E-Class snares A-grade motoring prize

A car that gives motorists a taste of a hands-free driving future has won the country’s most relevant motoring prize.


AN ability to drive, stop, park and even lane-change without the usual driver involvement has also allowed a Mercedes with a mind of its own drive itself to the country’s premier motoring award.

Being the richest picking in the room at this evening's New Zealand Car of the Year announcement was no issue for the E-Class sedan, whose street and open road smarts enabled it to smoothly swoosh past nine other cars – including the only other premium contender, another Mercedes – to snap the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild’s coveted annual prize.

Comment released by the Guild’s collaborative partner, the New Zealand Automobile Association – which also presented a selection of specific category awards – highlighted that the luxury model was a clear winner after votes were collated. 

The car’s plethora of sophisticated and, in some cases, world-first drive features are designed to keep it from avoiding accidents rather than entertain complete autonomy – and even though it does have capability to achieve this for short periods of time, Mercedes is coy about promoting it as a self-driving car.

Regardless, the tech’s actual and presumed abilities were still winners with the Guild, an independent organisation which represents the majority of motoring journalists in New Zealand and whose award is singular in being a fully national title.

This is the second successive year the award has gone to a German premium brand’s technology leader, with the BMW i3 electric car having won in 2015, and the second win for Mercedes Benz, following the C-Class of 2000.

BMW did not have a vehicle among this year’s finalists but it did manage to woo Guild president Liz Dobson away from the ceremony at Auckland's Viaduct Events Centre.

Her decision to favour a product launch hosted by the Munich brand in Europe - ironically for a 5-Series that is hoped to steal the Mercedes' thunder - over Guild duty meant that, for the first time since the award’s inauguration in 1988, it was not handed over by the organisation's president.

Mercedes Benz New Zealand general manager Ben Giffin accepted the Peter Greenslade Trophy on behalf of his brand.

The other shortlisted finalists were the Holden Spark, Honda Civic, Kia Sportage, Mazda CX-9, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Skoda Superb, Subaru Levorg, Suzuki Vitara and Volkswagen Tiguan.

Experience with two versions of the Superb wagon elevated the VW’s Group’s Czech flagship to No.1 with Motoring Network.

As much as we admired the E-Class’s technology, we felt that it would have been better applied to a sports utility – such as the medium GLC, which was the other Benz in the top 10 (and winner of a gong acknowledging it as the country’s safest car, a status based wholly on ANCAP crash test score results) - because that would expose the assists to a much bigger customer base.

The AA also presented ‘best in class’ category awards as follows: Small car, Holden Spark; compact car, Honda Civic; medium/large car, Skoda Superb; luxury car, Mercedes E-Class; small SUV, Mazda CX-3; medium SUV, Volkswagen Tiguan; large SUV, Mazda CX-9; luxury SUV, Volvo XC90; utility, Ford Ranger; sports/performance, Ford Mustang GT; safest car, Mercedes GLC.