The most intelligent sedan in the world?

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The most intelligent sedan in the world?

Mercedes-Benz brings into the fray a tech-laden fifth-generation E-Class to coax new customers, while retaining core values to satiate its loyal ones

by George Kuruvilla

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Published: Wed 9 Nov 2016, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 10 Nov 2016, 7:04 PM

Today, if you were on a quest to purchase a vehicle with snob factor, limo-like comfort and mind-baffling technology, your easiest solution would be to explore the trio of German executive sedans. Unfortunately, the replacement for the BMW 5-Series is still in its gestation period and the Audi A6 doesn't strike as primo luxury in this region. And then, you have the popular Mercedes-Benz E-Class which, by the way, has an all-new model for 2017. This week, we explore the trappings of this new mid-size executive saloon.

DESIGN & AESTHETICS
The E-Class has been around since 1993 and is currently in its fifth generation. And although it may not be the revered flagship S-Class, it ranks high in prestige and luxury.
The new model is curvier with more sculpted panelling all around, bringing it in line with its siblings. In fact, the new car looks like a scaled down S-Class or a scaled up C-Class, whichever way you want to look at it. And it is hard to tell them apart from a distance.
Like its siblings, it bears an elongated bonnet coupled with a coupé-esque roofline and seemingly wider haunches. Details like the LED day-time running lamps and LED headlamps up front have a similar arrangement while, at the rear, the lamp cluster outlines and the bumper-infused trapezoidal exhaust tips can all be identified as a family trait. In the E-Class, however, Mercedes has given the tail lamps a "Star Dust" effect where 39 individual LEDs give it a crystalline look. That's an interesting, but subtle change.
Undoubtedly, the new car is fashionable, has oodles of road presence and bears an inherent sense of stateliness and stature, but we feel that the previous generation, with its flatter surfaces, sharper edges and more conventional 3-box silhouette, had more aesthetic appeal and individuality.
As we opened the front door to get in, we noticed that those who are 6ft or taller would have to lower their heads more than usual, as they enter the cabin, else they stand the chance of bumping their craniums against the side of the roof - a flaw seen in many cars with "coupé-like" styling these days. But once inside, you are treated to both a visual and textural experience that is as opulent as ever. For example, you may think that the two all-new high-tech and highly customisable 12.3 screens - a first for the segment - are the centrepiece of this cabin, but there are numerous other things to keep the eyes engaged. Like the beautifully laid, open-pore wood on the dashboard or, if you prefer, yachting-style veneer with its inlay of novel metal fabric - a bit like that on the Lexus RX, only better executed. Better still, you can have a unique carbon fibre trim with an unusual horizontal weave orientation, as opposed to the angled variety we have seen for decades. Then, there are the shimmering perforated aluminium speaker covers of the optional Burmester audio that fill the spaces that the stitched dashboard and satin finish trims cannot occupy. The satin finish makes it to all of the six circular air registers too. The cabin of the new E-Class is an expression of true excess and beauty, and resembles part of a cabin of an ultra-luxury brand like the Bentley, Bugatti or Rolls Royce.
The seats (in the AMG version we tested, at least) are a leather-wrapped sculpture that has beautiful, visual contouring, created by folds and double stitching. But as soft and cushiony as it looked, we found the bolsters to be a tad constricting. Luckily, you can do without these sports seats and opt for the couch-like chairs.
The E-Class luxury is also evident in the kind of freedom it offers. It has an airy cabin, both up front and at the rear, where the rear bench seat will hold three adults comfortably, if you can discount the slight bump in the floor i.e., the transmission tunnel. Multiple power adjustments will get your perfect seating fit but lumbar adjustments can only be managed through the infotainment screen.
You can open the dual sunroof but, in case you have it parked with the windows or sunroof open and it starts to rain, the car will automatically roll up the windows and close the roof, keeping the cabin protected. Meanwhile, at night, you can choose from the 64 colours offered with the ambient lighting system. like a fun kaleidoscope.

POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
The new E-Class is a game-changer of sorts. It brings in four-cylinder engines as the staple motor to the range, as opposed to the V6 engines previously offered. It also brings a forced-induction technology into the fray. Our E 200 test car, as well as the E 250 and the E 300, are all powered by turbocharged 2.0-litre in-line 4-cylinder engines.
In the E 200, the 4-pot makes a modest Japanese-sedan-rivalling 181 bhp, but the turbocharged nature gives it the advantage of torque. From as low as 1,200 rpm to 4,000 rpm, it churns out as much as 300 Nm, which, in turn, helps it sprint harder than the Japanese sedan ever will. Blip the throttle and the car remains docile and slightly hesitant, but lean in on the accelerator pedal and it will propel you forward with enthusiasm, getting you from 0 to 100 km/h in a claimed 7.7 seconds. In the real world, however, it felt more like sub-9 seconds. But you will have to ignore the little 4-cylinder clatter in the background as the engine is being worked.
This may not be sports car-rivalling performance, but then, this is the base engine in base state of tune. and is easily capable of gaining triple digit speed. You should also understand that this kind of power is sufficient for the common rich folk. not everyone is in a hurry! Even so, the E 250 is what I suggest over the E 200, as it equals the E 200 for fuel economy and emissions. Speaking of drinking habits, if we go by company claims, the E 200 only sips a remarkable rate of 5.9l/100km and emits only 132 grams of C02 per kilometre - similar to a diesel vehicle. Again, in the real world, the economy is closer to 10 and 11l/100km. It may not be Captain Planet, but this kind of performance is definitely well-engineered.
We now come to its selling point - ride comfort. The E-Class' air suspension soaks bumps and glides over irregularities with so much ease, it's almost in S-Class territory. The pneumatic self-levelling suspension can be raised by up to 50 mm to increase ground clearance and lowered at high speeds to reduce aerodynamic drag and improve handling stability.
A lot of that smoothness can be attributed to the 9G-TRONIC transmission, which operates with a finesse, swapping ratios. As for handling, throughout the many times we had to hurry through traffic, the E 200 carried its weight from lane to lane with composure and swept by corners without being hassled. This isn't a sports sedan by any stretch, but there is some feedback and connection between road and driver!

FEATURES & FUNCTIONALITY
With the new E-Class comes the claim of being the most intelligent sedan in the world - and a lot of this has to do with the safety chaperones it offers. In top trims, you get something called Drive Pilot, which is a semi-autonomous driving feature that allows you 30 seconds to take your hands off the steering wheel before it alerts you. In that time, it combines features like adaptive cruise control, which keeps you travelling at a set pace and distance from the car ahead, and Presafe which brakes for you automatically. Its lane change technology will keep you within the lane marking. If you indicate a direction change via the stalk, it will shift lanes for you automatically. But you should know that the Auto Pilot function that Tesla offers in their cars allows you to take your hands off the wheel for upto three minutes.
As you exercise your right not to drive, you can enjoy the comfort of climate-controlled seats that have a massage option that works therapeutic magic through 14 pneumatic chambers and eight different programmes, and perfumed air. You can purchase these distinct aromas separately.
In the case of a side collision, the side bolsters will push you inward, keeping you safe. Auto parking is the best we have seen in any car yet, which allows you to park in as many ways as possible. It will even detect free spots on both sides of the driveway, which we believe is a first.
In terms of entertainment, you have a high-end Burmester: 23 high-performance loudspeakers with as many as 25 amplifier channels and a total output of 1450 Watts to take the party to the car. The new E-class is also equipped with Apple Car Play. Thing is, when active, you can't access the Mercedes-embedded onboard features unless you unplug your phone. Last, but not least, the E-Class' trunk space is rated in the sub-500-litre category and that works well for any family.

VERDICT
There is no denying that the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E 200 can be rated between good and phenomenal. It looks classy, but is familiar. The ride is plush, the cabin quiet, and the power sufficient for everyday use. Pricing however, is questionable, with the base car priced at a whopping Dh195,000 and the range topper in the proximity of Dh300k. Modern-day luxury certainly doesn't come cheap!
wknd@khaleejtimes.com

George Kuruvilla


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