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2016 Mercedes E-class review, test drive

19th Apr 2016 6:31 pm

The new Mercedes E 350 d is a sedan that impresses us in many ways. We get behind the wheel to find out more.

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What is it?
 
The fifth-generation of what is arguably the most successful franchise in executive car
history, the Mercedes E-class. It is lighter, faster and more economical than the car it replaces, but is also packed with technology including various autonomous options that allow it to practically drive itself under certain circumstances.
 
The new E-class has grown when compared to the previous model, with a 43mm increase in overall length to 4,923mm and a 65mm wheelbase stretch (2,939mm), thus improving space in the cabin. Despite that, the extensive use of high and ultra-high strength steel in the structure has reduced mass. 
 
The all-new E-class sedan, which may well be the best car Mercedes makes that isn’t either an S-class, or a full-on AMG-tuned brute. And this is the one you’ll want, rather than the one you’ll probably buy, because it’s the more expensive V6 diesel version. 
 
Unlike the considerably better-selling E 220 d, which gets an all-new four-cylinder engine, the 350 d carries over the old model’s V6. The flip side is arguably more interesting though, because it means there’s still 620Nm on tap from just 1,600prm. All engines on the new E-class are mated to a nine-speed automatic gearbox. 
 
What's it like?
 
It might be the ‘old’ engine, but six cylinders are always going to give a smoother power delivery than four and the E 350 d is a classic case in point. Where the E 220 d shows slight discontent under load with its gritty soundtrack, the V6 revels in being asked to muster its maximum pulling power.
 
It’s how much extra torque there is over the four-cylinder that’s perhaps most compelling, though. You barely need to labour the engine, even during quite spirited driving, and the V6 links really well with the 9G-Tronic transmission. The nine-speed ‘box seems hell-bent on keeping the revs below 2,500rpm in gentle driving, which suits this engine just fine. That same trait in the E 220 d stokes up an occasional unwelcome resonance.
 
The substantial extra weight of the V6 engine has done little to harm the Merc’s handling. That’s largely because, at least in the air-suspended forms we’ve tried, the new E-class isn’t a car you’ll be inclined to find the limits of, as you would with the sweeter-steering Jaguar XF. It’s far more happier in its role of a junior S-class, to which it owes its grand looks and lavish interiors.
With that in mind, the one snag is a ride that’s too easily flummoxed by potholes and recessed drain covers. The E 350 d seemed noticeably more bothered by such hurdles than the E 220 d we tried with the same Air Body Control suspension on the same Portuguese roads. High-speed comfort is tough to knock, though; there’s just enough laziness in the air chambers to smooth over motorway ripples without any unwelcome wallow over larger undulations.
When launched, the E 350 d is likely to be priced by around  Rs 10 lakh more than the E 220 d, so it’s hardly surprisingly that Merc expects around 80 percent of E-Class buyers to settle for the four cylinders. Mind you, the V6 versions do come with a few extra goodies including Merc’s much-improved Comand infotainment system and standard air suspension. 
 
Should I buy one?
 
Chances are you won’t and we can’t really blame you. On merit, the E 350 d is probably the best version of the new E-class we’ve tried, but it’s tricky to justify the 25 percent premium it commands over the E 220 d – even though you do get a few more gadgets to go with the extra power and torque.
 
Look at is this way: the E 350 d will undoubtedly be an expensive E-class, but when it comes to performance and engine refinement, if perhaps not quite ride comfort, it’s actually closer to the imperious S-class. From that standpoint, this range-topping E-class seems somewhat easier to justify.
 
 Will Nightingale (Autocar UK)
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