Mercedes E 200 Long-term test: Boy racers banned
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Mercedes-Benz occupies a sweet spot in the international commercial and luxury vehicle marketplace, enjoying record sales figures.
The German marque recorded its 50th consecutive month of record sales in April, and the E-Class saloon is credited with playing a major part in that success.
Driven has had the Mercedes-Benz E 200 sedan on long-term loan for two and a half months, to help understand how the Driven Car of the Year, and Mercedes' most technologically advanced model, suits every-day motoring needs.
Remember this is a large four-door luxury sedan that is hitting international sales records at a time when SUVs are all the rage.
More than 250,000 E-Class saloons and estate models have been sold internationally since its introduction just over a year ago.
Driven's E 200 sedan is the entry-level model in this market, powered by a four-cylinder 2-litre direct injection turbocharged engine, putting out 135kW of power, and 300 Nm of torque.
While it lacks the sheer thrill and excitement of the E 400 model now available here, the E 200 offers a smooth, quiet and relaxing ride that only a large sedan can provide.
The speed-sensitive steering is precise with plenty of feel, and the relatively low centre of gravity of the sedan helps ensure the handling is streets ahead of most higher-riding SUVs on the market.
Then there is the raft of technological advances onboard the car, that make driving what is a large sedan a pleasure. Cameras, radar and sonar beams and other technology contribute to a more relaxed time behind the wheel, whether parking the E 200, backing up a confined hills-side driveway or powering up or down State Highway 1.
This rear-wheel-drive cruiser sits most comfortably in the default Comfort drive mode. Drivers seeking a sharper ride can engage Sport or Sport + driving modes, that provide a higher-revving engine, more precise steering, a firmer ride and a sportier feel behind the wheel.
Those wanting more economy can assuage their green conscience by engaging Echo mode, but we find the Comfort mode provides the best combination of smooth and stress-free driving most would expect from a premium luxury sedan.
Driven's E 200 comes with the $1990 premium Iridium Silver metallic paint, taking the recommended retail price to $101,890, plus on road costs.
The Parking Pilot program provides for autonomous parking into or out of parallel or prependicular parking spaces, while the 360-degree camera surveys all sides of the vehicle, in different views, and including a virtual bid-view of the car.
The upshot is that, despite the E 200 being a large and wide car (it is four metres long), it is easy to manoeuvre, even in confined spaces.
Meanwhile on the road, features such as Active Lane Keeping Assist help the driver keep the car in the appropriate lane. This system is so interventionist that it is disconcerting at first, as it grabs and redirects the steering if the driver lets the vehicle uninitentionally leave the correct lane. But it is also capable of maintaining the car's correct position within a lane, even to the extent of steering the vehicle around bends without help from the driver.
The Active Lane Change Assist program allows the driver to direct the E 200 to change lanes, and to let the vehicle to switch lanes safely and smoothly once it is convinced it is safe to do so.
It abandons the lane change if it is not possible within three seconds, an obstacle is detected in the neighbouring lane, or if the driver intervenes.
Mercedes-Benz is at pains to explain the vehicle is semi-autonomous, rather than fully autonomous, and so the driver remains in charge throughout these procedures. However it doesn't take long before the driver gains confidence in using the features.
So far we have travelled 3844km in our test car, and a lot of that has been open-road highway travel. However the car is easily driven around town, although it uses up almost all of the car individual parking space provided by supermarkets and car parking buildings.
Among the safety features on the E-Class, perhaps the most often-used is the 360-degree camera. This provides views from all angles of the car, but is most useful when backing. It includes "dynamic guidelines" to help the driver maintain the correct pathway.
The interior always impresses passengers, especially the twin 12-inch screens which form two-thirds of the dashboard. These dispel any preconceived notion of the sedan being only for stuffy old blokes.
There is also adaptive brake with hold function and Hill Start Assist functions, along with nine airbags, including front, pelvis side bags, window bags for the driver and front passenger, sidebags for rear occupants and a kneebag for the driver.
The E 200 feels a safe car with its assured driving manners and relaxed cruiser style on the road. There is plenty of room inside to ride in comfort and, once the doors are closed, cabin noise levels are exceptionally low.
This is no car for boy racers but for more mature drivers who enjoy their driving without an overly dramatic soundtrack or aggressive feedback from their vehicle.
Mercedes-Benz E200 Sedan
Pro: Relaxed but loping and quiet high-tech cruiser
Con: Tight squeeze in most inner-city parking spots