The launch of an all-new Mercedes-Benz sedan is always a significant milestone in the automotive industry, and with good reason. After all, the German prestige manufacturer never fails to surprise with its latest tech innovations, and the all-new W214 E-Class introduces its fair share of cutting-edge features.
Among the surprise-and-delight elements in the new-generation sedan is a whizzbang MBUX Superscreen HMI (optional), as well as four-wheel steering, which is paired as an option with air suspension. The newcomer, which is 22mm longer in the wheelbase than the oldie, is also impressively slippery through the air, as retracting door handles contribute to a drag coefficient of 0.23.
Due on sale here in November or December, the new E-Class is likely to be offered in E200, E300 and E450 4Matic guises, with the first two models powered by four-cylinder turbo engines, while the latter is propelled by a potent 3.0-litre six-cylinder turbo motor. All models also feature a 48-Volt mild hybrid system that kicks in an extra burst of power when needed.
As you’d expect of a Mercedes, the latest E-Class is strong on safety as its MRA II platform uses a mix of high-strength steel and aluminium and is an evolution of the MRA platform used by the outgoing E-Class, which scored a five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests.
Apart from its full complement of airbags (front, side, curtain, centre and driver knee ’bag), the E-Class is also armed with a range of active safety features. Distronic active cruise control is standard and works in tandem with familiar features such as Lane Keeping Assist, Active Brake Assist, Attention Assist (drowsiness detection) and self-parking capability (which can now be activated via the touchscreen).
So much for the theory, what is the new E-Class like to actually drive? In a word: impressive. The W214 generation exactly what you’d expect from an all-new E-Class. Apart from the raft of new tech outlined above, the latest model is notable for its ability to cruise in exceptional comfort and silence, with occupants basking in the Merc’s first-class cabin ambience.
It’s fair to say Mercedes-Benz has oriented the W214 E-Class far more towards comfort than dynamism, as the newbie glides across country roads with silky grace and poise. Road and wind noise are superbly suppressed, to the extent the vehicle now arguably sets new benchmarks in its class for refinement.
The trade-off is that the W214 isn’t particularly engaging to drive. The steering feels remote and the car also pitches and rolls more than, say, a BMW 5 Series would if hustled across the same backroads.
In many ways, the entry-level E200 hit the sweet spot best of all the models we drove as its lower mass compared to more potent variants (it tips the scales at 1,825kg with a 75kg driver) means there’s less of a feeling of inertia when you’re threading it across winding backroads. The 2.0-litre motor feels decently punchy, thanks to the added boost provided by the mild hybrid system, so performance is perfectly adequate for a sedan that doesn’t purport to be a sporty offering.
The E450 4Matic is obviously faster, but this is partly offset by the added weight placed over the front axle by the six-cylinder engine, plus there’s the added mass of the all-wheel-drive system, which enhances traction in low-grip situations, but dilutes the handling purity of the rear-driven E200.
Visually, the E-Class is evolutionary but, in our opinion, the Exclusive Line, with its traditional horizontal-vaned grille and three-pointed star atop the bonnet, looks far better than the Avantgarde and AMG Line models, which have the star motif in the centre of the grille.
Mercedes-Benz formerly erred towards conservatism in terms of design, but that’s no longer the case, especially when it comes to the interior.
The W214 E-Class has genuine wow factor inside, as the funky MBUX Superscreen is complemented by artful design elements throughout the cabin, with skilful use of leather, open-pore wood, gloss-black trim and metal-look surfaces. Although open-pore wood is the default choice for surfaces such as the centre console lid, there’s also the choice of other materials, such as carbonfibre-look trim.
There’s a feeling of airiness inside the cabin, and rear passengers are the primary beneficiaries of the new E-Class’s enlarged dimensions, as kneeroom and legroom are increased by 10 and 17 millimetres, respectively, in the back. Rear elbow room has also been expanded by 25mm, and Mercedes says this now puts the new E-Class almost on par with its S-Class sibling.
So, should you buy the all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class? If your criteria are focused on comfort, refinement, solidity and a genuine sense of occasion when sliding into the cabin, the W214 E-Class is, for now, in a class of its own. It’s an impressive piece of engineering that remains true to the three-pointed star’s hallowed DNA.