We drove the Mercedes E Class 220d: enjoying the perfection of the good star

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Mercedes-Benz has always built excellent, truly outstanding passenger cars. The tenth generation of the so-called E-Class is a case in point. This five passenger saloon achieves perfection in its segment. It offers the very, very best in everything  a modern passenger car is or should be. Packed with the latest in technology, it combines this masterfully with the know-how and experience the oldest car manufacturer in the world has acquired in building premium cars.

The ride, the comfort, the workmanship, the mechanical perfection, the way it safely assists you on your journey… All this is such a wonderful experience, just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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A star with a style…

The tenth generation E-class certainly looks the part. Fluent, timeless lines, excellent proportions, a carefully chosen styling language which we find back in the other passenger car models of the brand. The short overhangs, long wheelbase, large wheels and well-defined flanks make it dynamic.

As the factory puts it, the E-Class systematically embodies the Mercedes-Benz design philosophy of “sensual purity”.

We loved the color of our test car, sprayed in “canvasitblau”, as the Germans say, with the interior in hazelnut brown leather combined with black ash wooden inlays.

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Sliding behind the wheel, and pushing the starting knob, with its nice rotary silhouette inlay, things start happening before your eyes. First of all, two brilliant next-generation high-resolution displays, each with a wide screen diagonal of 12.3 inches, light up.

Before your eyes, there is the electronic instrument display, with quite classic round dials for speed and revs, as it should be for a Mercedes. The design strikes a good balance between tradition and modernity, and has thankfully a style of its own, although we still like most the lettering and style of the post war Uhlenhaut cars, starting with the iconic instrument clusters and dials of the 300 SL, and continued for many model generations. But there needs to be progress, and one cannot hark back too much into tradition. By the way, you can still choose your preferred style, and select between select their preferred look for the wide-screen instrument cluster: “Classic”, “Sport” and “Progressive”.

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As the entire cockpit is fully digital, the driver is free to configure the information and views of relevance for them and thus create their own personal cockpit.

You are given already a panoramic eye into the future on the centre console: on an equally massive 12,3 inch display, you can see your chosen road roll out in front of you, follow the traffic situations or visualize all the other media and car functions.

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The steering wheel fits nicely in your hand, and has another first for you:  it features touch-sensitive Touch Controls. Like a smartphone interface, they respond precisely to horizontal and vertical swiping movements, allowing the driver to control the entire infotainment system using finger swipes without having to take their hands off the steering wheel.

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Further controls for the infotainment system are provided in the shape of a Touchpad with Controller in the centre console, which can even recognize handwriting, and the LINGUATRONIC voice control system. There are also direct-access buttons for controlling functions such as the air-conditioning system or – in another first – for convenient activation and deactivation of certain driving assistance systems.  Just so nice, we really came to appreciate the latter!

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Luxury yacht atmosphere

We liked the open pore wooden inlays, the matte aluminum contours, the leather covered door and dashboard panels, and lat but not least the enhanced ambient lighting included in the accent trim lines. With 64 colors, it offers a host of possibilities for personalization. It adds touches of light, for example, to the trim parts, central display, front stowage facility on the centre console, handle recesses, door pockets, front and rear footwells, overhead console, and tweeters, as our test car was equipped with the Burmester® high-end 3D surround sound system.

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A state of the art diesel engine with a bright future…

Mercedes clearly still believes in diesel propulsion, and indeed, considers the diesel engine as being necessary to achieve the global emission goals for the next decades.

The new four-cylinder diesel unit marks the birth of a new Mercedes-Benz engine family. It is shorter and more compact than its predecessor thanks to reduced cylinder spacing (90 mm instead of 94 mm). Despite having a lower displacement than its predecessor, reduced to just under two liters, the new diesel powerplant has an output of 143 kW/194 hp and delivers an NEDC combined consumption from 3.9 liters per 100 kilometers in this E Class, which equates to CO2 emissions from 102 grams per kilometer .

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These are outstanding values, and indeed it proved quite easy to stay below 5 liters or thereabouts in ordinary urban and open road driving. We were stunned by the utter refinement of this diesel engine, which was ever so smooth as a docile petrol engine. Even when starting from cold, not the slightest hint of diesel clatter was heard, and under hard acceleration, only a subdued throb  betrays that we had an efficient four cylinder engine under the bonnet here. The impressive power of 194 HP and torque of not less than 400 Nm was achieved with single-stage turbocharging and variable turbine geometry.

Both the cylinder head and the crankcase are made of aluminum. The Mercedes-Benz-developed NANOSLIDE® surface coating efficiently reduces the friction between cylinder surface and steel piston.

