The new Mercedes E-Class blends old-school comfort with a dash of youth

The E200 CDi may lack the performance punch of its nearest rivals, but it’s got the comfort and good value

Make: Mercedes-Benz

Model: E-Class

Year: 2013

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: June 3, 2013

Tue, Jun 4, 2013, 18:24

   

It’s a sign of the times when Mercedes-Benz focuses on the value on offer. Yet that’s the message the brand wants to get across to Irish buyers who have recently been wooed by well-priced Audi and BMW rivals.

The E-Class was for a long time the automatic choice for government ministers and company directors. However, as their stars waned, so too did the popularity of their motoring status symbols. Mercedes might have sharp, sporty coupes and SUVs, but its mainstay saloons were acquiring a rather old-school image, particularly when up against premium German rivals. What’s more, the Mercedes offering always seemed that little bit more expensive.

To combat this perception, Mercedes has overhauled its saloon car offerings, particularly in the C-Class and E-Class. The three-pointed star brand has looked not only to giving the design a more youthful image, but also to encompassing some of the technology that makes the S-Class the ultimate luxury car.

Admittedly, the new E-Class isn’t exactly a design revolution. There are tweaks and adjustments to the styling, but it takes a close inspection to spot the differences between new and old. Up front there’s the chance to drop the badge of the bonnet and opt for the larger grille symbol, giving it a more sporty look; the LED lights add to the idea that this is a more youth-orientated car.

But it’s the litany of new technology features that catch the eye. The E-Class cabin is much improved on previous models, with a sense of premium finish that was sadly lacking in the past. From switchgear to the standard leather seating, the new E-Class starts to justify its price tag.

Perhaps the most impressive features are the ones that hopefully few customers will get to see in action: the E-Class’s impressive armoury of safety features. Mercedes’ marketing bosses, however, deserve to be pilloried for failing to make the most of its safety technology. Terms such as Pre-Safe, Collision Prevention Assist and Attention Assist may feature in the small print in adverts, but a straw poll carried out among a group of my car-crazy friends found that most only had the vaguest idea what these buzzwords meant. Obtuse terminology is cloaking what is a truly excellent suite of safety technology.


Crash prevention
To summarise, the Pre-Safe system is not only supposed to minimise damage and protect passengers in case of accidents, but also to prevent crashes as much as possible. Using several sensors mounted inside and outside the car, it gives the car the capability to react depending on the situation. Put simply, it scans the surrounding environment and if it detects an accident is imminent it sends an audio warning to the driver.

Meanwhile, the Collision Prevention Assist involves a single mid-range radar monitoring an area some 80m ahead of the vehicle for objects which are likely collision targets. Information from the radar is combined with parameters such as the vehicle speed and trajectory to calculate a probability of collision. At vehicle speeds between 30km/h and 250km/h, the system issues a warning to the driver if the probability of collision with another moving object exceeds a critical value.

If there is not an immediate reaction it starts to prep the safety equipment, close windows, engage the stability control and, if Brake Assist Plus is fitted, will start to apply the brakes and slow down the car, all before the driver makes any move. What’s more, the latest version of Pre-Safe is also capable of correcting minor steering errors it detects by scanning the road ahead.

Mercedes is offering its new models with comfort suspension as standard for Ireland, and while that might not be in keeping with the youthful message it wants to get across, it’s a very sensible decision given the state of our roads. The ride is very supple, even over the worst roads, and it’s the most comfortable premium car in its class. Sports suspension is available, but for our money the comfort variant is by far the best buy.

The test car was the C200 CDi entry model, and this is what Mercedes hopes will win over cash-conscious premium customers who have flocked to the BMW 520d SE in recent years. Standard equipment is impressive. And with prices starting at €44,305, it’s certainly rubbing shoulders with its best-priced rivals.


Sacrificing engine output
However, there is a sacrifice to be made and it comes in terms of engine output. Whereas its similarly priced rivals all offer diesel engines putting out between 163bhp and 184bhp, the C200 CDi has a rather lacklustre 136bhp. That said, it’s not exactly a slouch. It doesn’t offer the sort of agile performance or pace you get from the BMW 520d, but instead of pace you get a far more comfortable ride.

If, however, you want more power, then you need to step up to the C220 CDi, which carries a higher price than its equivalent rivals, one that is hard to justify.

With a facelifted 5-Series due out later this year, there is a renewed focus on the premium family saloon market and the ongoing battle between the three big German brands. BMW still has an edge and may widen the gap when its new car comes out, but Mercedes is up there fighting its corner, and rightly has its loyal followers.

The Lowdown
Mercedes-Benz E200 CDi

ENGINE
2,143cc four-cylinder in-line diesel engine putting out 136bhp @ 2,800rpm and 360Nm of torque from 1,600rpm


PERFORMANCE
0-100km/h: 9.5 secs; Top speed: 207km/h; L/100km (mpg): 5.2 (54.3)


EMISSIONS
(Motor tax) 129g/km (€270)


FEATURES
Standard equipment includes: Mercedes Pre-Safe system; Attention Assist; Collision Prevention Assist; full leather seating; heated front seats; Active Parking Assist (self-parking including Parktronic sensors); comfort suspension; alloy wheels; LED headlamps; leather steering wheel; Bluetooth; nine airbags


RIVALS
Audi A6 2.0 177bhp TDi SE Multitronic €46,990; BMW 520d 184bhp SE Auto €47,020; Volvo S80 D4 163bhp Se Geartronic (auto) €41,795


PRICE
€50,345 (manual starts at €44,305)

OUR VERDICT
Comfort over sportiness should appeal to Irish buyers