If you want to get a sense of who Mercedes is trying to reach with its new E-class, you should probably check out the opposition. According to the company, virtually every upscale mid and full-size sedan/coupe/cabriolet/wagon on the market is a viable target. Everything from, oh, the Audi A8, to the Jaguar XF, to the Cadillac CTS to the Infiniti G37X.
That’s because the new E-class has more models in its line-up than ever before and can be had with all-wheel-drive or rear-drive, as a two door coupe, convertible, station wagon or four-door sedan, with your choice two V6 engines, a V8, and, for the first time, a four cylinder turbo-diesel.
This latter engine, found in the new E-250, is taken from the GLK series and features twin turbochargers and Mercedes’ BlueTec technology. In this configuration, it develops 195 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque, while delivering 7.4 L /100 km in town and a thrifty 4.6 L/100 km on the highway. This is slightly superior to the fuel consumption of the GLK, despite the fact that the two share drivetrains. Why? The E-250 has narrower tires and a more efficient aerodynamic shape.
Unfortunately, this engine, which delivers V6-like performance, is only available with the four-door sedan E-class, which is a bit of a shame. It’d be a nice fit with the new estate wagon, but that is not in the cards at this point, mainly because of supply issues and various regulatory hurdles. During a full day of driving around the Mt. Hood area or Oregon, the four-banger surprised time and again with its willingness to rev and seamless operation. Not as dramatic as the other engine choices in the new E-class, perhaps, it is arguably the most interesting. All new E-class models have a seven-speed automatic transmission with shift paddles.
But the new turbo-diesel is not the 2014 E-class’ most significant feature. At least not according to Chris Goczn, Mercedes’ national product manager. That would be the revised Distronic-Plus system, which is part of the “advanced driving assistance package” and can be had with any model in the new E-Class line-up.
In a nutshell, Distronic-plus senses when the driver is having a momentary lapse of attention, if there are pedestrians in the vicinity or if traffic is building up. If the driver strays into the opposite lane, for example, it will intervene and pull the vehicle back to its proper course, while alerting the driver that he/she has strayed from the straight and narrow. Mercedes is not the only one who has this kind of system, nor is it totally new for 2014, but this particular version of it is.
It’s kind of eerie in operation. If you cross over the centre line, it will gently but inexorably bring you back, and if you get too close to the car in front, it will back off the throttle until you are a safer distance away. It can also be disabled and no, you can’t drive with your hands off the steering wheel.
But that’s not all. “Stereo” cameras can distinguish between an inanimate object and a live one. ….flesh and blood versus metal, in other words, and if a pedestrian strays in front of the car, it will initiate “autonomous braking”….at speeds up to 50 km/h.
Other changes for 2014 include a new front end treatment with a prominent centre grill emblem “that customers love so much”, and a new “three tube” instrument cluster with re-designed air-vents and controls.
And now, all E-class models, with the exception of the E400 Hybrid and coupe/cabriolet, come with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system as standard issue. This broadens customers’ choices, says Chris Goczn, while adding another facet to Mercedes’ safety reputation. The E400 Hybrid, incidentally, will still be available by “special purchase”. In other words, Mercedes won’t be advertising it, but if someone just has to have one, it can be ordered. “There just doesn’t seem to be a great demand for this model,” adds Goczn.
For performance enthusiasts, Mercedes’ AMG division has given the E-class line-up a once-over….specifically, on the sedan and wagon models. With a massive 402 horsepower on tap for the E550, this makes both AMG models among the most powerful and quickest production cars on the market. The wagon will hurtle from 0 to 100 km/h in less than four seconds, which puts it ahead of the Porsche Panamera and in the same territory as some Ferraris. “AMG engineers took the power ‘question’ seriously, to give the E63 maximum power while keeping it as an everyday driver”, says Goczn. Not to mention having a visual presence that’s hard to ignore. The wagon in particular, is a knockout.
As far as pricing goes, the new E-class is holding the line, but these are not cheap automobiles….never were. The E-250 Bluetec starts at just under $58,000, while the E63AMG S-models go out the door for $110,000 before extras.