The launch of a new Mercedes-Benz E-Class historically brings along fresh technology and new features, many with marketing-rich designations. The latest W213 E-Class is no different. As such, we’re spending 30 days with the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 4Matic, digging into the depths of all the technology and seeing if changes such as powertrain downsizing dilute the model’s long-standing brilliance.
Pre-Safe Sound encompasses “pink noise” played by the audio system during an impending accident, reducing hearing damage in a crash. Car-to-X communication is a Waze-like feature allowing new E-Class models to communicate with each other regarding accidents and other travel issues. Add in three different options for controlling the large infotainment display plus the latest radar cruise control with steering assist, and the new German sedan certainly carries a learning curve. There’s also a new four-cylinder gasoline engine, a clear break from tradition under the hood.
The E-Class traditionally isn’t the sportiest offering in the segment. Initial impressions reveal that the W213 stays true to this placement among its peers. The torquey, 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four is stolen from the C-Class but is hitched to a new nine-speed automatic. We’ll see if two extra gears in the transmission can make up for the loss of 61 hp and gain of 66 pounds compared to the outgoing base E-Class, the E350. The new forced-induction engine does bring along a small bump in EPA fuel economy numbers—22/29 city/highway versus 20/28 for the old car.
Our test car is fitted with the optional $1,900 air suspension, which adjusts dampers as well as ride height. Its ability to isolate occupants over rough pavement at low speeds is impressive. One chassis caveat involves the tires installed on this early-build press car: Our E-Class carries Euro-spec, conventional performance tires on 18-inch wheels; the U.S-spec E300 utilizes all-season, run-flat tires, so ride quality and cornering grip will likely suffer.
Owners of the outgoing W212 E-Class will be surprised and, quite possibly, overwhelmed when they first sit inside the new car. It’s taken on very much a baby S-Class feel and design in the cabin. Gone is the button-happy and restrained Germanic interior design of the old E, replaced with a far more modern, flowing design. The 12.3-inch center infotainment screen is gorgeous and our test car features a second, equally sized $850 display replacing the standard instrument cluster. The combination fills much of the dashboard with brilliant displays and allows an array of user-configurable options. We spent nearly an hour playing with all the features in a parking lot, and we’re still quite sure there are more settings and pages to be found. The standard infotainment screen is controlled by either a traditional rotary controller or a touchpad with handwriting recognition, both living in the center console. Alternatively, you’re able to keep your hands on the steering wheel and utilize smartphone-like thumb controls to navigate both screens. Ironically, initial impressions reveal one particular issue with the new interior: a distinct lack of some basic and much-needed buttons. There are no preset buttons or simple track or station forward and backward controls. Also, you can no longer toggle through the various radio bands or media inputs by pushing the function buttons multiple times, as in the old E-Class. We love the modernization of the interior design on the new E, but Mercedes possibly went one step too far in certain areas. Outside, Mercedes’ latest sedan looks nearly identical to both the C-Class and S-Class and has lost some of the controversial but distinctive details of the old E. The new car may hover in the world of too restrained.
We’ll continue to engross the full experience of the new E-Class over the next month. We’re excited to further delve into the technology and features through its extended stay, and we certainly hope our knowledge of the Pre-Safe Sound feature is strictly limited to the Mercedes press material.