Momentum is a wonderful thing. When you have it, everything is easy and effortless.
Mercedes-Benz has momentum. In spades. The 2017 E-Class is proof.
Arguably the most important car in Merc’s lineup, the E-Class is new from top to bottom, yet it looks and feels familiar. The cabin is rich and modern and the exterior design is handsome and tasteful. The looks here disguise some quite marvelous technology.
It’s all quite staggering, really. And I am not only referring to the depth and array of smart stuff on board this midsize luxury rig.
Indeed, Mercedes has the most user-friendly infotainment interface among the Big Three German luxury brands. That is, until you start dabbling with Linguatronic and smartphone-like motion recognition. Then you’ll need some instruction to communicate with your car.
Dynamically, this E is a success — a big car that demands only a light touch from the driver. Moreover, the seats are among the very best you can get in a $60,000-ish premium sedan. Truth is, the E epitomizes what has made Mercedes the runaway success story of 2016.
Yes, after all the 2016 numbers were in, Mercedes-Benz cars became the world’s No. 1 premium brand. The goal had been to get there by 2020, not 2016. But stumbles at BMW and Audi gave Mercedes an opening, through it has driven a vast array of new cars and SUVs (sport-utilities).
In total, Mercedes-Benz cars sold 2.2 million passenger vehicles last year, 10 per cent more than in the previous year. Mercedes cemented the No. 1 position as No. 1 in Canada, too. Profits were up, of course.
Consider this, too: the old E-Class out-sold the BMW 5-Series by 50 per cent, and doubled sales of the Audi A6/A7. The updated E will, I believe, crush its rivals in 2017. Those cars feel old compared to the Merc.
The E is startling because it’s an unintimidating showcase of fancy technologies. Take Active Lane-change Assistant. It gently nudges you back in line when you drift off. The new infotainment and control system is nearly intuitive, too – until you start babbling with voice and motion recognition. You’ll need school to be successful there.
And by God, this car is big and roomy. The wheelbase is longer by 65 millimetres; the extra length is in the rear. Overall length is up (43 millimetres), but the proportions are balanced.
Mercedes design boss Gordon Wagener says this new E signals “forward-looking and unique elements — such as the ‘catwalk line’ on the flanks and the ‘stardust’ look of the LED taillights. It is an aerodynamics leader, and it will take interior design to the next level.”
So if you want to know where Merc design is going, this is the template: broad-shoulders, short overhangs, a long wheelbase, powerful flanks, big wheels and a minimum of fussy lines and creases. As for the “stardust effect,” it’s all about reflector technology and surface shaping to make the taillights stand out.
Inside, there’s a light show. Two 12.3-inch display screens – one with virtual instruments and such for the driver, the other for systems and infotainment – stagger you at first with their actual brilliance. You’ll need to take a bit of time to familiarize yourself with all the different ways available to manage things, however.
I mean, there are touch-sensitive control buttons on the steering wheel that respond to smartphone-like swiping motions. A touchpad with a controller can recognize handwriting. And there are also voice controls – Linguatronic. Thankfully, the major systems – e.g., air conditioning – can be managed with buttons and rockers.
The cabin is a symphony of wood, leather and metal. Very tasteful. The interior is spacious and stowage spaces are everywhere.
You can personalize the cabin’s LED lighting, but the basic light array covers trims bits, the central display, handle recesses, door pockets, front and rear footwells, the overhead console, and even tweeters (if the vehicle is so equipped).
Various safety and driver-assist systems nudge the E-Class close to being an autonomous driver and the array of safety technologies is staggering. Segment leader? Yes.
And you might even enjoy something very old-fashioned: driving it, despite the little four-banger turbo under the hood.
2017 MERCEDES-BENZ E300 4MATIC
Base price: $61,200.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo (241 horsepower/273 lb.-ft. of torque).
Drive: all=wheel drive.
Transmission: nine-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 10.8 city/8.1 hwy using premium fuel.
Comparables: BMW 5-Series, Audi A6/A7, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti Q70, Jaguar XF, Lincoln Continental, Lexus GS, Volvo S90.