MERCEDES BENZ DELIVERS ITS NEW E-CLASS MODELS BUT NZ ROAD MARKINGS CONFUSE THE DRIVE PILOT
It’s one of the savviest cars on the road but the all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class isn’t a smarty pants when it comes to touting its technology.
Now on sale in New Zealand, there are initially five variants of the 10th generation ‘executive sedan’ with three more joining the line-up by early next year.
The E200 petrol is priced from $99,000 and has a 2-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged engine, producing 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque.
The E220d has the Mercedes-Benz’s all-new 2-litre, four cylinder diesel engine producing 143kW/400Nm and priced from $102,900.
The E350d has a 3-litre, six cylinder diesel engine (190kW/620Nm) and is priced from $146,300.
The E300 is priced at $119,900 and has 2-litre, four cylinder petrol engine (180kW/370Nm) while the E400 starts at $149,900 with a 3-litre, six cylinder engine (245kW/480Nm).
All models have Mercedes-Benz’s nine-speed automatic transmission.
Kiwis are expected to favour the E400, according to Mercedes-Benz, with the E200, 220d and 350d on sale now— and in September the E300 and 400 arrive in showrooms.
Mercedes-Benz New Zealand’s general manager, Ben Giffin, expected sales of the new E-Class to “increase over the previous generation”.
“We feel that the increased level of specification and technology will appeal to both our traditional E-Class buyers and those new to our brand,” said Giffin.
“We’ve been impressed with the strong level of inquiry across our dealer network. Kiwi buyers have consistently favorued the V6 power of our E400, and while we expect this to continue, there has been great interest across the range right from the entry level E200.
“The fact that we can offer one of the world’s most advanced vehicles for less than $100,000 is outstanding.”
The E-Class has the S-Class style dual screen integrated into the dash, the C-Class front grille and is one of the most technologically advanced sedans available with a near autonomous driving system called Drive Pilot; touchpads on the steering wheel; and Car Play so you can use smartphone apps.
At the global launch in Lisbon, Portugal, earlier this year that Driven attended, the company stated that the new E-Class had evolved two generations, rather than one, thanks to the passive and active technology supported by cameras and radars around the vehicle.
As well as Drive Pilot, there is Cross Wind Assist (that helps stabilise the sedan in strong winds); Active Lane Change Assist (by using the indicator, radars sense if it is clear to move and the car does it for you); Evasive Steering Assist (that avoids hitting pedestrians); Pre-Safe Sound (where a sound is emitted just before a crash to protect your eardrums); plus impressive self-parking systems.
Within the next two years, Connect Me services will be available in Australasia, including remote parking pilot where, via an app on your smartphone, you can park the car remotely — as long as you’re 3m from the vehicle and can see it.
All models heading to New Zealand get the Avantgarde front grille — rather than the three-point star perched on the bonnet — the touchpads on the steering wheel as standard and the new multibeam LED headlights, which are standard on all models E300 and up.
The headlights have 84 individually controlled LED lights that can square off areas (such as cars ahead and coming towards you) so they don’t get dazzled at night by the full beam. The lights also highlight road signs which proved ideal when driving in the country.
In the interior, you have 64 shades of LED lighting for the illumination on the dash and door – and it’s fun to change up the interior at night, going from conservative white to disco-like blue or pink.
The are also a variety of optional packages available across the range, including AMG Line, Active Comfort (with massaging seats) and Vision (with glass sunroof).
Driven tested the E200 last week, with our model specced up to $109,380 due to the addition of the Cavansite Blue metallic paint, heated front seats (much appreciated during the cold snap), 19in alloys and the Vision package.
The E-Class has three driving modes – Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus – while there is Air Body Control suspension setting as standard in the E300 and above.
At the Lisbon global launch in March, I spent the majority of the two-day drive programme in the E300, so it was interesting to drop ‘down’ to the entry level E-Class.
The E200 is 1852mm wide, 4923mm long and weighs 1605kg (though is 100kg lighter than its predecessor), making it a fairly large sedan.
Paired with the 2-litre, four cylinder turbocharged engine (135kW/ 300Nm), I found the E200 in Comfort mode was a bit sedentary off the mark, and when moving down a gear to overtake there was a fraction of hesitation that’s not found in the E300.
But on the motorway in Sport mode, the E200 perked up with more responsive gear change and throttle reaction.
The E200’s chassis provided a smooth ride and the sedan’s cabin is incredible quiet, considering the panoramic roof.
I trialled the Drive Pilot on Auckland’s motorways, but unfortunately our car didn’t have the Active Lane Change Assist software that allowed the E200 to change lanes by itself when applying the indicator.
In Lisbon I spend at least three hours using Drive Pilot in ideal sunny conditions at up to 130km/h on the freeway. But during Auckland’s downpour the system struggled to identify the lane marking on the motorway so I took control back.
It can also be disconcerting to use in urban streets as Drive Pilot uses other cars or kerbs as lane markings, so when the E200 moved pretty close to parked cars on my drive home I again took back control – not because I didn’t trust the Mercedes system but I didn’t trust the cars parked up.
But overall the system is superb technology that makes commuting so simple that you have to consciously keep an eye on the road instead of being lulled into thinking the E-Class was autonomous.
After driving the E-Class in Portugal, at the recent Australasian launch and then the E200 around Auckland I can say that Mercedes-Benz head office in Germany should be making room for a swath of awards that the vehicle will get when car of the year gongs start getting handed out.