Mercedes-Benz has invested a lot of time and energy into a substantial mid-life rejig of its E-Class sedan. First launched here in 2009, June 2013 will see the rolling out of a dramatically restyled sedan with a number of new and updated engine options, plus the addition of two fresh AMG variants, including the exciting high(er)-performance 430kW AMG S.
We’re taking in some of the best mountain passes that the Spanish coast leaving Barcelona has to offer in one of the new models destined for South Africa. The E 350 BlueTec replaces the three-litre V6 previously seen in the E350 CDI BlueEfficiency and, while the new engine with outputs of 185kW/620Nm is 10kW down on its predecessor, it’s also more efficient – overall fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are down to 6 litres/100km and 157g/km, respectively.
Chances are, you’d be unlikely to pick up the drop in output anyway, entranced as we were by the executive sedan’s reassuring steering feel, nimbleness through an array of tight bends and undiesel-like refinement.
While the E-Class cabin still feels well knocked together, the revised range shows a redesigned front end where the most significant change is Merc’s dropping of the E’s signature quad headlamp arrangement for a neater single cluster with new headlamps incorporating de rigueur daytime running lights. Merc claims its E-Class is the first in its segment to offer standard LED low-beams, although full LEDs are optional. Either way, the new light arrangement is radically improved from the earlier car’s awkward arrangement.
Peter Schmidt, the project manager for the development of the E-Class said, in introducing the updated model to the media, ‘We (Mercedes-Benz) want the best vehicle in this segment’. Cleverly, he did not mention any of the E’s rivals in ‘this segment’ although natural competitors include BMW’s 5 Series and the Audi A6. To give its cars the edge over other members of the German triumvirate, Merc has again gone big on the E-Class’ safety kit introducing many key features ahead of their traditional debut on the S-Class. The new flagship will debut at the Frankfurt motor show in September.
Top on the E-Class’s kit list is Intelligent Drive, which combines Merc’s top active and passive safety features to provide, Schmidt said, ‘better safety for all (occupants and pedestrians)’. In South Africa, standard Intelligent Drive items include Collision Prevention Assist, a radar and camera-based collision warning and prevention system and adaptive brake assist. Active lane keeping assist is able to intervene when a car is detected when approaching or passing and prevents the E-Class from drifting into that lane.
A range of new and revised engines were on offer, too, including the all-new two-litre petrol debuting in the E 200 and E 250 models. The direct-injection, turbocharged BlueDirect engine is claimed by Merc to be the first four-cylinder, spark ignition engine with stratified lean-burn combustion, turbocharging and exhaust gas recirulation, which is cool, although all routes would eventually lead to the new E 63 AMG and AMG S models.
The flagship AMG model from Affalterbach’s 5.5-litre biturbo V8 benefits from a power hike via ECU tweaks that boost power by 26kW to a dizzying 410kW and torque by 20Nm to 720Nm. It’s the proverbial battle axe, yes, but nothing quite as outrageous as the all-new E 63 AMG S model with 430kW and 800Nm at its disposal. Good news for those in the market for a high-performance business express – while the rest of the world gets the S model mated to 4Matic all-wheel drive (albeit with a 33/67 rear-wheel bias) the E-Class’ compact transmission packaging means a simple flip for right-hand drive cars is not possible. Instead, we’ll have to grow a few extra hairs to handle the S’s unruliness being channelled to the rear wheels only via the sharp seven-speed AMG Speedshift MCT dual clutch transmission of the ‘most powerful E-Class ever’. Indeed, AMG S models bound for SA will have to do without 4Matic…
We sampled both the standard rear-wheel drive AMG and the 4Matic AMG S on a selection of country roads and urban highways and, on first account, can be almost certain that AMG fans are unlikely to be disappointed. Steering feel is razor sharp, grip levels are off the charts and the sound of that boosted V8 is perhaps most akin to the sound of an ogre with a colossal toothache (under acceleration) and a rumbling tummy (at idle).
More truly is more, as Dr Gerald Thater, the head of powertrain development for Mercedes-AMG said: ‘The focus with the E 63 AMG was on performance, dynamics, efficiency and individuality; there’s more power and performance and a wider range of standard equipment.’
Sounds good to us. The AMGs will be launched alongside the rest of the updated E-Class sedan range in June 2013. Local pricing will be released closer to the launch date. The updated coupe range will follow.