The Mercedes Benz E-Class has always been the benchmark for premium brand midsize sedans, thanks to its reputation for comfort and prestige. As a result – at least in Switzerland – it seems to be the default choice for many chauffeuring services, embassies, and even UberBLACK drivers. But things aren’t easy for the E-Class; facing tough competition from the likes of Volvo, BMW, Audi and even Lexus. So the E-Class always has to be that bit more appealing if it is to remain on top, and having spent a few hours with a new E300, I find out what makes it stand out over the rest.
This test car comes in Avantgarde trim, with a few visual distinctions including partial leather seats in the interior, and five-spoke 17-inch wheels on the outside. The starting price for an E300 is CHF 64,970, which is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine with 245hp and 370Nm of torque. Power is sent through a nine-speed automatic transmission to the rear wheels, with acceleration from 0-100km/h taking 6.2 seconds, and reaching a limited top speed of 250km/h. Claimed fuel economy figures are 5.2l/100km on the highway, 8.2l/100km in the city, and 6.3l/100km combined. CO2 output is 144g/km.
The E300 has a lot of interior space for its occupants, with generous legroom for rear passengers, as well as having decent headroom front and rear. The seats are also quite comfortable, and are reasonably supportive when going around corners despite non-sports car intentions. The interior is also very inviting; being very-well put together with high quality materials, nicely designed, and feeling thoroughly modern through out.
Once you get the E300 going, it doesn’t take long to realize why it's the default choice for luxury midsize sedans. It rides very well, absorbing bumps effectively and staying composed when going over rough surfaces. The steering is effortless to use, and responds reasonably well to the driver’s inputs. The engine feels strong at low speed, albeit with just a whiff of turbo lag when caught in a high gear. However, when the engine is on boost, it never feels underpowered and should be plenty powerful for most drivers.
The sound the engine makes might be a bit disappointing at low speeds, as it does sound no different to any other economy car with four cylinders. It must be said that the interior is refined, so any unpleasant engine noises are kept to a minimum when driving at normal speeds. However, when you put your foot down, the engine actually makes a nice growl at around 4,000rpm. The engine and transmission are a great combination for smoothness, as the engine’s power delivery is linear while the transmission shifts gears very seamlessly.
There are five driving modes for the E300: Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport Plus, and Individual. My preferred mode was Comfort, providing good response from the engine and transmission. However, going up and down a mountain road, I preferred using Sport. In this mode the transmission’s judgment of which gear to select was actually quite good, and the throttle response was sharper as well. There wasn’t any real noticeable change in steering weight and feel, so it was light but responsive. Having said that, the E300’s handling is actually quite good for a car that’s built for comfort. It changes direction well for a relatively big car, but you do notice a tiny bit of roll around corners. It’s no sports car that’s for sure, but you can cover ground around a twisty road at a decent pace without the car feeling that it’s out of its comfort zone. It is also a great long distance cruiser, thanks to; an excellent highway ride, minimal wind noise, and feeling very stable at high speed.
The user interface
The display screen for the user interface has great graphics for the navigation and other menu options, and the reverse camera projects a high definition image. Going through the functions of the vehicle is fairly simple, however I found that pairing the phone to the car was less intuitive – as I also had to go to another submenu to be able to stream my phone’s media through the car’s Bluetooth system, rather than allowing it once the phone has been paired.
Why it's at the top
Despite the E-Class name being around for a long time, the car itself keeps evolving with time, but manages to keep its core appeal. It uses downsized turbocharged engines like many modern cars in Europe, and there’s plenty of equipment to keep today’s gadget-obsessed customers happy. But, despite being modern on the inside and outside, it is instantly recognizable as a Mercedes Benz, and not just because there’s a big three-pointed star on the front grill. It’s very comfortable, and feels every bit the premium brand product you would expect it to be.
Written by Alex Kisiri