Difficult as it is to believe, even luxury car customers look for good value. Expensive is fine, but many Indian buyers believe they must get their money’s worth. And what’s wrong with that? This then is a little something that should go down well, a diesel E-class, with most of its bells, whistles and gongs intact, but with a whole lot of the price missing.
From the outside, there’s little different. The collection of wedges that is the new E-class is as alluring as ever. The sharp and confident slashes, the tipped-forward aggression, the subtle flashes of avant-garde chrome, they’re all there. And the story continues on the inside too. Merc has learned its lesson well in India. There are no cheap cost-cutting measures like manually operated seats and no low-rent bits; in fact at first glance it seems as well kitted out as its bigger sister. Telltale differences however exist. This car has lower trim level, Elegance vs Avantgarde, and that means some quality trim is missing. But you’ll be hardpressed to notice in isolation. The gear selector stalk on the 350 has been replaced by a conventional gear lever between the seats and there are no paddle shifts behind the steering wheel. The seats are just as plush and comfortable, the cabin is fantastically insulated and the sense of calm and hush is as good.
Well, almost. The four-cylinder, twin-turbo motor under the hood of this E is not as smooth and as silent as the V6. But that’s no big surprise as the 350 CDI is by far the most refined diesel we’ve tested. In contrast, this four-cylinder motor has an area of discordance two-thirds up the powerband, and it’s disrupting in comparison. And the four is nowhere near as free-revving as the V6 CDI motor either. What also makes the motor sound more strained is the fact that, unlike all recent Merc gearboxes, this is a five-speeder and not a seven. So the motor has to take bigger steps when shifting up or down a gear, tossing the tachometer needle towards the redline.
What this motor has in bags however is torque, 51kgm of it; enough to make it a proverbial tree stump-puller. But how has Merc extracted this much torque out of 2143cc when the larger 2987cc V6 churns only 4kgm more? The additional boost of the twin-turbo set-up has something to do with this.
Under the hood sit a pair of dissimilar turbos. The smaller turbo is the high-pressure one and the larger unit the one responsible for low-pressure boost. The turbos are connected in series, one after another, with the turbine of the high-pressure turbo mounted directly at the exhaust manifold. The high-pressure turbo has a bypass duct, which regulates which of the turbos is in full operation; working together the two turbos force in more air than a single variable geometry unit.
Out on the street the E-class has more than enough punch to satisfy any rush for speed. The delivery of torque and power is strong and the E rushes forward with tremendous energy. And flat-out acceleration, despite this E having only five gears, is very strong and you can expect the 250 CDI to be approximately a second or so off the more powerful 350 in a straight drag. Power delivery, however, is a bit peaky and this can sometimes make accelerating smoothly challenging.
Otherwise you get all the E-class benefits. The deliciously liquid feel to the steering, fantastic build of the interiors, the feeling of being surrounded by a high-quality cabin, all of Merc’s safety systems, trick dampers that go soft and supple on a rough road and the ability of this chassis to swallow miles like they are millimetres. And then there’s the fact that this car has all the BlueEfficiency bits that make it squeaky clean and efficient.
Both a great chauffeur-driven car and an agile and able handler, this Merc appeals on multiple levels. It’s not perfect. Only five speeds for the automatic ’box is a bit of a letdown, the motor is not as refined as the V6, and power delivery is peaky.But if you want a diesel E-class for Rs 8 lakh less, with almost the same power output as the six, this twin-turbo is the way to go.