Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - E-class - sedan range
21 Jul 2009
MERCEDES-BENZ is applying its successful C-class strategy to the new-generation E-class by lowering base prices and increasing specification levels.
On sale from July 29 and starting at $80,900 for the E220 CDI, the three-pointed-star brand is also breaking with tradition by releasing a diesel – rather than a petrol-powered – model as the large luxury sedan’s opening gambit.
It also becomes the first four-cylinder diesel E-class to be offered in Australia.
Under the BlueEfficiency eco-banner, Mercedes-Benz is following Audi and BMW (with its Efficient Dynamics) by stacking the range with as many sub-7.0 litre per 100 kilometre models as possible to dodge the luxury car tax.
This move has helped the new W212 E220 CDI to undercut the outgoing petrol-powered E200K Elegance opener by $9125.
It is also more than $25,000 cheaper than the previous entry-level diesel, the $106,231 E280 CDI V6 Elegance, while the new, higher-output $96,900 E250 CDI four-cylinder diesel, which eclipses that old V6 for performance and efficiency, costs $9331 less.
The least expensive petrol E-class is the $93,900 E220 CGI.
However, this is $3875 dearer than the E200K Elegance, while the cheapest new V6 diesel, the $131,900 E350 CDI, will set buyers back at least $25,600 more than its E280 CDI V6 predecessor.
Furthermore, the diesel and four-cylinder W212s will not arrive into Australian dealerships until late September, leaving only the petrol E350 V6 and E500 V8 sedans – starting from $128,900 for the E350 and $178,900 respectively and the only non-BlueEfficiency branded Benzes for now – to hold the fort until then.
Nevertheless, the E350 too represents a saving (of $2965) over the outgoing E350 Elegance sedan, despite gaining almost $13,000 worth of extra kit by Mercedes-Benz’s calculations.
This includes parking radar and ‘intelligent’ bi-Xenon high intensity discharge headlights, visual guidance, split/fold rear seats, cupholders, cable for the auxiliary media function, 18-inch alloys, multi-contour front seats, multi-zone climate control air-conditioning and a lane-keeping and blind-spot alarm package.
And while the latest E500 is some $11,232 dearer than before, it now includes $21,000 worth of additional gear – including true keyless entry and go, ‘Luxury’ front seats, an alarm and a sun protection pack.
The performance flagship E63 AMG sedan arrives earlier than expected, in November this year, followed by the new E-class wagon range (S212) in the first quarter of next year.
In the meantime, Mercedes-Benz is also releasing the new C207 E-class Coupe, replacement for the 12-year-old CLK Coupe series.
But don’t be fooled. Despite the many visual similarities and some shared mechanicals, the ‘E-class Coupe’ is in fact a C-class-based product – as a simple tape measure process will reveal.
All up then, for 2009, there will only be six E-class sedan models coming from Sindelfingen in Germany.
The E-class usurps a predecessor launched in Australia seven years ago and continues a mid-range sedan lineage that dates back more than 60 years to the 1947 Model 170 V.
Stylistically, the W212 departs from the forward-looking visage of the last one by returning to the quad headlight look pioneered on the ‘round eyed’ W210 E-class from 1995 to 2002.
Similarly, the controversial rear wheel arch haunches are also a throwback to a bygone Benz, this time to the W120 ‘Ponton’ models (180 and 190) of the 1950s.
The body is longer (4868mm), wider (1854mm) and lower (1464mm) than before – by 16mm, 10mm and 32mm respectively, underpinned by a wheelbase that has grown 20mm to 2874mm, a front track that is 23mm wider and a rear track that sits 49mm prouder.
This helps increase the distance between the front and rear seats by 10mm to 848mm, while elbow width extends 51mm, front headroom rises 10mm and rear headroom is up 11mm.
And while the 540-litre boot remains static in volume, it is now more efficiently shaped so it can swallow four golf bags, Mercedes-Benz boasts.
Since development started in the early 2000s, Benz has built 1400 prototypes that have covered 34 million kilometres.
This research regime also included 150 in-house crash tests and 17,000 virtual crash tests, helping to make the new sedan “arguably the safest car in its class", according to Mercedes-Benz.
The upshot includes a 30 per cent rise in body shell rigidity, a record 72 per cent high-strength steel implementation in the body, hybrid construction for the front end using sheet aluminium and fibreglass-reinforced plastic, nine airbags and four seatbelt pretensioners.
Some of the innovations new to the car include an Attention Assist driver fatigue detection system, Intelligent Light System with five different headlight functions, Adaptive High-beam Assist to alter light intensity automatically, Lane Keeping Assist, Blind Spot Assist, Distronic Plus radar-guided cruise control, Pre-Safe Brake (autonomous emergency braking if there is an acute risk of an accident), and Speed Limit Assist to read road-side speed zone signs (although this function not yet available to Australian buyers).
All W212s are rear-wheel drive, with engine sizes ranging from 1.8 litres to 5.5 litres – 6.2-litre AMG cars notwithstanding. All petrol models include direct injection to help cut fuel use by 20 per cent compared with the previous equivalents.
Available from September, the base petrol car (for now), the E250 CGI, is powered by a 1.8-litre turbo-charged four-cylinder engine developing 150kW at 5500rpm/310Nm at 2000-4300rpm, with a five-speed automatic gearbox.
