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Driven: Mercedes-Benz E-Class makeover

Mid-life makeover: The revised Mercedes E-Class has a new look, and offers more for the money (click the yellow box for the first drive review).

Benz offers executive style in a better value package with new E-Class

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14 Jun 2013

MERCEDES-BENZ has rolled out a re-skinned and revised E-Class sedan and wagon in Australia, on sale now from $79,900 plus on-road costs.

The German company claims to have given its staple a lift in looks, performance, technology, and value for money, while new driver-assist systems cribbed from the coming S-Class limo help make it one of the safest vehicles available.

The now all-turbo, fully idle-stop equipped range also expands with the release of the company’s first hybrid passenger car, the E300 Bluetec Hybrid (BTH) diesel/electric sedan, usurping the old E350 CDI V6.

Due next month, it starts from $108,900.

Furthermore, the addition of the $86,900 E200 Estate brings back the first sub-$100,000 E-Class wagon to the market since 2005. Mercedes also offers the option of reverse-facing third-row seats.

Further up the Estate ladder, the naturally aspirated V6 and V8-powered E350 and E500 have stepped aside for the new E400 with a twin-turbo V6.

The latter kicks off from $128,900.

To get V8 power anywhere in the range, buyers must find $249,900 for the now sedan-only E63 AMG S.

That’s around $10,000 more expensive than the previous model, but it brings the Performance Pack’ upgrade that used to cost $10,000 extra. Both are set to surface in September.

On the subject of performance, all Australian vehicles (including the base four-cylinder cars) are fitted with an AMG-style sports body kit, brandishing the centrally mounted three-pointed star grille and minimum 18-inch wheel sizes (with restyled alloy designs).

Based on the four-year old eighth-generation E-Class, the W212 styling facelift is substantial, encompassing the entire nose cone, some rear side panels, the tail-lights, and both bumpers.

For the first time since the demise of the 1986-1995 W124, the signature quad-headlight look has given way to an all-in-one unit featuring lenses emulating the ‘four-eyed’ face.

Gone, too, are fog lights in the re-modelled front air intake.

A smoother appearance has been achieved with the completely redesigned bonnet, mirrored in the abolition of the controversial rear wheel arch flare for a more integrated panel.

Inside Mercedes has introduced an S-Class-style analogue clock mounted between the redesigned centre air vents, upgraded materials, a redesigned console, and new steering wheel with paddle shifters.

Central to the E-Class facelift’s new driver-assist technology is the introduction of what Mercedes refers to as an ‘Intelligent Drive’ system.

Employing a ‘Stereo Multi Purpose Camera’ with two lenses working in concert with a revised radar tech, and set at a 45-degree angle in the windscreen, they monitor oncoming and crossing vehicles, as well as pedestrians and traffic signs, to a range of up to 500 metres.

It works with the standard autonomous emergency braking system to lessen the chance of a rear-end impact at up to 50km/h.

Plus, there’s Pre-Safe Plus, which detects an imminent hit from behind by activating rear warning lights with increased frequency, the occupant protection measures such as the seatbelt tensioners, and the brakes.

The newcomer also brings upgraded versions of Mercedes’ driver fatigue detection system (now with sensitivity adjustability for more effective warning of weariness and inattentiveness), anti-glare headlights (which automatically redirect light intensity away from oncoming traffic), and lane-keeping assistance, which knows if the next lane is occupied, looks for approaching traffic and lessens the risk of an impending collision by applying the brakes on one side to prevent the car from straying out of its lane.

New electro-mechanical steering with variable assistance across the range sees the addition of Benz’s ‘Active Parking Assistant’ (for automated parking with active steering and brake control).

New-to-E-Class options include hands-free automatic bootlid opening (activated by shaking a foot beneath the bumper), while onboard infotainment technology such as the company’s latest Comand system now features internet access and uses apps such as Google search, Google Maps, and Google Street View.

Mechanically, Mercedes has ditched the old 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine choices in the top-selling E200 and E250 models for a duo of new 1991cc 2.0-litre direct-injection turbo units featuring a new dynamic balancer with full anti-friction bearings – a first in this type of application.

