This mid life update for the W212 E-class has reached Indian shores and we've got our hands on one.
What’s immediately obvious is that it takes a big step forward in the looks department. The nose is all new – a new single element headlamp cluster replaces the earlier quad headlamp setup. There’s a softer flow to the design of the nose and the chin, with its built in splitter, looks a bit sportier too. The biggest change of course is that you can now order your E-class with the sportier looking Mercedes grille; the one with the two prominent slats and the big star at the center.
There aren't too many changes around the rear of the car. There are new tail-lamps with LED inserts but that's about it. Mercedes has however made an expensive sheet metal change to the sides; it has gotten rid of the slightly retro pontoons around the rear wheel arches, and the car does look a bit younger now. Also particularly nice are the really classy five-spoke 18-inch alloys that make the car sit much better on the road.
On the inside, craftsmanship and build quality are fantastic. The doors shut with a sense of solidity and you notice how well the doors are padded and the sheer quality of the chrome bits.
The cabin is familiar and there are only a few changes. The vents on the central console are new, there is a new analogue clock in the center and COMAND screen is now larger and of a much higher resolution. The new E can also sync with all modern mobile devices and gets Navigation as well. Other changes include new dials, each individually hooded, there are twin sun visors, our car came with an AMG steering and a panoramic sunroof and there's another colour screen at the center of the speedo as well. Otherwise, basic design like the dash remains unaltered.
The E-class’s front seats are built with large passengers in mind and support for the shoulders and thighs is fantastic. Cushioning is not as firm as it used to be but it seems Merc has found a good compromise. Slide into the rear of the car and there's plenty of space and support for your thighs. Getting in and out is easy, the doors open wide enough, and seating position is very comfortable.
Mercedes will launch the new E Class powered by two engines, this 204bhp 250 CDI and the184bhp 200 petrol. The 250 diesel we're driving uses a twin turbo version of Merc’s very successful 2143cc common rail engine. It makes 204bhp, which isn't really a lot. Still, performance is strong because of the massive 50.9kgm of torque it makes. What makes the performance feel especially effortless is the fact that this motor makes its maximum torque from as low as 1600rpm. Merc also seems to have improved the refinement of the motor. It doesn't sound particularly loud or diesel like when you set off, and rattle and clatter are well damped at everyday driving speeds.
What feels great is that you build speed effortlessly and the rate of acceleration can be upped by just flexing your right foot. Drivers looking for more performance are however likely to be slightly disappointed. Spinning the motor harder and holding on to gears does not yield that much more in the way of performance and the engine does feel a bit strained after 4000rpm. Mercs seven speed gearbox isn't the quickest either, so winding it down a notch or two really does pay dividends.
The driving experience is brilliant. The new electric steering is light, but also quick and accurate. The E-class feels more agile and willing to turn. With the new ‘direct control’ dampers, Mercedes has made the suspension of the new E more comfort oriented as well. The new E-class absorbs surface undulations much better. It does get a bit unsettled on really bad roads and there is a bit of movement from the body; but it's not enough to make you feel uncomfortable. As ever, the levels of noise inside the cabin are impressively low.
Where the new E-class really shines is when it comes to a set of corners. It does feel soft and there is a bit of roll but it still feels surprisingly well balanced and relaxed even when loaded up. What also makes a big difference is that the car now wants to turn into corners, which means you enjoy driving it a bit quicker as well.
The new E class, as ever, feels like the perfect blend of old world charm and modern technology. All the old characteristics are there. The great ride, the hushed cabin and the solid build quality. Performance is adequate too. It feels effortless, it is reasonably quick and agility has improved too. Mercedes has updated the car’s looks and the features and options list has grown substantially as well. So what we have here in a nutshell is a much improved, better looking, better riding E-class that also happens to be better equipped. The competition better sit up and take notice, the new E-class really does have a lot going for it.