Mercedes-Benz E300 and E400 road test and review
DEBATE rages about autonomous cars. Concerns focus on giving driving responsibility to machines and reactions various daily scenarios.
Well, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is proof its here - and it works.
Not perfect, but it can take control when you have no interest in being behind the wheel. Traffic snarls and benign highway travels become easy behind the wheel of this technological marvel.
It steers, maintains safe distances from the car ahead and continually monitors its surroundings. Without regular remainders to touch the steering wheel, it would have conceivably carried us on a boring motorway journey without any intervention.
Mercedes-Benz has developed one of the best safety suites in the business. The latest from BMW is also on near equal footing, while Audi is not far behind.
Yet the salubrious sedan from Mercedes isn't all hands-off shenanigans. It's arguably the most loveable luxury sedan currently on the market.
The range starts from about $90K, where you get some nice kit such as the drive assistance package, awesome large dual screens which can be controlled by your thumbtips, man-made leather and alloy wheels, but for some extra power (20 more kilowatts and 50 extra Newton metres) it's worth stepping up into the E300 where it comes with air suspension, AMG wheels and real leather trim for just shy of $110,000.
Although for an extra $32,000 and even more creamy power from a six-potter with twin turbos, the E400 adds all-wheel drive, an awesome Burmester surround sound system and a massive panoramic sunroof.
As with all luxury marques there is an options list, although Mercedes has thrown a lot of kit at its E-Class.
On the road
Oozing luxury, it's a sublime experience behind the wheel.
Courtesy of air suspension in both models sampled the ride was cloud-like... seemingly effortless with minimal noise.
There is the now widespread option to change driving modes, with the E-Class offering five different personalities, from Eco for fuel consumption, Comfort for luxury rides and two sporting derivatives which both sharpen throttle and steering responses and hunker the car down for less roll in the bends.
Whether we'd stump up the extra cash for the six-cylinder version is debatable.
The turbocharged four-cylinder motivates the E-Class with consummate ease, but our test vehicle had a tendency to shunt down in abrupt fashion from third to second - an aberration with the vehicle rather than the rule.
Both run on premium unleaded, and despite being the size of a Holden Commodore have fuel consumption figures of a compact hatch. Expect each to deliver about eight litres for every 100km.
They don't come much better than the E-Class.
Hidden within are a range of technologies to keep you safe. It has the autonomous function which can slam on the brakes from 100kmh to avoid a crash.
There are also rear sensors which can flash brake lights to hopefully grab the attention of the driver to avoid it being hit from behind.
And if you are unfortunate enough to have an accident, "white noise" inside the cabin is activated to help prevent damage to eardrums when one or all of the nine airbags deploy.
If the car senses it is about to be hit from behind, it will flash the brake lights in the hope it may alert the driver of the incoming car.
And when you have the radar cruise control set, hold the indicator for two seconds and it will even change lanes for you.
The autonomous functions work best in highway conditions, and it's best to take complete control on twisty terrain.
Step inside an the E-Class looks futuristic.
Two 12.3-inch screens controlled by a central dial, or via your thumb-tip controls on the steering wheel, offer infinite access to settings, colour schemes and set-ups.
Both E300 and E400 models were easy to steer, accelerated to expectation and just generally delivered on every front. As you would expect from anything in this price realm.
Yet they deliver so much more than a nice ride.
Looking like a grown-up version of the smaller C-Class, it's high-tech wizardry which feels special every time you open the door.
And if the hues don't take your fancy when you get in... just change them.
Mercedes-Benz E300 and E400
PRICE: E300 $107,900, E400 $139,900.
ENGINES: 2.0-litre four-cylinder 143kW/400Nm; 3.0-litre six-cylinder 245kW/480Nm.
TRANSMISSIONS: Nine-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive E300 and all-wheel drive E400.
THIRST: E300 7.1 litres/100km, E400 8.4L/100km.
PERFORMANCE 0-100KMH: E300 6.2 seconds; E400 5.2 seconds.