Engineering extraordinaire

The new E-Class retains the model’s traditional values of comfort and prestige, but it is also packed to the hilt with advanced technology.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

The new E-Class retains the model’s traditional values of comfort and prestige, but it is also packed to the hilt with advanced technology.

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4 Number of e-class Models driven in the past 15 years
TOH YONG CHUAN The self-professed E-Class fan says that the new W213 is a marked improvement from its predecessor.

THE Mercedes-Benz E-Class is arguably the most important model in the German carmaker’s stable. At the media drive of the new E-Class in Lisbon, Daimler board member Thomas Weber described the car as “the heart of the Mercedes brand”.

He was not exaggerating – more than 13 million units of the model series were sold since 1953. And each upgrade raises the bar. The latest E-Class, codenamed W213, is no exception.

When the new model arrives at showrooms in Singapore in the third quarter of this year, it will find fans not only among those who want a comfortable and stately saloon, but also those who enjoy driving as well. And techies should also love the car, because it oozes new technology.

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The space, layout, gadgetry, materials and amenities of this interior are inspired by the S-Class limousine.
The space, layout, gadgetry, materials and amenities of this interior are inspired by the S-Class limousine.

Visually, it looks like a smaller S-Class or a larger C-Class, sharing their coupe-like rooflines, sharp flanks and smooth silhouettes. It comes with the usual trim choices: Elegance with the three-point star upright on the bonnet, or Avantgarde with the star sitting flush with the radiator grille. While design is subjective, I find the upright star a little out of sync with the flowing lines of the new E.

Size-wise, the new Merc is 43mm longer than its predecessor (4923mm versus 4880mm), but 2mm slimmer (1852mm versus 1854mm), and it has a slightly lower profile (1468mm versus 1471mm). The most significant growth is the 65mm addition to its wheelbase (2939mm versus 2874mm), making the already roomy rear row even more limousine-like.

The entry-level E200 is powered by a 184bhp/300Nm, 2-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine carried over from its predecessor. This version was not available for test-drive. Instead, I took the E300 and E220d through their paces over 150km of city and country roads in Lisbon.

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ENGINE 1950cc, 16-valves, inline-4, turbo-diesel

MAX POWER 194bhp at 3800rpm

MAX TORQUE 400Nm at 1600-2800rpm

POWER TO WEIGHT 115.5bhp per tonne

GEARBOX 9-speed automatic with manual select

0-100KM/H 7.3 seconds

TOP SPEED 240km/h

CONSUMPTION 25.6km/L (combined)

CO2 EMISSION 102g/km

PRICE INCL. COE To be announced

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The E300 is powered by the same 2-litre engine as the E200, but has 245bhp and 370Nm. It is thus quicker in the century sprint (6.3 seconds versus 7.7).

The E220d is powered by a new 2-litre Euro 6 diesel engine that, according to Mercedes engineers, produces just 102g of carbon dioxide per kilometre. This means that the E220d, if it makes its way to Singapore, will receive $15,000 in green rebates for cars and $22,500 for taxis, which is the second highest tier of rebates. It will be the darling of taxi fleet operators.

Both the E300 and E220d have four drive modes: Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+.

The Comfort mode is where the traditional E-Class qualities shine. It glides over potholes in the countryside and cobblestones in the city.

The Sport+ mode delays gearshifts and sharpens the steering response, making the car sensitive to steering inputs, which is unusual for the E-Class.

Along the narrow, winding roads of the Sintra Mountains and the picturesque Atlantic Ocean coastal roads on the outskirts of the Portuguese capital, this mode allows me to pilot the cars confidently and effortlessly around sharp curves and sweeping corners.

The test automobiles have air suspension that automatically varies damping according to driving conditions. The system also lets the driver raise the ride height for better ground clearance on unpaved roads. Mercedes-Benz boasts that it is the only saloon in the segment that has this option.

Mercedes’ 9-speed automatic transmission, an upgrade from the 7-speeder found in most of its models, is exceptional. It always puts the car in the right gear, rendering paddle-shifters redundant for most drivers.

Different driving modes make the new E-Class as comfortable/ confident as the driver wishes, especially with the optional air suspension.
Different driving modes make the new E-Class as comfortable/ confident as the driver wishes, especially with the optional air suspension.

There are minor differences in how the E300 and E220d move. The diesel car has higher torque, but over a narrower engine speed band. To get the most out of this diesel vehicle, I have to use the gearbox paddles to keep the car within the optimum power band, whereas for the petrol E300, I can just leave the transmission at automatic and drive.

On the move, I struggle to tell the acoustic difference between the E300 and the E220d.

The cars are so well-insulated and quiet that all I can hear is the water in the water bottles swishing as I brake or accelerate. And there is nary a whisper of the 4-cylinder diesel clank from inside the cabin.

The cockpit of the new E is a dead ringer for that of the S-Class, from the way it is laid out to the quality of the perforated leather.

The most eye-catching feature is a pair of 12.3-inch digital instrument displays. Laid side by side, they provide every information that drivers would conceivably need, from speed to engine temperature and navigation instructions.

