Make: Mercedes Benz
Engine / Transmission: 2.0 turbo – 9 speed automatic transmission
Manufacturer Claimed Fuel Economy: 7.7L/100km combined
Price: From about $133,128 on road
In a nutshell:
You really owe it to yourself to try an E-Class at least once in your life… just not this one.
I love Mercedes Benz. I love the history, the brand and the cars. Most of all, I love the E-Class. I’ve loved every generation of E-Class, even the one’s from the mid ‘90s that had biodegradable wiring – what were they thinking!!! So, it was with much anticipation that the latest E350 sedan hit the EFTM Garage.
This W123 shape E-Class first saw the light of day back in 2016, but this year has seen a significant update to engines and interior trim. It’s a great looking car: swoopy and soft and hunkered, especially on huge AMG rims.
However, in the pursuit of ever diminishing eco returns, the syruppy six cylinder drive lines have, on the whole, been replaced by efficient, but soulless and viby four cylinder engines. The 2.0 litre four pots fitted to the E200 (145 kw/320 Nm) and E350 (220 kw/400 nm) are plenty fast, but feel like the Germans have partnered with Briggs and Straton. I had to check to see if it was a diesel! I’m all for environmentally friendly design, but this is a drivetrain completely at odds with the spirit of an E-Class.
Of course, it’s easily fixed. Just choose the E300e plug in hybrid. That way you will get to enjoy the supreme quality of an E-Class with a drivetrain that does the rest of the car justice.
Crappy engine aside, the E350 is packing some serious tech, and unlike a lot of rivals, it all works seamlessly. In the time that we had the E350, the semi autonomous driving sensors refused to throw up any false readings or warnings and just got on with the job of making the driver’s job easier, to the point that you simply forgot it was there. Other manufacturers insist on their system’s binging and bonging and tugging and pulling at the wheel in a constant state of confusion.
These same sensors activate evasive steering control – sensing emergency steering inputs, the E350 will wind even more steering lock on in an attempt to avoid a crash. If a crash is inevitable, ‘Pre-safe Impulse Side’ see’s the outer side of the seat inflating if sensors detect an imminent crash. Makes sense. But what about ‘Pre-safe Sound’? If these same sensors detect you having a big moment, noise waves pump through the speakers to reduce hearing damage. I love to know what the noise is. I wonder if it’s `The Shangri-Las’ “Remember (Walking in the Sand)”?
Inside, two 12.3” HD screens dominate the dash. Most buttons have also now been replaced with touch pads, similar in feel to an AppleTV remote (and a first in the automotive space). Best of all, and a classic Mercedes touch, is the ability to access most functions in multiple ways. This includes voice recognition, gesture control and touch – through swipe buttons, touch screen, touch pad, or handwriting recognition. At first, it is overwhelming, but as an owner, over time, you would simply use what works best for you. It’s very clever and shows that you really aren’t just paying for a badge; you’re actually paying for quality that runs deep.
Likewise, augmented reality sat nav has found its way into the E350, filtered down from the S-Class. Here, the dash display shows a real time moving image from the front camera that is overlaid with street signs and directions. It’s a brilliant system.
Speaking of brilliant, the adaptive LED Matrix lighting sees 84 individually controlled LEDs (up from 24) light up the night sky. The light pattern adjusts in a way that maximises illumination, while not dazzling oncoming drivers. It takes a while to build up trust because you are convinced that the amount of light being produced must be blinding oncoming cars, yet the absence of headlight flashing, flicked birds and road rage convinces me that the system works.
Which brings me to the most impressive thing about the E350 – quality. Nearly everyone does adaptive cruise nowadays, but in the E350 the cruise control will hold your chosen speed up hill and down dale, no matter what. Others, such as Hyundai’s Genesis brand, do deep, deep paint, but the E350 blends supreme build quality with the option to access vehicle features in a way that suits the driver, not in a way dictated by the car itself. Audi, for example, do adaptive headlights, but none are as bright in so many situations as the Merc. Others have pre collision sensors, but the E-Class sports pre collision sensors and brake drying. It’s quality like this that doesn’t easily show up on a specification comparison.
Not So Impressive:
There are a couple of things about the E350 that annoy me. The touchpad controls, for example, are really no better than a traditional button or knurled wheel. The ‘Air Body Control’ air suspension suffers the same slight hesitancy that blights all such systems, but I suspect it makes the ride on the 20” rims bearable.
But, and it’s a hell of a but, the engine is the deal breaker here. It’s a shocker. It just doesn’t suit an E-Class at all. It’s plenty powerful enough to punt the E350 down the road and it is never left wanting, but it is so, so rough. I honestly don’t know what they were thinking when they thought that that engine would work in an E-Class. Luckily, it is as easily fixed as ticking a box.
Choose the E300e and enjoy everything that is special about the E-Class in silence. The plug in hybrid platform combined with the all round awesomeness of the E-Class is perhaps the most perfect car currently on the market.
WHEN ON A TEST DRIVE:
Do not, I repeat, do not get talked into the E350. Instead, demand the keys to an E300e and a pen to sign the contract.