The all-new version of the iconic E-Class continues the tradition of coddling its passengers in a capable, comfortable luxurious automobile.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
The Mercedes-Benz E-class has been a pillar of the brand for decades. It slots in between the entry-level C-class sedan and the lofty S-class. It competes with BMW’s 5-series and Audi’s A6 and other domestic and Asian players. Many consider it the “real” start of the true Mercedes line-up, with this weird logic that somehow the B- and C-class isn’t quite fit to wear the three-pointed star. Which is just downright silly. Regardless of how you see the E-class, it has long been a highly respected and desired model. And it’s all new for 2017.
The all-new sculpted E-class is sleeker and looks modern and sporty, and definitely follows Mercedes’ new corporate styling. You can see the dual LED angry-eyebrow driving lights a mile away, and at night, you’ll find very bright LED headlights below them.
The AMG styling package looks fantastic and includes front and rear fascias and side sills. The rear end isn’t going to be everyone’s favourite, but I definitely like it. Mercedes has done a great job with their tail lights in the last few releases of new models, and the new E-class is no exception. You’ll find a great LED tail light signature as it drives away into the night, and those integrated exhaust tips finish everything off nicely.
I also thought the 18-inch AMG wheels look great – they are wearing meaty 245/45-sized tires.
The new E-class interior styling is fantastic and takes modern luxury to a new, tailored level. Materials are luxurious – soft touch surfaces with constrasting stitching are everywhere, and the open-pore ash wood trim looks amazing in my opinion. The sore spot for me was the gloss black trim on the console – it collects dust quickly and shows fingerprints immediately.
I was very impressed when I plopped myself into the heated, perforated ARTICO leather front seats. They are very comfortable and extremely well bolstered – they wouldn’t be out of place in a sports car, and look beautiful as well. The fronts are 16(!)-way adjustable seats, which includes power head rests and knee bolsters and there are memory settings on both front seats.
In front of you is a nearly-perfect heated steering wheel on a power-adjustable steering column. But it’s what’s behind the wheel that counts. It’s a gigantic dual 12.3″ screen set-up and it looks amazing. The left screen replaces the instruments and is totally configurable in terms of the display information. The right side is the standard in-car centre display that manages your awesome Burmester stereo, your phone and navigation functions and plenty of vehicle settings. The whole thing is controlled by the COMAND system, a rotary joystick puck and touch-pad combination. I’m not big on the touch-pad, and preferred to stick with the control knob. It’s not the most intuitive system, by any stretch, but after a learning curve, it starts making sense for the most part. I did appreciate the nice simple controls on the centre console for the climate control as well as the rudimentary buttons for the sound system’s main functions.
The airiness provided by the huge panoramic sunroof is nice, and we thought the analog clock is a handsome touch. Pending on your chosen option packages, the E-class can come with oodles of driver assistance technology. My review sample sported attention assist, crosswind assist, parking assist, blind spot monitoring, cross-traffic and pedestrian alerts, rear-view camera, active brake assist with collision avoidance and active lane change assist.
Unfortunately, the back seat is not the roomiest. I’m 5’10” and had enough leg room, but foot room under the front seats was a bit tight. Thankfully there’s a good amount of head room and a secondary sunroof overhead makes it seem more open. Rear passengers get some adjustable air vents, a 12V plug and the always-necessary ash tray.
I love the smooth, clean styling in the new cockpit. When it comes to finding places to put your stuff, you can open a tip-up lid on the console to reveal a couple of cupholders and an ashtray (with a real-life cigarette lighter). Push a small button on the console and the clamshell armrest lid swings open – underneath is a nice carpeted bin with USB plugs.
Out back, you can pop the power trunk lid – I thought that trunk space was good, but not great.
Under the Hood
On paper, the 241HP 2.0-litre 4-cylinder doesn’t seem like it would motivate the E-sedan with much authority. But that little engine cranks out 273 lb.ft of torque at an incredibly low 1300 RPM, and paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission and of course Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive system, it does just fine.
Fuel economy is quite impressive. Mercedes rates the E300 at 10.8 L/100 km (22 US mpg) in town and 8.1 L/100 km (29 US mpg) on the highway.
As I mentioned, the powertrain does a nice job. I found lots of power off the line, after just a momentary bit of lag. There are 5 drive modes – Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+ and the customizable Individual mode. Each mode impacts the engine electronics, shift points, throttle response as well as the variable damping suspension and the steering effort.
Even in Comfort mode, I felt that the E300 had enough power and get-up-and-go. But if you put it into Sport+ mode, the car is truly transformed. It is extremely responsive and feels downright quick – as in, it feels quicker than it is. That’s not to say it’s slow – it makes the run from 0-100 km/h in 6.3 seconds. The car feels more high-strung in the sport modes and it is actually a lot of fun to drive – for a mid-size German sedan. And then you can drop things back to Comfort and it takes on the role of a laid-back autobahn cruiser once again.
The 9-speed transmission is phenomenal. It was always smooth and never faltered. I thought it was nearly always in the right gear and its shifts are imperceptible, yet crisp. If you want to take things into your own hands, you can manually shift gears using the paddle shifters. Mercedes’ dynamic suspension ride is sublime, particularly in Comfort mode. There was nothing it didn’t soak up beautifully. The car handles pretty well – you can expect some body roll, but it always feels supremely controlled. The roads were mostly dry when we drove the E300, so our testing of the 4MATIC system was limited to a couple of slightly-icy side roads and a few gravel parking lots with a sprinkling of snow.
The new E-class’ ambient lighting is definitely the coolest application I’ve seen to date of what has now become a fairly common interior treatment. It swoops around the dash, the sides of the centre console and around the door panels including the rear doors, and every passenger commented on it, saying it was very cool. There are 64 colours and the brightness is adjustable.
One thing I was not fond of is Mercedes’ use of touchpads on the steering wheel. They are supposed to feel familiar, like swiping on a smartphone or tablet. But I found it distracting and frankly, it didn’t work as well as it should. I’d much prefer a 4-way directional pad or scroll wheels, or even old-school buttons, thank you very much.
The 2017 E-class is a beautiful rendition of the mid-size luxury sedan. Mercedes’ styling cues work nicely with the E-class proportions, and they have managed to make it look sleek and modern, while retaining just that hint of stodginess that reminds onlookers that this car is something special. The interior is quite special too – it’s just as modern and sleek as the outside, and chock-full of new technology and nifty things like the digital instruments.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was, in the words of Donald Trump, HUGE! She really loved the car’s size, and how easy she felt it was to drive. Other than the COMAND system, which she didn’t get very comfortable with, she enjoyed the interior very much as well, and said it looked ritzy inside and out.
If you’re shopping in this price category, it is likely that the E-class is already on your list. It’s a fantastic car, as one would expect. And if the E300 isn’t enough E-class for you, check out the E43 that comes with some significantly increased grunt, or the fire-breathing E63. The sounds its V8 makes can wake the dead, and frankly driving one could do the same. It’s one of the greatest guilty pleasures on the market today. Whichever flavour of E-class you pick, you’re not going to be disappointed.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Mercedes-Benz Canada.
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Pricing: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300
Base price: $61,200
Options: $500 18″ AMG wheels; $1,600 Diamond White metallic paint; $5,100 Premium Package; $3,000 Intelligent Drive Package
Price as tested: $71,400