Mercedes-Benz will tell you its best selling vehicle of all time is the E-Class, although that’s not currently the case. That distinction goes to the smaller C-Class. The company’s SUVs are also putting a significant amount of pressure on the midsize car, as are the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, and the Lexus GS, to name a few.
Still, Mercedes believes that E-Class is an important part of its lineup, selling a total of 39,720 sedans in 2015. With the introduction of the new 2017 E300, the company hopes to give a one-two punch to the competitors with what it refers to as its most advanced car ever.
M-B has joined the midsize four-cylinder party by putting the 2.0-liter, turbocharged engine from the C-Class in the new E. The engine is good for 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque, the same torque number as the outgoing E350’s V6, although with the turbo it comes on much quicker. Maximum torque now appears at 1,300 rpm and sticks around until 4,000 rpm before it begins to taper off whereas the current E350 needs to spool to 3,500 rpm before max torque is available.
The transmission of choice is a 9-speed with paddle shifters meant to keep the vehicle in the meaty part of the torque band as often as possible. The company claims a 0-60 sprint of 6.2 seconds for 3,902-lb rear-wheel-drive cars. Add one tenth of a second and 143 pounds for AWD. Top speed is electronically governed at 130 mph.
The E300’s interior is bigger, comfier, and has a new layout featuring dual 12.3-inch high resolution screens that together span the length of the instrument cluster and center display. The digital instrument cluster is customizable depending on what information you like to see, where you like to see it, and in the color that best suits your tastes.
Set aside some time to acquaint yourself with the controls to get the most out of the E300. The center dial and touchpad combination on the center console requires some time to become fully proficient in its use. Thankfully, many of the car’s features such as navigation, radio, and the HUD can be accessed and manipulated with steering wheel mounted buttons and swipe pads. Learn the control system to set everything just how you like and then save the settings to your profile. That way you’ll never need to remember how to do it again.
The 2017 E300 is touted as the most advanced vehicle the company has ever built, partly thanks to the plethora of semi-autonomous driving aids found in the new car. The E300 will let you take your hands off the steering wheel for up to 60 seconds while managing such mundane tasks as braking, accelerating, changing lanes, making emergency stops, and avoiding pedestrians. Spend any length of time with an M-B and you’ll quickly get a sense of the company’s belief that autonomous driving is the future, and the new E-Class pushes the envelop.
During a drive through Silicon Valley, the system did well imitating a human driver when conditions were perfect. The system gets confused, however, when lane lines are covered with dirt – say, through a construction zone – or if the radius of a highway turn is too small. The car gives a glimpse into the future of driverless cars, but we are not yet in the days of the four-pod vehicle in which occupants turn their seats around to face each other and play a board game.
Disable the autonomous driving aids and you’ll be rewarded with a fairly enjoyable driving experience. The turbo four does a decent job of propelling the midsize forward with minimal turbo lag. It’s not a twin scroll like the one found in BMW’s 2.0-liter, but the difference is imperceptible.
M-B’s rear-biased 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system provides grip when necessary on wet roads but politely stays in the background otherwise. Road surfaces are not communicated through the steering wheel, creating a somewhat isolated feeling for the driver.
Efficient sound deadening in the cabin also contributes to the lack of connection between the driver and road, although buyers in this class are not likely to complain. The quiet, composed ride is what E300 consumers should expect from a car in this class. The AMG E43 is coming for those who want more driving excitement.
Look for the new E300 sedan to hit U.S. dealerships late next month. Prices for the rear-wheel-drive version start at $53,075 while the AWD 4MATIC starts at $55,575, including destination. If you want a V6 in your E-Class, the E400 wagon and AMG E43 sedan will be arriving early next year. Will the new E-Class with all of its self-driving technologies gain ground in the midsize luxury sedan segment? If it does, it will do so partially without any input from its driver.