Entry fee to E-dom a matter of ups and downs

The latest styling, engines, technologies and features – the new E-Class arriving next month has it all – and not always for any increase in price.


ALTHOUGH new versions of existing versions seem set to increase in cost, a change of entry model means that those starting at the bottom of the new E-Class are set to enjoy more car for less money.

That’s the suggestion from the pricing so far announced by Mercedes Benz New Zealand for the new model, which stands to be one of the smartest new cars on the road.

So far the Auckland-domiciled operation has chosen only to announced prices for the three of the five models, all sedans, that will represent the new range this year.

At $99,900 and $102,900 respectively, the entry E200 and the E220d present a good news story for providing more car for less money; their equivalents in the outgoing range – the E250 and E250CDI – were both $114,000 cars.

However, there’s also a difference in the entry engines. Previously the range-starters ran a 155kW/350Nm 2.0-litre petrol and a 150kW/500Nm 2.1-litre turbodiesel, while now the base car plants are a 135kW/300Nm petrol and 143kW/400Nm diesel units, both of 2.0-litres’ capacity.

The story takes a different direction for the other model in the initial line-up, the E350d, which continues with continues with a 190kW/620Nm 3.0-litre six-cylinder engine. At $146,300, this car is a whopping $15,300 more expensive than the outgoing E350 BlueTEC.

Though Mercedes here does not plan to provide prices for the other cited entries for 2016 – the E300 and E400 4Matic petrols – until closer to their release date, in the fourth quarter, a spokesman has not discounted that these models, which are expected to account for the lion’s share of sales in the long run, might also be pricier than their current equivalents.

However, Matt Bruce contends that it’s not quite a case of comparing apples with apples, because the current and next-generation cars are so very different; the commonality runs to a couple of the new models adopting carry over engines. But everything else, starting with the platform itself, has changed.

In addition to being a fresh start car in a design sense – and also in physical dimension, with increases there as well – the next E-Class will deliver a massively enhanced content including a swathe of new technology.

“The 350 model is really the only model that can directly compare with (the outgoing model) and there is a price increase – but there is also so much more technology going into that car now.”

Aside from taking all the latest driver aides, some of them world-first implementations, it gets 20-inch AMG wheels and Air Body Control suspension. There’s also a Burmester surround-sound system with 13 speakers, along with a head-up display, heated front seats, leather trim, MultiBeam LED headlights and a panoramic glass roof.

“We will announce the pricing for the 300 and 400 later this year … will the price go up? That’s to be confirmed, we have some things to work through, but you need to keep in mind that the 400 is now 4Matic (four-wheel-drive).”

All E-Class cars adopt an expansive new dash display that pairs two 12.3-inch screens and new steering-mounted touchpad controls – a configuration reserved for high-spec models in Europe but standard here – and some advanced aides, including an evasive steering accident avoidance feature, though not everything that was unveiled at the international launch in Europe.

Like the old car could after its 2013 refit, the Distronic cruise control system has ability (using cameras and radar to find, and keep the car between, lines on the road in the main) to self-drive at almost any speed. Though this isn’t the complete hands-free experience by any means because this is still only for short periods and in the correct conditions, the autonomous capability span has broadened and it self-operates for longer, up to 30 seconds against six previously.

This tech is also integral to other standard driver assistance features include Active Blind Spot Assist, Pre-Safe belt tensioners, and Pre-Safe Plus collision-avoidance autonomous emergency braking and rear-vehicle alert that keeps the driver from inadvertantly reversing into traffic.

However, because New Zealand and Australia market cars are to common specification, the cars here have to comply to Australian road safety requirements that are more stringent than ours. That means, for instance, that a smartphone-operated self-park feature, though allowable in NZ (in fact, it is about to go into the BMW 7-Series) and available in most other markets with the latest Mercedes, will not feature here.

Other features include nine airbags, Attention Assist, Agility Select drive mode settings with five driving programmes as a base choice, COMAND online infotainment and digital radio.

All new E-Class models also take keyless-go with hands free access, a 360-degree camera, steering wheel with touch control buttons, front electric seats with memory function and LED high performance headlights and ‘stardust effect’ LED tail lights.

The brand’s Avantgarde fitout is also the start-out trim level here so even the entry car has a steering wheel covered in Nappa leather and the trim is of black ash open-pore wood.

Being all-new means it is bigger but lighter and more aerodynamic than its predecessor, with higher levels of safety, comfort, fuel efficiency and performance. All the new models, including those coming later, have Mercedes’s new 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission.

Localised fuel figures have yet to be disclosed, but, on the European test cycle, the E200 lists 5.9 litres per 100km, the E220d at 3.9L/100km and the E350d at 5.1L/100km. The E350d is the quickest of the initial line-up, with a 0-100kmh time of 5.9 seconds. The E220d lists 7.2s and the E200 lists 7.7s.

In addition to the 180kW/370Nm E300 and 245kW/480Nm E400 4Matic, the new family is set to include a 205kW/600Nm E350e plug-in hybrid and a new AMG variant, the 295kW AMG E43 that will position below the traditional E63, whose latest guise has yet to be seen. Both will arrive next year, Bruce suggests. The E350e pairs a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for reduced emissions and fuel consumption as low as 2.1L/100km.

The E-Class is, of course, more than just a sedan family. Coupe, cabriolet and wagon variants are also set to be revealed internationally in the months ahead, but local market entry is not yet being discussed.

On the styling front, the new E-Class naturally shares a great deal with the C-Class and larger S-Class siblings.

The new body is claimed to be outstandingly stiff and “astonishingly” quiet, as well as lighter thanks to the high employment of aluminium and high-strength steel. The 2939mm wheelbase is 65mm longer than before, while the overall length grows 43mm, to 4923mm.