The Mercedes-Benz E-Class returns with more tech than ever. Is it enough to get folks out of SUVs and back into saloons?
There was a time, in the late 1980s, when the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (W124-generation) was Singapore’s best-selling car. It even outsold affordable Japanese favourites like the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sunny, which were ubiquitous on local roads. Such was the demand that at times, along with the confluence of the COE system introduced in 1990, that its value actually appreciated if you bought it a year or two earlier.
Those halcyon days have long since given way to a trend that favors Sport Utility Vehicles (SUVs) over the three-box four-door saloon. Thankfully, this hasn’t kept Mercedes-Benz from persevering with the E-Class that insiders still consider car as the heart of the brand.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (codemaned W213) is technically a facelift model, but the revisions look significant enough to pass for an all-new car. Externally, the edges are softer. To this writer’s eyes, the new E-Class looks slimmed-down, smaller even. Which is a welcome change from the trend of making every succeeding generation larger and more aggressive looking than the one it replaces.
One of the most immediate benefits of the E-Class’ restyling is that all visibility seems to have been improved from the driver’s seat. It’s probably due to a revised front seat design but in any case, the window lines seem to be lower that we remember them to be.
The most obvious changes are found in the rear lights which are horizontally oriented and visually aligns the E-Class with the latest generation models.
Another hallmark that is making a comeback is the three-pointed star hood ornament which can only be found on certain Mercedes-Benz saloon models; C-Class, E-Class and S-Class.
Inside is where even more improvements can be found. Automatic Seat Adjustment was one of the handier features in the new E-Class. From the settings menu in the infotainment system, simply enter your height in centimeters or inches, and the car will automatically adjust the driver’s seat and steering wheel positions to where they ought to be. When set to my height, I found the steering wheel to be closer to my chest and the seat placed higher than where I’d normally set it. It took a bit of getting used to, but it also made the car easier to park and place on the road since the four corners of the car are within the driver’s line of sight.
The E 200 might be the entry point to E-Class ownership, but it still comes with enough amenities for a premium motoring experience. Soft-closing doors are a nice touch as are the smooth and supple leather seats that you can sit comfortably in all day.
There are few cars more suited to spending long hours in than the E-Class. A busy day of errands and family-chauffeuring saw me covering over 200km in a single day in this car and I emerged without any back or neck aches. I can now understand why there are so many E-Class taxis in Germany and other European countries. This car is a heavy duty tool for transport and is perfect for long road trips for the family.
Could the car be better? Sure. There were a few more features that I would have liked to see in this car as well as a few I could do without. For starters, the new E-Class comes with a capacitive steering wheel. Among other things like a hands-off warning (I think I would know if my hands are on the steering wheel or not), the volume control and speed adjustment for the cruise control are now adjusted by sliding your thumb across the button rather than pressing it. It may sound progressive and all, but in reality it was actually quite annoying.
You tend to either not apply enough pressure for the interface to respond, or overshoot the intended mark when you apply more, or mute the sound or cancel the cruise control altogether if you press too firmly. I found myself reaching for the roller switch on the centre console after a while.
The absence of a brake hold function (or so I thought) is also missed when you spend a lot of time in heavy stop-start traffic. Later on, a spokesperson for the brand explained to me that this feature has in fact been standard in every Mercedes-Benz model for some years now. Apparently there is no dedicated button. To engage brake hold, the driver only needs to tap the brake pedal once more after the car has come to a complete stop. The word “HOLD” will displayed in the instrument panel and the car stays in place until the accelerator pedal is pressed.
On the entertainment front, Apple CarPlay is available, but it’s not wireless, which means that you have to fumble with wires before each drive; your phone would also awkwardly take up space around the cup holders. There is a wireless charging tray, but that’s moot when your smartphone has to be plugged in.
While the E 200 rides and handles decently, those who prefer a sportier driving style might find the the four-cylinder engine protesting with a little too much gruffness when driven beyond a moderate pace. The 9-speed automatic gearbox however helps the motor stay within its happy rev range by offering a wide spread of ratios so it never feels out of its element for long.
To be fair, these are very minor complaints which many drivers would probably never even notice if they were behind the wheel of this car.
What they would notice is that the E-Class is a supremely capable and satisfying car to drive and to own.
Need to know Mercedes-Benz E 200 Exclusive Engine: In-line 4-cyl 1,991cc turbocharged Power: 197hp @ 5,500-6,100rpm Torque: 320Nm @ 1,650-4,000rpm Transmission: 9-speed automatic, rwd 0-100km/h: 7.5 seconds (claimed) Top speed: 240km/h (claimed) VES Band: C1 (+S$10,000 surcharge) Price: $287,888 with COE Contact: Mercedes-Benz Centre, Singapore
Find out more about the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class hereor book a test drive here.