► CAR drives the latest W214 Mercedes E-Class hybrid
► PHEV with 71-mile e-range tested here
► Some of the best tech not coming to the UK, though
Mercedes-Benz’s latest E-Class, as it always has with every prior generation, has laid on technological advancement and innovations pretty thick. Want a hybrid that can really go the distance? Mercedes-Benz is happy to provide. Looking for a purely petrol or diesel model? We’ve driven it here. Want to call your work colleagues, or play video games while you’re parked? Fine. Want even better technology than that on the S-Class? Step this way…
Wait, really? Better than the S?
Yup. The new E-Class includes a new MB.OS operating system and can be had with Mercedes-Benz’ new Superscreen – predictably a smaller version of the Hyperscreen that first launched on the EQS electric car. The new, developed-entirely-in-house infotainment system includes features like ambient lighting that reacts to the music you’re playing, Dolby Atmos sound tech, Zoom and Webex video calling via a dashboard-mounted selfie cam and the ability to install games and stream content from the front passenger seat. As for autonomous driving tech, the E-Class also debuts a lane change assistant that requires absolutely no initiation from you as a driver, either. Almost all of this isn’t available on the S.
You can very much tell this is still at the upper end of Mercedes’ offerings inside, as the material quality is impressive, with very few naff plastics (and, more crucially, much fewer creaks from the panels unlike the previous generation) in obvious places. The door pulls feel solid, and there’s a thunk to the indicators and centre console cubby actions you wouldn’t get in lower models.
Unfortunately, though, some of the E-Class hybrid’s massive list of kit isn’t coming to the UK – namely Airmatic air suspension (which was the only available suspension system on the cars we tested in Austria) or rear-wheel steering (which is reportedly tied to an option pack with… you guessed it, Airmatic suspension). Sigh.
As for the powertrain options, there are two plug-in hybrid variants: the E300e and the E400e (which are both four-cylinders unlike, for example, the outgoing 530e and 545e). The UK gets the former, which we’ve driven here.
How does the E-Class hybrid feel on the road then?
Well, let’s talk about the powertrain first. Mercedes-Benz claims some impressive numbers, including an e-power range of up to 71 miles, if used right. And we’re inclined to believe those figures, as we were regularly seeing claims of over 60 miles on a full charge.
In a likely effort to neuter the usually-savage performance offered by PHEVs in favour of efficiency, mind you, the E300e is quick *enough*. It accelerates reasonably well without the engine turning on, and gives you just the right amount of combined shove if you press the throttle hard enough to wake up the combustion engine.
It’s not exactly accompanied by a charismatic engine noise – the four cylinder sounds raspy and strained – but the performance you get is reasonable enough. Refinement inside remains impressive regardless of what speed you’re doing (when the engine’s not at high revs, anyway), meaning the latest E remains an impressive long-distance cruise missile.
Even so, some of the E-Class hybrid’s controls are on the twitchy side. The throttle, for example, is rather alert for the uninitiated, with small pushes meaning large reactions from the powertrain (even to the point of downshifting a few gears in the combustion engine) or almost wheelspinning the tyres while parking on gravel.
And the rest of the driving impressions come with caveats, however, given the fact UK cars are unlikely to get rear-wheel steering, and don’t get Airmatic air suspension. Even so, they’re interesting options; the E-Class’s steering rack is remarkably sensitive, making for a twitchy first few miles as you attune to it.
Anything else I should know?
Mercedes bucks the trend by offering CCS fast charging (up to 55kW) on a PHEV (which is a rarity beyond the likes of the plug-in hybrid Land Rover Defender), and the boot takes a sizeable penalty over the non-PHEV version (360 litres here over 540 litres for the mild hybrid petrol or diesel options).
Keeping up with BMW, Merc also says it will offer the E-Class with an illuminated grille.
Mercedes E-Class hybrid: verdict
We’ll have to hang on until we get full UK specs and driving impressions for an in-depth verdict (particularly regarding the ride), but the latest E-Class turns up the tech and efficiency into a mostly positive result.
Some of the E’s controls feel like they need a little more modulation so they’re less twitchy, but the E300e’s electric-only range and the cruising refinement offered fresh out of the box mean the latest E-Class is more than worth a look in for the well-to-do corporate commuter.