You’ve used the wrong picture, that’s the old E-class, sort yourselves out!
Well, Mercedes calls it the ‘new’ E-class but it’s really a heavily revised version of the model launched four years ago. More than 2000 parts have been upgraded or replaced, the biggest being the new grille, which is bigger and more angular. The front bumper has been tweaked and the door mirrors are new. But the easiest way to pick out the new E-class is by its odd new louvred headlamps.
What else has changed?
The biggest news is the adoption of Pre-Safe from the new S-class. This anticipatory protection system, fitted as standard, links passive and active safety features by putting occupants in the best position during a collision by adjusting the seat, tightening the seatbelt, closing windows and the sunroof and prepping its safety features. Neck-Pro uses an active system that pushes the front head restraints up and forward in a rear-end collision to reduce whiplash. There’s also a long list of new options including the Intelligent Light System that adjusts the headlamps according to road type, cornering angle and speed.
Lots of family-orientated safety kit then. But is there anything for the driver to enjoy?
Yup, the E500 flagship borrows the 388bhp 5.5-litre V8 from the SL and S-class. It’s a fabulously smooth and torquey engine, and with nearly 90bhp over the outgoing V8 it delivers silken acceleration. So much acceleration in fact that you could do with those head restraints moving up and forward every time you flatten the right pedal. Dial in wafty air-sprung suspension and a slick, responsive seven-speed auto ’box and you have a supremely quick, virtually effortless driving package.
And fun to be had behind the wheel?
The front suspension and steering are sharper but the Merc still tolerates rather than encourages enthusiasm. It disguises its weight well and changes direction without fuss, but it’s best driven in chauffeur, rather than getaway, style. And at 25mpg on the combined cycle (so less than 20mpg in reality) you’ll need deep pockets if you’re to drive the E500 hard.
Wait, let me guess: the E320 CDI is still the one to go for?
Exactly. With 22lb ft more torque than before and a 38.7mpg appetite for fuel, it’s quick, frugal and refined. Mercedes also seems to have sharpened up its cabin quality – it’s still confusingly button-laden and misses out on the S-class’s much more advanced iDrive-style control system, but it’s sumptuously comfortable, seems well built and completely isolates you from the rest of the world.
This is an effective update to tackle the Merc’s newer BMW, Lexus and Audi rivals but it’s not cheap – you have to pay an extra couple of thousand pounds model for model over the old car for the privelege. The E-class isn’t the most exciting luxury car out there, but it’s a solid dependable effort and now much faster and safer too.