The new E-Class is an absolute joy to be chauffeured in, an absolute joy to twirl around. In many ways, it sits at the top of the aspiration tree, narrowing the gap with the bigger and the more expensive S-Class
Go to any corner of India and there’s no better status symbol than a three-pointed star gracing the front of your car. Today, there are over 1 lakh such cars in the country and, of these, 34,000 are the E-Class—the country’s favourite luxury car. For long, this car has been synonymous with brilliance, comfort and quality. But then refinement has no upper limit, and on February 28, Mercedes-Benz will launch what it says is the best E-Class ever made in India. It’s called the E-Class LWB (long wheelbase) and we drive it in Goa.
India is the first market globally to get the right-hand-drive version of the LWB E-Class. That shows the kind of importance the parent company today gives to the Indian market. At over 5 metres in length, the new E-Class LWB, from a distance, comes across as the super-luxury S-Class. It clearly looks far bigger than its major competitors—BMW 5 Series and Audi A6. Bigger it is, but is it the best-looking car in its segment? While I still think the 5 Series looks better, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The size, however, gives the E-Class a sense of presence and power, which is so important in this segment.
The cabin of the E-Class, by far, is more opulent than that of its competitors. The dashboard looks fabulous and is put together brilliantly. The quality of plastics is top-notch and the central console is very well laid-out. The large 12.3-inch screen is clear and easy to read, even under the bright sun. There is a panoramic sunroof to let in as much natural light as you like.
The car is loaded with technology. For example, the controls on the steering wheel are ‘touch’ controls, not ‘push’ buttons. Ambient lighting is available in, hold your breath, 64 different colours. The sound system is by Burmester, the high-quality maker of audio systems.
Extended wheelbase translates into a massive rear seating area. It is one of the few cars in which you can comfortably sit crossing one leg over the other. The rear seat—call it a sofa—can be reclined too. On top of that, the rear seat headrest has a soft pillow attached to it. If you are being chauffeured long distance, there is a high probability you will fall asleep—so comfy is the space. Now, even though so much thought has gone into making the rear passenger cosy, she cannot operate the audio system—there are no audio controls at the rear! However, at the touch of a button, she can move the front passenger seat forward and backwards—the company calls the feature the ‘chauffeur package’.
The boot space is good, but the space-saver extra tyre (the stepney), ironically, eats into boot space because it is strapped to the floor.
The E-Class LWB will be launched with both petrol and diesel engine options. The petrol will be the 2.0-litre engine that develops a power of 184bhp and a torque of 300Nm. We drove the diesel—this 3.0-litre V6 motor produces a power of 258bhp and a colossal torque of 620Nm. It is mated to the 9G-TRONIC transmission. (9G-TRONIC is a nine-speed automatic transmission found in cars including the GLS and the GLE. Its high efficiency helps to reduce fuel consumption by up to 6.5%.)
Big and heavy cars aren’t necessarily fast. The E-Class is. The diesel we drove accelerates from 0-100kph in just 6.6 seconds, hitting a top speed of 250kph.
The E-Class is extremely comfortable even on bad roads, and the reason is Air Body Control—an air suspension technology that coordinates electronic systems to provide the perfect dampening power for each wheel depending on road conditions. In simple words, the vehicle will have an utterly smooth ride no matter how bad the road is.
Mercedes-Benz vehicles are synonymous with safety. The new E-Class gets seven airbags, a 360-degree camera—which provides the driver the visual support when parking and manoeuvring, and in situations of restricted visibility—and attention assist.
The E-Class LWB has been made extremely luxurious, so much that I feel it might eat into the sales of the bigger and the more expensive S-Class. (Mercedes-Benz, however, says that the S-Class customer knows what she wants and, thus, there won’t be any cannibalisation.) If the company is able to keep the price of the diesel variant under Rs 70 lakh, the car would prove to be an outright winner. It’s a product like no other in the Indian market, as of now.