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Big class for the tight fisted.
Ever been under whelmed by a Mercedes, join the club. Various C class and 190E models have passed under my bum and yes they were nice cars, but any better than many other Marques no not really. They have good points but feel less than dynamic to drive. Solid YES well built YES, dynamic driving experience NO not really.
But they are not really big Mercs are they, they are cost and size limited range fillers, not exactly cheap range fillers, but not quite at the point where Mercedes begin to excel.
But here is an E class, a big, expensive swish Merc no excuses can be accepted here, this one will have to be right in all departments.
Well it is big and its imposing and fairly novel for Benz it is good looking too.
Big Mercs have always been imposing, but styling was in my eyes somewhat questionable. Yes they were always immediately recognisable but the styling could be at best described as slightly sinister. They did have a somewhat ageless quality but that was because they all looked like sixties cars.
The E is not that way at all now, and if you witness the homage paid by some high end Japanese Marques we won't mention, impresses more than just the general public.
It still looks unquestionably like a Merc but its exterior now oozes sophistication like never before, build quality with style rather than just JCB strength.
The Headlights seem too be winking at you from the front in a smug expression of one upmanship. Paint is gleaming and deep, no daft, wacky, obvious colour schemes are needed here to attract the proles, just elegant style toned down under a conservative coat. Despite Benz getting into bed with Chrysler there is little evidence of Americanisation. Just subtle hints of chrome and Gleam, and an understated set of big alloy wheels.
It is not miles down the aero route yet so the boot is not too humpy to spoil the lines. It shape is smooth rather than swoopy, though Mercedes have carefully blended in all the sticky out bits that ruffle the wind, like the wipers and the headlamp washers. It does not look particularly low CD so whether blending in the washers help much or just looks good is a fair question, but at this cost level itís the least you can expect.
Inside it's just a sophisticatedly elegant without any glitz spoiling the effect. Black ash wood many have been thrown out of your house in the Eighties, but it makes a comeback here to splendidly polished effect. Lovely thick material adorns all the right places and is trimmed in perfectly.
In between the highest quality plastics that the German equivalent to ICI can cook up make no pretence at either carbon or alloy, and are all the better for it.
The dash is a little plain but that seems to be a Benz trait if it puts you off, then maybe you should just enjoy the ride and not spend so much time being anal retentive about secondary information inputs.
Sitting in the seat the first thing to strike you is that it is not as rock hard as you expect. Strangely comfortable for a first interface between cushion and Bum, comfort that it maintains as the miles slip by.
Mercedes seem to have taken on board every body else's Ideas on ergonomics too, so layout of minor controls is improved, for all other than those of Teutonic bent the older cars were aimed at.
Note storage nets
|Dash tells you more than enough, integrated computer fills in the gaps|
There is none of the old electric passenger mirror and manual drivers nonsense in this car. Just all the good stuff you have a right to expect at this price point.
Its hard to pin point any thing really new and cutting edge, but then Mercedes donít generally fall into the pointless me too parade. If the E class has not got it, it is probably a gimmick not worth having. So there is no daft door locks, credit card ignitions and all that old malarkey.
Things not always found in lesser cars include such stuff as a first aid kit, mandatory in many countries, but often left out of UK spec cars to save a couple of quid.
|Check out the quality of the footplate and the trick dickyness of the rear arm rest|
Here is where the E class gets really interesting, and yet IM my eyes slightly strange too.
Lets make no bones about it the initial asking price of this car puts it well beyond most mortal buyers moving it well into the comfortably off range of buyers. Not the kind of person you expect to be overtly worried about details such as fuel consumption. Yet peek under the bonnet and there lives a Diesel engine.
Moreover, not even a big one at that just a piddling 2.2litre four pot. Granted its turbo charged, but its still sounds remarkably small when measured against the size and weight of the car. Another 2 cylinders and 800cc would seem a natural amount to expect.
Now we all know the said advantage of Turbo diesels, huge torque press the pedal and let the motor wheeze its way around the clock with minimal revs. Keep it in gear and let it pull.
So just inspect that gear knob, what does it say? no not the Avantgarde bit the other bit
Reverse - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - yea - 5 nothing funny there - 6 yep 6 forward gears hmmm now this is getting strange.
Strange till you take a drive and it all starts to become a little clearer.
