If you want to get a sense of who Mercedes is trying to reach with its new E-class, you should 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 the Audi A8 to the Jaguar XF to the Cadillac CTS to the Infiniti G37X.
That’s because the E-class has more models in its lineup 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 of two V-6 engines, a V-8 and, for the first time, a four-cylinder turbo-diesel.
The diesel, found in the new E250, is taken from the GLK series and features twin turbochargers and Mercedes’ BlueTec technology. In this configuration, it develops 195 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, while delivering 7.4 litres/100 km in town and a thrifty 4.6 litres/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 V-6-like performance, is only available with the four-door sedan. 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 of Oregon, the four-banger surprised 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 most significant feature of the 2014 E-Class. At least not according to Chris Goczan, 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 lineup.
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 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 redesigned air-vents and controls.
And, all E-class models, with the exception of the E400 Hybrid and coupe/cabriolet, now come with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system as standard issue. This broadens customers’ choices, says Goczan, 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 simply must have one, it can be ordered. “There just doesn’t seem to be a great demand for this model,” says Goczan.
For performance enthusiasts, Mercedes’ AMG division has given the E-class lineup a once-over – specifically on the sedan and wagon models. With the E63 models generating 550 and 577 horsepower, 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 Goczan. 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 E250 Bluetec starts at just less than $58,000, while the E63AMG S-models go out the door for $110,000 for the sedan and $112,900 for the wagon before extras.
2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Price Range: $57,800 (E250 sedan) – $112,900 (E63 AMG S-Model Wagon)
Engines: 2.1-litre turbo-diesel; 3.5-litre V6 (2); 4.6-litre turbocharged V-8
Horsepower/torque: 195 hp/369 lb-ft for diesel; 248 hp/251 lb-ft for V-6; 302 hp/273 lb-ft for V-6; 402 hp/443 lb-ft for V-8
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic with manual shift feature
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 6.1 combined city/highway (E250); 8.9 combined (E300); 9.0 combined (E350 Cabrio); 9.9 combined (E550 Coupe)
Alternatives: Audi A6/A8, Lincoln MKZ, Jaguar XF, BMW 528i, Porsche Panamera; Lexus LS460, Infiniti M37/G37, Volvo S80