At first, Mercedes-Benz’s Drive Pilot semi-autonomous driving system is intimidating, even scary to use.
The Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic all-wheel-drive coupe, the only model coming to Canada for now, features the ground-breaking technology as the German auto maker drives into bold, new territory in the race towards autonomous cars.
But here, on a bustling highway headed from Barcelona to a golf resort in Villa Calonge, it’s time to give it a whirl. Hit a stalk on the steering wheel twice to engage the semi-autonomous driving system. Breathe deeply. Hands off the steering wheel. Don’t touch a pedal. Surrender to the technology.
Terror ensues, but disappears quickly. The system works like a charm, helping the driver to accelerate, brake and steer on straight roads and slight bends. For the most part, the coupe stays positioned perfectly between the lane markings at 110 km/h, following the vehicle ahead, slowing down and speeding up, as needed, without driver input.
There’s so much tech at play – including Mercedes’s Distance Pilot DISTRONIC with Steering Pilot, an intricate system designed to maintain a safe distance between your vehicle and the vehicle ahead. Using radar and cameras, the E 400 can even change lanes on multilane roads. Activate the turn-signal indicator and, if it’s clear, it will steer into the adjacent lane. But if there’s a vehicle in your blind spot, it’ll stay put and warn you with audible and visual cues that it’s unsafe to switch.
In an emergency, the system can also brake the vehicle to a complete stop and activate the hazard lights to warn other drivers. The E400 can self-drive for short spurts – about 30 to 45 seconds on straight roads – before it warns you to grasp the steering wheel and retake control. The system has limitations, but it’s still impressive, mind-blowing technology that could give Tesla’s AutoPilot a run for its money.
When the driver takes over, the E400 tackles the uphill twists and turns of the Spanish terrain with ease and confidence. A 3.0-litre twin turbo V-6 is the only available engine. It delivers 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. A new nine-speed automatic transmission, which changes gears fast and smoothly, replaces the seven-speed automatic.
The E-Class coupe is longer, wider and higher than its predecessor. There’s more interior space; passengers in the two rear seats won’t feel squished. A panoramic sunroof, four frameless retractable windows and no B-pillars provide an airy feel.
Interior changes are daring and bold, especially the two 12.3-inch display screens – a central media display for operating the navigation and radio system, and an optional instrument cluster display. Graphics are crystal clear and easy to read on the futuristic high-resolution screens. Circular air vents resembling jet turbines are gorgeous. Unique interior colour combos, such as macchiato beige and yacht blue with purple accent lighting, enhance the elegance. The colour scheme wraps around the cabin, sweeping from the front-door panel across the dash and centre console to create a cohesive look.
- Base price: TBA
- Engine: 3.0 litre twin-turbo V-6
- Transmission/Drive: Nine-speed automatic
- Fuel economy (litres/100 km): N/A
- Alternatives: Audi A5, BMW 6-Series, Lexus LC, Infiniti Q60
- LOOKS: One word: stunning. The all-new exterior design is a visual masterpiece with beautiful, sexy lines. Mercedes’s big, central star is nestled perfectly between a shiny, diamond-radiator grille with black pins and chrome. Sporty air intakes with dual louvres and two tailpipes at the rear beef up its stance.
- INTERIOR: A bigger body means more interior space. The front sport seats are 16-way power adjustable and the two rear seats are nicely sculpted, supportive and comfortable, even on long rides. Rear-seat riders get extra knee room, headroom and shoulder room. The rear centre armrest, however, looks bland – it needs more glam to elevate the rear space seating to the level of the front seats.
- PERFORMANCE: Who needs a V-8 engine? This twin-turbo V-6 has more than enough guts to conquer Spain’s twisty terrain. When you need power, it’s instant – nail the throttle and this coupe can hit 0-100 km/h in 5.3 seconds. Dynamic select-drive programs and a new optional air body control air suspension can be adjusted from comfy to sportier modes, depending on your mood.
- TECHNOLOGY: Mercedes’ Drive Pilot system pushes the technology boundaries with its partially automated driving capabilities. It’s part of an optional Intelligent Drive Package. Other tech features include smartphone connectivity for Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, a parking pilot system and a Magic Vision Control windshield-wiping system that squirts washer fluid directly in front of the blade in both wiping directions to improve outward visibility.
- CARGO: Cargo space shrinks from 450 litres to 425 litres, but it’s not a big deal. There’s still plenty of room for golf clubs, suitcases or grocery bags in the trunk.
This is one sweet, semi-autonomous ride that could give Tesla’s AutoPilot system a run for its money.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic coupe will go on sale in June. Prices aren’t available yet.
The writer was a guest of the auto maker. Content was not subject to approval.