For a Diesel this is one revs happy little beast, beyond 3k in the lower 4 gears it really does go to great effect, and it revs relatively high for a diesel. Though with no where near the range of a petrol. The Six gears are there to keep the motor on the boil and the Turbo spinning. 5 feels like a conventional slightly long top gear dropping the revs right down, and 6th well thatís just a mountainous affair best reserved for motorways.
At first the gearbox feels a little tricky to traverse, but with a little practice and minor change to technique it becomes slick and fast. Soon you can jump the engine from dawdling in 6th to 4th or 3rd for some suprisingly quick acceleration. It has enough speed for you never to be embarrassed by your engine choice.
Granted you have to work the engine and box perhaps a little more forcefully and often than is perhaps seemly for such an expensive status symbol, but its easy enough to do with the slick clutch and quiet refined engine.
Payback comes with economy figures reportedly pushing 50mpg possible. Now why the first owner would need quiet such economy is a question I cant answer. With cars depreciation in general being so high I would have thought there were easier and more sensible ways to save a few bob on cars running costs. Maybe the owners just hate lining the governments pockets with every visit to the Petrol station.
Whatever the reason it makes second hand E classes look really rather desirable to those of us with somewhat slimmer wallets.
Lets remember that various nefarious German companies like AMG for instance will do you a fire breathing V8 version of this car. That tells us that the microbore diesel in this model is not exactly going to stretch the chassis anywhere near the limits of its potential. So you have probably got a safety margin of 2 or 3 hundred horsepower built in. So we are not expecting much in the way of drama.
What we are not expecting is a chassis quite so well resolved and such a delight to drive.
The ride is luxuriant, without being sloppy it glides silently over bumps and potholes, but then displays a degree of body composure that really is to be admired. The balance between ride and handling is nigh on perfect. Many cars that ride as well do not handle as sharply, and those that handle as well ride much firmer.
It nice to be able to report Steering that is light, delicate and direct. Untroubled by road undulations and responsive to the touch. The standard Mercedes unerring straight-line stability is still there but with a responsiveness that is a revelation. Remember this a big heavy car, but it responds like one much smaller and lighter. Even the steering wheel is sensibly sized now down from the vintage sized knee scraping efforts of the past.
Have Mercedes relented on deadlocks yet? They did not used to like them and in theory presented a hole for the scum to exploit. Mercedes claimed there locks were good enough not to need them. Only an insurance company can tell you if that is true. Remote Central locking, Alarm etc are fitted, but this is one desirable car so the more precautions taken the better.
Air bags aplenty are always found at this level of car, ABS is found on pretty much all cars nowadays. The ABS on the Merc is not intrusive like some and I never chanced to find out if it even worked. Brake assist is probably hiding under the bonnet too, but how that works I will never quite understand.
Strength of build must be a big safety factor, especially as the car ages, as a traditional German built Benz that of course can be taken for granted.
It is roomy very roomy, front, back and boot. You would have to really be very lardy or Lanky to require anymore room than this has.
|There are probably bigger boots, but not too many are this well executed.||Badge worth loads in the bar bragging stakes|
Everything is built to last in a way many makers can only dream about. Therefore, it should last you a good while. Long time Benz owners with the new ML 4*4 were taking their cars back to the dealers complaining when the soft off-road tyres wore out in 10000 miles, Merc owners expected 25000 to 50000 miles from a set of tyres and similar if not more from a set of brake pads.
More importantly check out the sheer solidity and rigidity of the doors bonnet and boot for a clue to the overbuilt nature of the beast.
Do you like the slightly squashed looking headlamps, no me neither but the beam they chuck out is great turning winter night into bright shining day.
Spares and servicing can of course be outrageous but reliability is a strong point to, so it should not need too much spending outside of the service schedule.
As a new car proposition it is a strange combination of chassis and engine. However, as a used proposition it is a fantastic mix that will appeal to an awful lot of buyers, so competition for them may get hot. It looks as flash as any Lexus/Jaguar but you will be laughing all the way to the bank at the forecourt.
Any complaints ??
Well yes I don't really like foot operated parking brakes in manual cars, It suggest that the car was made to be an auto, though its easy enough to use and snaps off easily enough with your finger tips. It can allegedly make hill starts tricky though I don't think too many drivers would struggle to much.
And what's this Avantgarde nonsense, even the German tongue has probably got some good words to describe the car better. As it is the name is a little too Del Boys "Bonnet de Douche" for my liking.
Still us folk from Lancashire would say Eeeeee that be a bit o Class that.
So E Class is about right.
Huge wiper wipes hugely
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