Mercedes-Benz E200 long-term test: Soul of discretion
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The stylish Mercedes E-Class is no show-off
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has become the benchmark large luxury sedan during the past 12 months, partly because of its technological and autonomous advances, but also because it is such an effortless car to drive.
This is especially so of the baseline E 200 model, which Driven has had on long-term test for three months.
This is the most technically advanced car produced by the German marque, loaded with semi-autonomous driving equipment, plus other driver aids that contribute to a smooth and relaxed drive.
As we have explained in earlier reports, this is not for the car for boy racers, or people who want to draw attention to themselves. It is discreet, especially for such a large car.
It is a 4m-long four door sedan with sweeping lines leading to muscular shoulders and after more than 5000km on the road with the E 200 we can say it blends into its surroundings without drawing unwanted attention, especially in the classic Mercedes iridium silver metallic paint of our test car. The only overt attention it drew during that time was a friendly wave from the driver of an earlier E Class model.
This is the tenth generation of the E Class sedan, introduced here just over a year ago. Since then it has become one of the most-awarded models on the road, winning several Car of the Year awards for 2016, including Driven's award.
The model has also provided Mercedes Benz New Zealand with a significant talking point with customers, and around 100 had been sold by the end of last year. Since then the range of E Class models has expanded, with relatively recent additions of more powerful E Class 350 and 400 models, not to mention three even more powerful and sportier AMG models.
The sedans have also been joined by a range of E Class coupe models.
Although the model has now been available for around 12 months, it continues to win awards around the world. Last month it was named best premium large car in this year's Honest John Awards in the UK, with the website's judges saying the lavish interior felt more akin to the larger and more expensive Mercedes-Benz flagship S-Class limousine.
"With a beautifully crafted interior and a reward driving, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class has become the benchmark by which all other large premium cars are judge," they said.
The Driven test car was powered by a four-cylinder, 2-litre direct injection turbocharged engine, putting out 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque.
Though initially we preferred to drive the car in comfort mode because of the smooth and efficient ride, lately we have been using the sport and sport plus driving modes, which stiffen the ride and handling of the car.
This might account for our inability to achieve the claimed 6.4 litres/100km fuel usage figure: the best we could achieve was 7.5 litres/100km, which is still good given the size of the car and the tendency to accelerate more vigorously in sports driving modes.
We found the E 200's comfort and sports driving modes more tempting to use than the eco-friendly mode also available on this model.
Inside the car, the main talking point is the twin digital screens, which stretch two-thirds of the way across the dashboard.
There are two 12.3-inch screens, which can display just about every aspect of the vehicle's mechanical and technological features.
It is possible, for example, to call up pages of the vehicle manual on one screen, while choosing analogue-style speedometer and rev-counter dials on the other.
The multi-function steering wheel controls are excellent, especially the small smartphone touchpads on either side of the wheel, which offer direct control of almost every cockpit feature on the car without taking your hands off the wheel.
The E 200 also has a radar-based Drive Pilot system including "distant pilot" cruise control, which adapts cruising speed to the traffic flow, along with a raft of driver aids such as Steering Pilot, which keeps the car centred in the chosen lane.
There are also robust pedestrian recognition features which will pull the car up if it is dangerously close to a pedestrian. The Parking Pilot feature can even help find a parking spot, then steer the car into the park hands-free.
Also impressive is the quality of the rear-view cameras on the car. These are so clear on the in-dash screen that even raindrops are distinct, while a virtual birdseye view is available with a 360-degree camera also on board.
All of these are great when manoeuvring the E 200 in a confined space -- you become so confident using them you can forget just how big the car is.
The manufacturers' list price for the E 200 is $99,000, and the iridium silver metallic paint on the car costs a further $1990, bringing the recommended retail price to $101,890, plus on-road costs.
Driving the E 200 on a daily basis for three months has eliminated any concerns I may have had about driving larger vehicles, and their practicality on overcrowded roads in Auckland.
It is a stylish luxury sedan that suits the buyer who wants the comfort and satisfaction of a premium brand, without drawing too much attention to themselves.
Pro: Standard-setting luxury and technology
Con: Sufficient power, but its more expensive sibling's more fun to drive