E is for expectation

Last Updated: Sat, Jul 20, 2013 05:25 hrs

The various Mercedes-Benz cars are ranged in classes with alphabetical prefixes. So you have the A-Class, a hatchback, which was launched in India recently, and the S-Class, the luxury sedan, et cetera. Midway on the rungs is the E-Class. This executive sedan range made its debut in 1953 and went by a saner name of Ponton then, the E standing for its fuel-injection technology rather than executive as popularly thought. The German car maker has its own tradition of naming various models. So successive cars in the executive sedan range had names like W123 and W124, but these were popularly called E240 for the 2.4 litre engines they sported. Mercedes-Benz finally capitulated to sentiments in 1993-1994 by officially designating the range as the E-Class. The company laid down elegance, comfort, safety and a powerful, but economical, engine as the attributes of the E-Class. The latest in the series, W212 in traditional nomenclature, is in India now.

Street-side iconoclast
The first thing that the new car does is to break the mould. The E-Class has been recognisable for its twin headlights, first introduced in the W126 in 1996. The signature look of the time had begun to look tired as the years passed and the designers in Stuttgart realised something drastic had to be done. The new E-Class does come with twin headlights, but it has now become a smart single unit with an angular cluster of LEDs. This serves to give the car a look of youthful attitude. The model has also undergone a nose job and the grille is stamped with an imposing version of the car makers star icon, marking the death of the bonnet-mounted gunsight emblem. The sporty AMGs DNA faintly appears on this E-Class in the form of curvaceous front bumpers. The side profile looks stretched, starched and creaseless unlike the previous versions, where it was bulbous and bordering on the boring. What adds to the new E-Class presence is the beautiful and refreshing 18-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels.

Ouch and oohs
The E-Class is known for being a brilliant car to be driven around in rather than driving it. While it affords a pleasure ride for back-seat passengers with its soft suspensions happily swallowing all potholes, it usually did not have the punch to be a drivers delight. The 2013 E-Class differs. It retains all its grand qualities but has undergone some serious tweaking. For starters, the suspensions have now become stiffer to enable it to take dangerous curves with ease. The ride quality has been compromised, but only at low speed. By improving the steering wheel and making it more responsive, Mercedes-Benz has tried to undo the E-Class chauffeur-driven image. In all honesty, however, the driving dynamics are still lacking when compared to its German rivals, but this is a big step in the right direction.

This W212s new 2.1-litre diesel engine lacks refinement unlike its earlier V6 powerhouse. Even though the 7-speed automatic gearbox and the engine are fabricated for efficiency, one can still have some fun by switching to the sports mode which lets the rpm needle touch the redline. To make the E-Class sprint faster, one has to generously use the paddle shift and drive it as if it was a manual-gear car. Having said that, it still has the most powerful diesel engine in its segment which again shows that Mercedes-Benz has thought a lot about ways to make owners of the car slip behind the wheel on weekends.

Best of both worlds
What is commendable about Mercedes-Benz is that it has retained the best features of the E-Class while adding improvements to it. There was a point when you could say that if you sat in one Mercedes-Benz car, you had sat in them all. It is no longer the case. The wooden trims were discarded in the previous generation, and the current avatar has added more chrome to give a more modern, sportier feel to the interiors. The hero of the central console is an eye-catching analog clock.

The new E-Class can also boast that it has the most spacious cabin in its class. This luxury sedan range has frequently been criticised for being equipped with fewer features than others of its ilk. Stung, the car maker has fitted the new E-Class with an upgraded COMAND system which can get you connected to anything via Bluetooth as well as a bigger display screen with higher resolution. It also comes with sat-nav system and a reverse camera-parking system. As in the GL, the companys SUV, the new E-Class also has the auto-steer park-assist system.

Throw of the dice
The past 5-6 years have been a rollercoaster ride for Mercedes-Benz in India. From being the undisputed number 1 luxury car maker in the country, it had slipped to third behind fellow Germans, Audi and BMW. But now the Stuttgart-based auto giant has climbed up to second and is breathing down Audis neck with the new E-Class. So will the much-improved executive sedan change Mercedes fortunes in India? Likely, since the E-Class perfectly balances its strong heritage with a slew of technologies and new design. Besides, it puts the chauffeur at risk of losing his job.

Engine capacity: 2143cc,
Power: 204hp at 4200rpm,
Torque: 500Nm at 1600rpm,
0-100 kmph: 7.5 seconds,
Top speed: 242 kmph,
Price: Rs 44.48 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)

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