Passengers enjoy a dizzying 64 choices for interior lighting, outdoing even the S-Class,which has only eight options. This feature is rather over the top.

Overall, the car’s changes, such as a sharper design, more space and enhanced driveability, ought to retain old customers and win new ones.

But if these upgrades are not enough, the new E has several tech tricks in its bag.

Three are worth highlighting: remote parking, automatic lane changing and digital vehicle key.

The third upgrade allows the owner to use his smartphone as car key.You can tap your phone on the door handle to unlock the door.

To start the engine, the driver merely steps on the brake pedal and pushes the ignition button. This does away with the key fob completely. There is even a designated spot on the centre console where the smartphone can be charged wirelessly.

Drivers can also use the phone to park the automobile without being inside it – which is useful at places such as Shaw House, where carpark spaces are notoriously tight.

The automatic lane changing is a cool tech trick. I flick the signal stalk when the car is in the self-driving mode and it uses radar to find gaps in traffic, sliding into them in a steady and confident fashion.

The new E also taps on technology to keep drivers and passengers safe. Rear passengers get three “belt bags” – seatbelts that inflate to become mini-airbags. In a side collision, the side bolsters of the front seats move occupants about two inches inwards, away from the point of impact.

The car even uses its hi-fi system to emit a sound just before impact, supposedly putting the ears in a reflex protective mode and thereby reducing the risk of hearing loss.

All the gizmos mean there are unavoidable kinks to be resolved. For example, the smartphone that was used as a digital key was an Android device, while the remote parking software ran on an iPhone.

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Although the lineage of the car goes back to the W120 of 1953, the E-Class was first used as a model name only in 1993, when the W124 saloon was facelifted and the letter E as a suffix (200E) became a prefix (E200).

Before that, the E stood for Einspritzmotor, German for fuel-injection engine. The suffix has been used by Mercedes-Benz since the 1960s.

But by 1983, all Mercedes-Benz production cars already used fuel-injected engines, so the E as a suffix became redundant. The carmaker made it a model name instead.

The W124 was renowned for its reliability. It is not uncommon to see the first-generation E200 and 200E on Singapore roads, even today. In 1995, the W124 was replaced by the W210 that left its mark in two ways: It had opinion-dividing “bug eyes”, and it was the first time the model was used as a taxi here.

In 1996, taxi operator Citycab inked a $30 million deal to put 30 E-Class taxis on the road. When the cabs were launched, then Citycab chief executive Lim Hung Siang reportedly jested that he was blamed for the fall in the share price of local Mercedes-Benz distributor Cycle & Carriage.

If there was such a worry, it has proven to be unfounded. The E-Class continues to be used as taxis today.

When the latest model, the W213, was officially unveiled to the international press in Europe, the press materials referred to the preceding W212 as spanning two distinct generations of the E-Class – before and after its 2012 facelift.

This is unusual, but it acknowledges the extensive updates when the W212 was updated in 2012.

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TYPE Inline-4, 16-valves, turbocharged
BORE X STROKE 83mm x 92mm
MAX POWER 184bhp at 5500rpm
MAX TORQUE 300Nm at 1200-4000rpm
POWER TO WEIGHT 114.6bhp per tonne
GEARBOX 9-speed automatic with manual select

0-100KM/H 7.7 seconds
TOP SPEED 240km/h
CONSUMPTION 16.9km/L (combined)
CO2 EMISSION 132g/km

FRONT Four-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar
REAR Five-link, coil springs, anti-roll bar

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FRONT / REAR Ventilated discs

TYPE Michelin Primacy 3
SIZE 205/65 R16


LENGTH 4923mm
WIDTH 1852mm
HEIGHT 1468mm

PRICE INCL. COE To be announced
WARRANTY 3 years/100,000km



Sharper and roomier E-Class saloon now has high-tech assistance systems galore to support the torpid towkay.
Sharper and roomier E-Class saloon now has high-tech assistance systems galore to support the torpid towkay.

Mercedes-Benz claims that the smartphone can still open the door even when its battery is flat. And those who use valet services will still need the conventional key fobs, because it is unlikely for drivers to hand over their personal phones to valets.

When the latest-generation E-Class arrives in Singapore, the gizmos will likely be pared down, either to lower the price of the car or to avoid regulatory hurdles. I wonder how the authorities will view the self-parking and lane-changing functions.

Also, the digital key and remote parking functions require drivers to be on the Mercedes Me Connect service, which is similar to BMW Connected Drive, but not yet available in Singapore.

So it is unclear whether all these technology advances will eventually be in the Singapore-bound E-Class.

Still, even without these fancy functions, the new E is a marked improvement over the current model. It offers enhanced driveability in a comfortable and luxurious package, with the prestige of the three-point star. And for some Mercedes-Benz fans, especially E-Class diehards, this is what matters most.

"The e-class’ changes ought to retain old customers and win new ones."

"The new e looks like a smaller s-class or a larger c-class."