On-road in the UAE with the latest incarnation of the ever-popular Mercedes-Benz E300[Not a valid template]
We first drove the newly-facelifted Mercedes-Benz E-Class on the international launch earlier this year, and thoroughly enjoyed an in-depth blat in the E63 AMG on the roads of Barcelona.
But now we’ve come back down to earth, on home ground in the Middle East with the more affordable and less face-melting new Mercedes E-Class, the E300. The previous incarnation of the 3.5-litre V6-powered E-Class W212, as launched in 2009, has proved very popular in these parts – we saw two pass by during a 10-minute period on a quiet street while taking the pictures you see here. People like it. So what has Mercedes done to make it better?
In short, not a great deal. Knowledgeable that they’re onto a good thing, the men and women of Mercedes have wisely kept the tweaks to a minimum so as not to offend their customer base. The most obvious change is to the front of the car. Gone are the sharp twin lamps of the first-gen W212, replaced instead by single lamps that keep the four-eyed look in theme only, by use of flowing light elements within the unit. The grille and large badge sit atop a redesigned front bumper, and the bonnet is new as well. At the back, the bumpers and rear lights have had a refresh, and the overall impression is decidedly polished and modern. For a car that’s now four years old, it still looks as fresh as its rivals.
Inside, things are at first glance exactly the same as before. Look closer though, and you’ll find that the infotainment centre is cleverer than it was, able to play music from your phone through Bluetooth and, in theory at least, able to access the web through 3G. Although we couldn’t get it to work. There’s more new safety tech available too, most of it filtered down from the trend-setting S-Class.
Looks wise, there’s still a preponderance of buttons in the middle of the cabin that clutter things up somewhat, and far too many stalks aside the steering wheel – indicators, wipers, gear selector, cruise control, steering column adjustment – but the seats are comfortable and adjustable every which way and the driving position more than acceptable.
Under the bonnet is a 3.5-litre V6, which purrs into life at a prod of a dash-mounted button. It pushes 248bhp to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automotive transmission that can be set to Sport, Eco or Manual mode via a dial on the centre console. The engine itself is unchanged from the previous model – it pulls well but won’t trouble any neck muscles, with 100kph coming up in 7.1 seconds at full chat. The gearbox though has had some tweaks for efficiency, which means that in E mode it’s frugal on the fuel but occasionally needs some prodding to get full acceleration. Sport mode hangs the ‘box high in the revs, too much so for around town driving, so ideally there’d be some sort of middle ground setting. It’s not really a major issue, but if you really want pinpoint control you can either flick the paddles, which temporarily gives you manual control, or switch the dial to full Manual mode. When changing cogs yourself, the transitions are a trifle sluggish for the sporting driver, but they’re beautifully refined and smooth.
Handling wise, the E300 is set up for refinement rather than sporting excellence. Our car came equipped with the AMG Sports Package, which includes lowered and stiffened suspension, but it’s still relatively soft. The steering is not direct enough and the bodyroll slightly too pronounced for real enthusiastic thrashing. Don’t get me wrong, the handling is surefooted and competent, but it’s not quite as pin-sharp as the car’s looks and the AMG label would suggest, and the feedback through the seat and wheel is insulated to ensure comfort rather than thrills.
The E300 remains an excellent car in terms of its looks, comfort and practicality, with some features that are sure to keep it a favourite among buyers that prioritise those things in a luxury saloon. Readers should be aware though that it’s not made to put a smile of excitement on the driver’s face; rather one of quiet satisfaction.
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|Engine:||V6 / 3498cc|
|Power:||248bhp @ 6500rpm|
|Torque:||250lb ft @ 3500-4500rpm|
|Transmission:||Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive|
|Front suspension:||Multilink, coil springs, gas dampers|
|Rear suspension:||Multilink, coil springs, gas dampers|
|Wheels:||19-inch, front and rear (optional AMG 7 spokes)|
|Tyres:||225/55 R16 front and rear (standard wheels)|