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2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Richard Russell/The Globe and Mail

The E-Class is a critical vehicle in the Mercedes lineup. More than 30 million of the W/S 212 cars, as they are known internally, have been sold over the past six decades.

There are 74 versions of the E-Class globally, 10 to be available in Canada for the 2014 model year after receiving a facelift and a suite of new technologies for 2014. The platform, suspension and drivetrains carry over for 2014, but we were able to sample the next generation of powertrains during an extensive drive program here, engines that will likely be found beneath the hood of 2015 E-Class models.

While evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, the visual changes result in a smoother and more organic look. All exterior panels save for the trunk lid and roof are new.

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The first thing you notice is a more rakish front end with the Mercedes star prominently featured in the grill and three large air intakes, two on the flanks giving the effect of wings. The headlights are a prominent part of the new E-Class – innovative single-lens static LED systems with integrated LED daytime running lights that are standard. A new character line runs from the rear doors to the new narrow taillights, which also feature LEDs. A black insert, rimmed in chrome, spans the space between two integrated stainless steel exhaust outlets. There are also new 17- and 18-inch wheels.

Interior changes are less dramatic. Small revisions include the centre stack with a classy analogue clock flanked by air vents, a new leather-trimmed steering wheel with shift paddles on the offside, selectable three-color ambient lighting and richer trim. The signal lever position has been swapped with that of the cruise control, finally putting it at the nine o'clock position. Electric power steering, a navigation system and automatic start/stop are standard across the board.

Mercedes has loaded the safety bases. A full array of advanced features are standard across the line, including Attention Assist, Collision Prevention Assist, Adaptive brakes with "hold" function, Pre-Safe, Neck-Pro, ESP, ASR, BAS and 11 airbags. Phew! The collision prevention and Attention Assist systems are upgraded from current systems.

The vehicles we drove were powered by a pair of new next-generation engines – a new 2.5-litre diesel and a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V-6, both of which will be coming to Canada, but not right away. The 2014 E-Class lineup will be powered by carryover engines. The new four-cylinder diesel will appear this fall as the E250 BlueTec 4Matic sedan, replacing the current E350 BlueTec V-6, likely as a 2015 model.

A new 3.0-litre twin-turbo V-6 will replace the V-8 for model year 2015 as the most powerful E-Class, likely to be called the E400. This new six is silky smooth with a flat power curve that peaks at a low 1,600 rpm. Turbo lag is negligible. It produces 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque in its current European guise, perhaps more by the time it crosses the Atlantic. It does not sound as good, though, as the V-8 it will replace. The E550 with its twin-turbo eight has one year left. But the loss will not be as great as you might think. Mercedes, whose ratings are typically conservative, says the new twin-turbo V-6 will power the E-class from rest to 100 km/h in a highly respectable 5.3 seconds.

The mighty warrior of the E-class line, the E63 AMG, will come in sedan and wagon formats, both with a new AMG-tweaked 4Matic system. In addition to a more powerful "base" E63 AMG with 555 hp and 531 lb-ft, there will be an S version with 577 hp and 590 lb-ft. All 2014 E-Series cars coming to Canada will have a seven-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel-drive. Both have received upgrades.

While chassis and suspension changes for 2014 are minor, they have resulted in a friendlier E-Class, more comfortable in normal use yet more responsive when pushed. On narrow Spanish roads northwest of Barcelona, we did indeed push and, while the ride remains characteristically German firm, it was not harsh. The steering is quick and responsive and no amount of canyon-carving fazed the big brakes or activated any of the myriad of electronic aids designed to keep you on the road.

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Tech specs

2014 Mercedes E-Class sedan and wagon

Type: Mid-size luxury car

Base price: To be announced

Engines: 3.5-litre V-6 (2); hybrid; turbocharged 4.7-litre V-8; turbocharged 5.5-litre V-8 (2)

Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

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Drive: All-wheel

Fuel economy (litres/100 km): To be announced

Alternatives: Acura RL, Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac XTS, Infiniti M, Jaguar XF, Lexus GS


The electronic aids

  • The new Collision Prevention System monitors the driving scene at speeds from seven to 259 km/h. If it senses an impending rear-end collision, both visual and acoustic warnings sound.
  • Parktronic with active park assist – using four digital cameras, it creates a 360-degree view of the vehicle’s surroundings, automatically searching for available parking spots at speeds below 36 km/h, whether perpendicular or parallel. The system takes over steering and braking when the driver selects reverse. The driver manages gear changes and the accelerator. The brakes are applied automatically.
  • Attention Assist looks for signs of drowsiness or distraction at speeds ranging from 60 – 200 km/hr. The display now shows current attention level and driving time since the last break.
  • Advanced Driving Assistance Package – A combination of a new generation of several previous features helps keep the vehicle in its lane and following traffic in start/stop heavy traffic situations.
  • BAS Plus with cross-traffic assist detects pedestrians and cross traffic.
  • Pre-Safe Brake automatically brakes at speeds up to 50 km/h if it detects pedestrians or other objects and the driver does not apply the brakes.
  • Pre Safe PLUS automatically detects rear-end collisions and triggers occupant measures to ensure maximum protection.
  • Active Lane Keeping and Blind Spot Assist knows when there is traffic in the adjacent lane, including oncoming traffic. If necessary, it will prevent the E-Class from leaving the lane by applying the brakes on the appropriate side.
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