With a recent tease from BMW about an upcoming 5 Series, it wasn’t going to be long before Mercedes had something to say about its latest, W214-generation E-Class. BMW and Benz have been duking it out on this saloon-shaped battleground for decades, and that doesn’t look like changing anytime soon; even with more diverse model lineups than ever, the large, traditional saloon remains crucially important.
You only need skim through the 60-page (!) press release of the new E-Class to understand that. Almost as much as the S-Class, the E is Mercedes’s showcase of all that it’s capable of when it comes to automotive technology, from video streaming for front seat passengers to a 0.23 drag co-efficient, and an Apple Watch Digital Vehicle Key to more than 60 miles of plug-in hybrid range.
It also says much about this day and age that there’s something quite reassuring about the arrival of a new car (and the return of a familiar nameplate) that looks broadly how you might expect. Mercedes can leave the EQ electric cars to reinvent the three-pointed star; this new E-Class incorporates some familiar Merc cues into a recognisable three-box silhouette, one almost five metres long (4,949mm), 1.9m wider (1,880mm) and 1.5m high (1,468). Mercedes says the new car combines tradition and modernity, continuing the E-Class lineage while acknowledging the EQ. Not mistaking it for anything else is, as ever, a box ticked.
The same cannot be said of the interior, which is another jaw-dropping Mercedes cabin. Alongside the now familiar MBUX features - augmented reality for the nav, Hey Mercedes voice assistant, a host of possible screen displays - the E-Class introduces a whole new layer of tech on top. The Hyperscreen is old news already; the optionally available Superscreen will dominate the interior here, complete with selfie camera at the top if you need to TikTok or Zoom from the car. There’s also Active Ambient Lighting on offer with Sound Visualisation, which can adjust the light sequence to the music it detects. Which definitely won’t be distracting. And the passenger can watch ‘dynamic content’ (TV or streaming) on the screen in front of them even with the driver behind the wheel (if the passenger seat is empty, the screen won’t play anything).
If those onboard feel ill (which seems like a distinct possibility) the Energizing Comfort feature now has an Anti-Travel Sickness programme to alleviate symptoms. For real. All it’s missing is Calpol in the glovebox. ‘The electronics architecture is more software-driven and less hardware-driven’ says Mercedes, with many previously separate functions now handed over to a single processor, which ought to speed up many of the considerable infotainment features. If that word doesn’t hugely sell short what the E-Class is capable of.
It almost seems strange to suggest that a car with Thermotronic air vents, an Angry Birds app and AI that learns which comfort features you like to use would be powered by something as old hat as a combustion engine, but such are the times we’re in. And it’s hardly like the E-Class is motored along by any old ICEs; six petrols and diesel variants will be available from launch (with many more to follow), all four-cylinder with some degree of electrification. The 204hp E200 and 197hp E220d/E220d 4Matic are all mild-hybrid, with a 23hp Integrated Starter Generator. The 312hp E300 e and E300 e 4Matic combine a four-cylinder petrol engine with a 129hp/324lb ft electric motor; the E400 e keeps the same EV outputs but ups the engine to 252hp, for 381hp and 479lb ft system outputs. The nine-speed auto is standard on all models, 0-62mph is from 7.6 seconds to 5.3 and EC kerbweight anything from 1,825kg to 2,265kg.
Of more interest will surely be range and efficiency, with all the PHEVs capable of at least 95km (59 miles) and up to 115km (71 miles) of electric driving on the WLTP test. The top speed for the fourth-generation plug-in hybrid models on electric running is 87mph, and the 25.4kWh battery can accept up to 100kW of charge. CO2 for the PHEVs is in the teens, and from 125g/km to 166g/km for the mild hybrid powertrains.
Chassis-wise, tech is once again the name of the game. Four-wheel steering is offered for the first time and, when combined with the Airmatic suspension and ADS+ continuously adjustable damping, promises ‘particularly agile and highly stable’ handling. It can also contribute to improvements in range by lowering the E-Class at speed. Standard suspension will be ‘Agility Control’ steel springs and a selective damping system.
“For over 75 years, the E-Class has stood for superior and comfortable driving, combined with a high-quality and luxurious interior. With the new E-Class, we continue this in a fascinating way, combining the superior driving experience with a digital luxury experience”, said Jorg Bartels, Head of Integration Complete Vehicle for Mercedes. There’s certainly going to be a whole lot to unpack when it comes to actually driving and owning an E-Class, that’s for sure. That’ll happen very soon, with production kicking off at the carbon-neutral (natch) Sindelfingen factory imminently ahead of sales in the summer.
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