This is getting exciting. The great Indian luxury car race. If more than three years ago BMW toppled Mercedes-Benz to emerge as the biggest luxury car player in India, Audi overtook BMW this year to become the number one seller. Mercedes, obviously, wouldn’t have sat quiet. If last year the company brought in eight new products, this year saw the launch of the GL-Class, the A-Class and the new E-Class, among other cars. And as far as the recently-released July 2013 sales figures are concerned, the Stuttgart-based company even managed to edge past Audi by selling 810 units. In fact, Mercedes saw a whopping 53% sales jump in July as compared to the same month last year. Anyway, let’s not delve deep into numbers, but into alphabets. Today we choose E. The all-new E-Class that was launched recently.
First, a few facts. The E-Class is the highest sold luxury sedan in India ever, with 23,000 units sold. Globally, the E-Class has been the most successful vehicle for Mercedes, with more than 11 million units sold since it was first introduced. The alphabet E initially stood for Einspritzmotor (German for fuel injection engine). And the new E-Class, for the first time, gets the Mercedes ‘three-pointed star’ integrated into the central grille. So, how good is the new car?
The major changes are carried out at the front end which has now been completely redesigned with new single headlamps. The E-Class, for a long time, has had this ‘four-eyed’ look, and this has been retained by adding flowing day-time running lights within the headlamps. This also gives the car a sporty appearance, which was missing in the previous models. The three-pointed star now moves into the central grille, a welcome change. The bonnet and front bumper have also been completely reworked upon and this now gives the much-needed youthful character to the car. At the rear, the lights and bumper have been slightly revised. The new alloy wheels look catchy.
There are not many changes in the cabin though. Some welcome ones are a new interior trim line called the “open pore ash wood trim” on the dashboard, which is a first in the luxury sedan segment in India, and which gives the new E-Class a classy ambiance. Then you have memory seats with lumbar support that raise the comfort level inside the car. The Mercedes COMAND online multimedia system comes with a 17.8-cm colour display, internet connectivity, USB and Bluetooth connectivity, and hard-disc navigation.
The new E-Class boasts of the largest sunroof in the segment, which now extends over the rear seating bay, although only the front section can be opened. The car also comes with “active parking assist” system. Equipped with reversing cameras, the system helps the driver by providing information about the most suitable parking space. And for Indian conditions, Mercedes has given the new E-Class a full-sized spare wheel, but this doesn’t eat into the boot space, which is massive—540 litres.
A change we would have loved is a single control for parking brake. But this is not the case. You engage the parking brake by pressing a pedal just above the left foot-rest, but to release the brake you have to pull a lever located near the ignition key-slot. A single control, as is there in the B-Class, would have been welcome.
The E-Class comes with eight airbags—adaptive dual-stage airbags for the driver and front passenger, side-impact airbags for driver and front passenger, and window airbags. Then you have standard features such as anti-skid resistance, electronic stability with brake assist, crash responsive head restraints for front seats, attention assist to warn drivers about inattentiveness and drowsiness, belt tensioner, and more.
Under the hood of the new car you have two options—a 2143cc diesel engine that generates a torque of 500Nm@1600-1800rpm and a maximum power of 204bhp@4200rpm, and a 1991cc petrol engine (300Nm@1200-1400rpm) and (184bhp@5500rpm). While the diesel car (E 250 CDI) goes from 0 to 100 kmph in a fast 7.5 seconds before touching a top speed of 242 kmph, the petrol one (E 200 CGI) goes from 0-100 in 7.9 seconds and hits 233 kmph. (If you still want more performance, check out the drive impression of the new Merc E63 AMG—Taming a beast on steroids—below.) Both motors are frugal too. What helps is features such 7G-Tronic Plus transmission that provides some advantages in terms of efficiency, more aerodynamic form of the car (Cd value of 0.26-0.28) and the Eco start/stop function (every time you press the brake pedal and the car comes to a stop, the engine shuts down, and it starts again as soon as you release the brake). The result: a claimed fuel-efficiency of 13.8 kmpl for the petrol motor and 17 kmpl for the diesel one. And a massive 80 litre fuel tank means you get a long range (over 1,000 km for petrol and over 1,200 km for diesel).
At R41.5 lakh (E 200 CGI) and R44.48 lakh (E 250 CDI), the car has been sensibly priced too. Mercedes has a lot riding on the new, youthful E-Class. And it is also time for Audi and BMW to keep a close watch on their Stuttgart-based competitor.