generating 329 horsepower and 354 lb.-ft. of torque. Good news for Canadians! All versions sold in Canada will bear the 4MATIC moniker, meaning that all-wheel drive will come factory standard. That’s one less decision you’ll have to make at the dealership. There only transmission available is a nine-speed automatic.
The E-Class’ style is easy to describe. Take the S-Class, imagine it on a smaller scale and you get the new 2017 E-Class. The front and rear are genetically similar, but elements like rims and a few AMG-created visual features boost the E-Class’ charisma.
The sport grille is factory standard, but those who prefer a more classic design can opt for the Luxury Package, which includes a traditional grille and an emblem crowning the hood like back in the day. They should have called it the Classic Package!
Ubiquitous luxury and attention to detail
Inside, the car has been completely transformed, drawing inspiration from the S-Class, as evidenced by the four air vents in the centre of the dash. The upper part of the dashboard is square and practically at a right angle, helping accommodate the COMAND system and its large 12.3-inch screen that displays information.
The instrumentation comes in the classic style or entirely digital if you opt for the Technology Package. The latter’s effect raises eyebrows, as it gives the impression that the whole dashboard becomes a large screen. Of course, the customization possibilities are numerous.
Nothing negative to say about the choice of materials and attention to detail–Mercedes knows a thing or two about that. In fact, it’s one of their greatest strengths. The feeling of quality and opulence is everywhere, due mainly to the ambient lighting that includes a series of LED strips with a full range of colours to choose from. It adds a majestic touch to the passenger compartment come nightfall.
More comfortable than sporty
On the road, the little four-cylinder has its work cut out for it. The car is no lightweight, but fortunately, the nine-speed automatic transmission draws out all the available horsepower. Power is delivered quickly, while Sport and Sport+ mode make it a smidge more dynamic. The six-cylinder seems more balanced with superior power. Passing at high speed is its specialty, along with a spellbinding sound.
The E-Class isn’t as dynamic as the C-Class, but buyers in this segment quite often prefer an executive-style, roomy, comfortable car. In this regard, the E-Class delivers the goods. Its air suspension mitigates road imperfections and firms up if you want more sportiness.
Whether you’re sitting in front or in back, the seats are ultra comfortable and all passengers have ample space. This is where the increased size (wheelbase and length) proves advantageous. The steering, however, provides a little less feedback, as is often the case with power-assisted steering.
A semi-autonomous car
It would be impossible to describe all the technology available included in the 2017 E-Class, but the ride is strangely reminiscent of that of a semi-autonomous car.
Once the intelligent cruise control system is activated, the car complies with speed limits. Not only can it brake by itself when confronted with an obstacle, but Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive automatically keeps the car in the middle of its lane by controlling steering, even in curves. Want to change lanes? Activate the turn signal and the car will change lanes after making sure that there’s no one in the way.
Some will bemoan the E-Class as little more than a smaller S-Class, but if you see the glass as half-full, you may want to look again from another perspective. Then you’ll realize that the new E-Class is the opportunity to own all the style, luxury and technology of its big sister at a more attractive price.
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