It’s not often that I gravitate to the back seat of any of our long-termers, but when a car has been conceived with the back seat in mind, it’s only fitting that that’s where I should be spending most of time. I’m not complaining though, because after a month of being chauffeured around in the all-new E-class, I can unequivocally say that this is the best back seat in the business – by a country mile.
This might be stating the obvious for a car that comes with a 140mm increase in wheelbase, which is entirely used to increase legroom. But the magic of the long-wheelbase E-class’ back seat is not just the extra centimetres it comes with, but how finely honed it is to deliver stellar levels of all-round comfort.
It’s only when you live day in and day out with a car that you discover its nuances. As the kilometres piled on, the E-class became an extension of my office, living room and even bedroom! No really, the E-class back seat actually puts me to sleep and is a great place to grab forty winks.
Mercedes has really aced it by bringing so many details together. For starters, it’s hard to fault the seat design itself. It’s at the perfect height, which makes getting in and out a breeze, and the cushioning isn’t too hard or too soft. The earlier E-class had firmer seats which felt more like a bench, while on the new cars, the individual and adjustable seats feel more like armchairs. Armchairs need armrests and you get a nice big one here by flipping down the central backrest. Even the door-mounted armrest is at the perfect height.
On my first long-distance trip, which coincidentally was a chauffeur-driven ride to Mercedes’ Pune factory, what I found most relaxing was being able to stretch or cross my legs, recline the back seat and sink my head into the pillow-soft headrest. It was an early start that day, and after a heavy lunch, I couldn’t keep my eyes open and enjoyed a solid snooze. I woke up just in time for the customary stop at the food hall, right before the Khopoli exit, to pick up a drink I recently discovered – freshly squeezed avocado juice. It’s absolutely delicious!
I also discovered that there was no place in the E-class to hold my glass of juice. The broad armrest has a generous storage box but is devoid of cupholders. And though the door bins have generous bottle holders, it’s not convenient a place to put something that could leak. The rubberized flat shelf in the armrest is good for mobile phones but not for drinks. Worried about spilling this bright, green juice on the plush, beige carpets, I held onto my glass until I slurped it dry.
Speaking of which, the E-class’ light fabrics are hugely impractical, especially during our monsoons. Despite using floor mats, the carpet picked up stains quite easily and is difficult to keep clean. The Artico or artificial leather seats too get easily soiled and I suspect that, over time, the interiors will have to be regularly shampooed to keep them from looking shabby.
If I were buying this car, I would tick the black interior trim as it’s so much more practical. And with a double sunroof that comes standard on the E 350d, you don’t have to worry about the cabin feeling gloomy.
Cars with extended wheelbases tend to suffer from ground clearance issues because of a lower breakover angle and I was worried that the E-class would fall foul of the big hump at the entrance and exit gates of my home that has grounded many low-riding cars. But, the long Merc comfortably glides over this crest without it being necessary to raise the height of the adjustable air suspension.
For the better part of a month, I’ve enjoyed the E-class from where it feels best – in the back seat. I’ve loved the way it soaks up Mumbai’s potholes, the way it isolates me from the outside noise, and the smoothness of the power delivery, which allows me to read in a moving car without feeling sick. But, now I plan to spend more time behind the wheel. After all, I can’t let our chauffeur Sagar have that creamy V6 all to himself.