Text: Vince Pornelos / Photos: Vince Pornelos | posted June 15, 2010 11:41
The Gold Standard
It's been a long time coming for the next generation of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The 9th generation of the E-Class has proud and distinguished ancestry to live up to, thanks to a lineage of midsize Mercedes-Benz's dating back over 60 years. How does it stack up?
With this 9th gen model, dubbed the W212, you can sense what car Mercedes-Benz had targeted their crosshairs (hint: it's a BMW) when they we're engineering the new E, and I have to say that the E has hit the mark.
The E follows in the footsteps of its successful little brother, the C-Class. The W212's exterior design is courtesy of Winifredo Camacho, a compatriot and lead exterior designer at the Mercedes design bureau for the W212 project. Instantly recognizable from past generations include details like the twin headlamps and the rear fender lines. The car is definitely attractive and undeniably modern, utilizing plenty of details, creases and lines to evoke a presence uniquely Mercedes.
The exterior is matched by the cabin, with a clean, logical and elegant layout. Quality is undeniable, thanks to the textured surfaces, trimmings and materials. Plunk yourself down on any of the seats and revel in the comfort they afford. The steering wheel is perfectly rimmed, and fitted with audio, Bluetooth and information controls. The audio system is courtesy of Harman/Kardon, making for great sound, and can be controlled via the buttons on the center console or the COMAND knob.
The new range of four cylinder petrol engines is top class, as M-B now uses a turbo instead of the original supercharger, thus the dropping of the K (for kompressor) for CGI (Charge Gasoline Injection) nomenclature. Whereas the E 300 which has 221 horsepower from a 3.0 liter V-6 that I was able to try a year ago, the E 250's new powerplant already produces a hefty 204 horsepower and 310 newton-meters from only 1.8 liters of displacement, and you can feel it.
Step on the throttle and the E 250 CGI responds. Peak torque is already available from just 2000 rpm, and maintains it all the way through to 4300 rpm. Boost kicks in quite early, lunging the car forward from a standstill in just 7.8 seconds. The transmission is a 5-speed auto, hence the gearstick at the center instead of the 7-speed stalk on the steering column. No big issue here, as the 5-speed auto performs quite well, and rounds out a very fuel efficient powertrain combo.
The BlueEFFICIENCY package for the E-Class is largely responsible for considerable fuel economy. Engineers from every development department have worked together to optimize assemblies and components, to save fuel by any means from reducing weight to efficient engine management. Thus, at city speeds it's oddly economical, yielding an average of 9.3 kilometers to the liter, something you wouldn't expect in a mid range Mercedes... and a luxurious one at that. On the highway it's even better, putting out 14.1 kilometers per liter.
Then there's the level of safety. PRE-SAFE is at the top of the list which, in potentially hazardous situations, activates precautionary protective measures to further enhance collision survivability and maximize the effect of the seatbelts and the 7 standard airbags. The bonnet will even pop up by 50 mm in the event of a collision to create a softer and larger crumple zone for pedestrians.
I never thought I'd say this of a standard E-Class, but this is a drive that I've truly enjoyed. It's strange because most locally owned examples will most probably be ridden in rather that driven by the owners, especially given the previous model's (W211) driving characteristics. Don't get me wrong, this E 250 is great to be sat in the back of, but Mercedes have worked on its driving characteristics to meet the bar set by the BMW 5-Series, the E's main rival.
The suspension works well to provide a hard-to-strike balance between comfort and handling. It features Direct Control selective damping which softens or firms up the behavior of the shock absorbers automatically. What this means is the E will soften up for poor road conditions or attune itself if you enter a winding mountain road, and it all works very well, belying the E's weight and size. It may not be what most E-Class buyers were looking, but it has to be said that the E is definitely easy to balance on the limit and let dance on all four wheels as the suspension, chassis and engine come together beautifully.
The new 5-Series may be just in the horizon, but with all these and more in the Mercedes-Benz E 250 CGI, it's very clear that the gold standard is back... and in top form.