In the E200, it offers the same 135kW of power, but a 30Nm lift in torque (to 300Nm), while fuel consumption slips from 6.6 litres per 100km to 6.4L/100km in the sedan (wagon: 6.7L/100km), for a 148 gram per kilometre carbon dioxide rating (wagon: 155g/km).

The new sedan-only E250, meanwhile, betters its predecessor’s outputs to 155kW and 350Nm (up 5kW and 40Nm) and matches the E200’s fuel consumption/CO2 figures to boot.

On the diesel E-Class front the 2143ccc 2.1-litre four-cylinder 125kW/400Nm E220 CDI and 150kW/500Nm E250 CDI remain pretty much the same, but with consumption and emissions for both dropping to 4.9L/100km and 132g/km respectively (E250 CDI wagon: 5.1L/100km and 134g/km).

These results are bettered significantly in the E300 BTH, using the same diesel engine but with electric motor assistance to bring the numbers down to just 4.9L/100km and 129g/km.

The upcoming new E400 sedan and wagon bring a new 2996cc 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 to the W212 range, delivering 245kW and 480Nm, at a cost of 7.6L/100km and 177g/km (wagon: 8.0L/100km and 180g/km) to the environment.

Full consumption data for the 430kW/800Nm 5461cc 5.5-litre bi-turbo V8-engined E63 AMG S has yet to be finalised for Australia.

All W212s are rear-wheel drive, with torque channelled via a seven-speed 7G-Tronic automatic transmission in non-AMG vehicles.

As before, three links with MacPherson struts and an anti-roll bar make up the front suspension, while the rear axle is a multi-link independent design. Minor modifications have been carried to out improve both handling and ride properties.

Upper-spec models use the company’s ‘Airmatic’ air suspension set-up for improved comfort.

Brakes are via ventilated front and solid rear discs, while a full suite of electronic driving aids falling under the traction and stability control umbrellas help keep the E-Class on track.

Based on the Avantgarde trim level, the base car comes with adaptive full-coverage dual front/side/window/knee airbags, anti-lock brakes, Brake Assist, Adaptive Brakes with Hill Hold and Hill Start Assist, ESP electronic stability control, anti-whiplash head restraints, PRE-SAFE anticipatory occupant protection, a tyre pressure warning system, and a drowsiness detection system.

Also standard are: electrically adjustable and heated exterior mirrors, remote central locking, climate control air-conditioning, rain-sensing wipers, daytime driving lights, cruise control with speed limiter, electrically adjustable front seats, split/fold rear seats, alloy wheels, a multifunction steering wheel, a colour display screen and a centre-console controller.

While the E200’s pricing remains the same as before, Mercedes says it gains around $7000 worth of added value, including blind-spot and collision prevention assistance technology, the Comand APS multi-media system with reversing camera, AMG-style body kit, and 18-inch alloys.

The same applies to the E220 CDI diesel, though that model is now $2400 cheaper, so the value-added difference is around $10,000 in the newcomer’s favour.

Mercedes believes the $96,400 E250 petrol will have the most resonance with E-Class buyers, and may even be the best-seller, since it now features approximately $15,000 worth of extras (including 19-inch alloys, full LED headlights, the full driver-assistance package, automatic parking, and leather) for a price hike of just under $2000.

Its E250 CDI equivalent slides under $100,000 to $98,900, for a value-added upgrade of $18,000.

The new E400 is $3000 cheaper than the old E350 yet brings over $20,000 of extra features, the company says, while the E63 AMG S costs about $8400 less than the Performance Pack version of the old car, with almost $20,000 of extra kit.

Managing director Horst Von Sanden believes the new model has what it takes to shake the segment in which the E-Class helped define 60 years ago.

This is a very important launch for Mercedes-Benz Australia, with the E-Class at the very core of our brand,” he said.

“We listen to our customers, always, and our they told us they want a more aggressive car with more power and technology. And that’s all built into this car.”2013 Mercedes-Benz E-Class pricing*
Sedan
E200$79,900
E220 CDI$82,400
E250$96,400
E250 CDI$98,900
E300 BTH$108,900
E400$128,900
E63 AMG S$249,900
Estate
E200$86,900
E250 CDI$106,700
E400$136,700
*Excludes on-road costs.

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