It delivers 7.3 litres per 100km and a carbon dioxide emissions rating of 174 grams per kilometre, according to provisional NEDC figures from Europe.
Next is the 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine with 200kW at 6400rpm/350Nm at 3000-5100rpm, combined with Mercedes’ 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission to help achieve 9.4L/100km and 219g/km (Australian Design Rule figures).
The final petrol sedan variant for the time being is the 5.5-litre V8 E500, with 285kW at 6000rpm/530Nm at 2800-4800rpm. Also using 7G-Tronic, it serves up 11L/100km and 258g/km (ADR).
On the diesel front, a pair of 2143cc four-cylinder twin turbo-diesels – known as CDI in Mercedes-speak – power the two lower-end models.
Almost entirely new, only the power and torque outputs differ between the two EU5 emissions-compliant engines.
The 2.2-litre E220 CDI generates 125kW at 3000-4200rpm/400Nm at 1400-2800rpm and returns 6.1L/100km and 162g/km (ADR), but the more powerful but equivalently sized 2.2-litre E250 CDI produces 150kW at 4200rpm/500Nm at 1600-1800rpm and cuts fuel consumption 5.3L/100km and emissions ratings to 139g/km (NEDC). Both are mated to a five-speed automatic transmission.
More performance is available from the 3.0-litre V6 E350 CDI, with 170kW at 3800rpm/540Nm at 1600-2400rpm. This engine drives the rear wheels via the 7G-Tronic gearbox to present 6.9L/100km and 182g/km (ADR).
Service intervals for all new engines have now been extended to up to 25,000km, depending on usage.
Underpinning the W212 is a three-link front suspension with MacPherson struts and a front anti-roll bar connected to the spring strut, while the rear axle is a multi-link independent design.
The suspension boasts the company’s new ‘Direct Control’ system, whereby hydro mechanical dampers are amplitude-dependent in their firmness, reacting to road surface and driver behaviour. Auto dampers also debut on the ‘Airmatic’ air suspension set-up that is standard on the E500.
Steering is via a ‘Direct Control’ variable-ratio rack and pinion set-up that Mercedes says is located more indirect in the central position compared to before to help improve directional stability and road adhesion.
Larger ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes, measuring from 295mm to 344mm up front and 300mm to 320mm out back, are fitted according to engine.
BlueEfficiency, meanwhile, refers to the numerous measures the company has devised to decrease consumption and maximise efficiency.
In the E-class this includes improved aerodynamics (down 0.1Cd to a world-leading 0.25Cd for a sedan), alternator ‘management’, direct fuel injection, turbocharging, smaller engine displacements, an on-demand power steering pump and fuel pump, lower rolling resistance tyres and an optimised air-conditioning compressor.
Mercedes went for horizontal dashboard design, seeking to reconnect with earlier models such as the lauded W124 from 1986 to 1995. Infusing a sense of well-being as well as class-leading quality was paramount, the company claims.
The W212 follows the W204 C-class by employing Avantgarde trim as standard unless otherwise specified at no extra cost by the buyer, although only the base E220 CDI model arrives in Australia donned in Elegance livery.
The latter more closely adheres to the more traditional Mercedes style of a chrome-plated grille, and smaller (17-inch) wheels for a plusher ride, among other things. These wheels are also fitted to all four-cylinder and diesel models.
Standard features include adaptive dual front airbags, full-coverage side airbags, window airbags, knee airbags, adaptive brake lights that flash when applied hard, anti-lock brakes, brake assist, adaptive brakes with hill hold and hill start assist, electronic stability control, anti-whiplash head restraints, PRE-SAFE anticipatory occupant protection, a tyre pressure warning system, a drowsiness detention system, an auxilliary connector, electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, remote central locking, climate control air-conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, daytime driving lights, cruise control, electrically adjustable front seats, 16-inch alloy wheels shod with 225/55 R16 tyres (E220 CDI), a multifunction steering wheel, Mercedes’ Audio 20 CD infotainment system (CD-audio, eight speakers, Bluetooth interface), and a colour display screen on the upper dash that is operated by a centre-console sited controller.
The previously optional split/fold rear seat is now in every E-class sedan.
The Avantgarde denotes niceties including leather upholstery, bi-Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, LED daytime driving lights, LED tail-lights, 17-inch (and above) alloys, sports-tuned suspension, unique cabin and instrumentation lighting, different bumper designs and high-gloss black grille louvres.
Of course there are also vast arrays of options, including individual and specially contoured front and rear seating, TV tuner, sunroof, keyless-go entry and start, an AMG sports pack, premium audio and satellite navigation.
Nappa leather upholstery is also available, but only as part of an Exclusive Package that adds leather-trimmed dash and Alcantara roof lining.
Due to the larger wheel range, the spare has gone from a full-sized item to a space-saver.
Mercedes-Benz expects to sell around 200 E-classes a month once the full model range is here, equating to about 2500 cars a year.
Production capacity delays for traditionally diesel-dependent markets have resulted in the delay of the four-cylinder and CDI vehicles to Australia.
Managing director Horst Von Sanden says the company is unsure what the sales split will be between petrol and diesel, but expects the sub-$100,000 E250 CDI’s combination of performance, economy and value may make it the bestseller.
“But we don’t know what is going to happen,” he said.
“It has now become a price-sensitive segment.”
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