Performance leaves nothing to be desired, with 0 to 100 acceleration being absolved in 7,3 seconds. This formidable engine is now coupled to an equally astonishing nine-speed automatic transmission. This transmission is the standard transmission in the E-class, and allows very low revs at cruising speed, all contributing to efficiency and low noise comfort. Add to this the excellent aerodynamic qualities of the bodywork. The E-Class sports a record-breaking drag coefficient (Cd value) of 0.23…

The engine is utterly smooth in all driving situations, and is very alert and fast, even when one has chosen the “E” driving mode. As one sees below, the driver can choose between different driving modes, influencing suspension set up as well as gearchange behavior of the box.

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The E class comes with steel suspension as standard, but our test car featured the AIR BODY CONTROL multi-chamber air suspension

Three chambers of different size in the spring struts of the rear axle and two in the spring struts of the front axle make it possible to control, in three stages, how stiffly the suspension reacts. In this way, the occupants enjoy soft basic suspension, and the secure feeling of good handling stability as the speed increases.

Furthermore, the highly sensitive and fast-responding AIR BODY CONTROL multi-chamber air suspension features all-round self-leveling for excellent ride comfort even with the vehicle loaded. It controls the ride height automatically depending on the speed and reduces fuel consumption on the motorway, for example, by lowering the vehicle. When driving on rough roads or access roads, the ground clearance can also be increased at the push of a button using the ride height adjustment switch.

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The multi-chamber air suspension is further assisted by a continuously operative, electronically controlled adaptive damping system. The damping at each individual wheel is adjusted fully automatically to suit the current driving situation and the condition of the road – such as in the case of evasive maneuvers or on rough tracks. You got it: this system therefore delivers good road roar and tire vibration suppression, excellent ride comfort, and outstanding driving dynamics.

What’s more, a DYNAMIC SELECT switch in the cockpit enables the driver to select from four AIR BODY CONTROL modes: “Comfort”, “ECO”, “Sport” and “Sport +”. The additional “Individual” option allows drivers to configure their vehicle to suit their own preferences.

The ride, handling and agility of this E class is therefore beyond reproach. One can indeed drive it with abandon on winding country roads, as well as perform true high speed Gran Turismo driving on Autobahnen.

A host of intelligent driving aids

We live in an electronic age, and what Mercedes crams into its saloons nowadays, is stunning to say the least. It would take pages and pages to describe it all in detail, but suffice to say here that they make you a better and safer driver than you ever thought you would be.

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Active Brake Assist is fitted as standard. It is able to warn the driver of impending collisions, provide optimum support with emergency braking and if necessary also autonomously apply the brakes. In addition to slower-moving, stopping or stationary vehicles, it can also detect pedestrians crossing the danger zone ahead of the vehicle. Likewise included as standard are ATTENTION ASSIST with adjustable sensitivity, which can warn the driver of inattentiveness and drowsiness, and Crosswind Assist, which can assist the driver by substantially reducing the effects of strong crosswinds to prevent the vehicle from drifting too far off track.

Our car came with the optional Driving Assistance package. This includes DRIVE PILOT.

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As Distance Pilot DISTRONIC, it is not only able on all types of road to keep the car the correct distance behind vehicles in front automatically, it can also follow them at a speed of up to 210 km/h for the first time. Another unique feature at speeds up to 130 km/h is the fact that, like in a swarm, the system can continue to actively help with the steering by taking account of surrounding vehicles and parallel structures, even if the lane markings are unclear or non-existent, like at road works.

Need we say more? Another Impressive DRIVE PILOT innovation includes an Active Lane-change Assistant. This radar and camera-based assistance system assists the driver when changing lanes on motorway-like multi-lane roads and can steer the vehicle into the lane selected by the driver – when overtaking, for example. Once the driver has indicated to turn for at least two seconds, the Active Lane-change Assistant assists with steering into the adjacent lane if it detects that the lane is unoccupied…

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The Active Brake Assist has a further cross-traffic function: compared with the standard version, it offers extended speed thresholds with regard to vehicles and pedestrians. Furthermore, it can detect crossing traffic at junctions and, if the driver fails to respond, apply the brakes autonomously. For the first time, it can also detect hazardous situations at the tail end of traffic jams where there is no room to manoeuvre and initiate autonomous braking far sooner in such situations.

The new E-Class can also assist you further with parking, with the Remote Parking Pilot: for this first time, this system allows the vehicle to be moved into and out of garages and parking spaces remotely using a smartphone app, enabling the occupants to get into and out of the car easily, even if space is very tight.

A shining star at night…

High-resolution MULTIBEAM LED headlamps, each with 84 individually controlled high-performance LEDs, automatically illuminate the road with precision-controlled distribution of exceptionally bright light – without dazzling other road users. Indeed, this grid allows the light distribution of the left and right headlamps to be controlled separately and adapted to the changing situation on the road quickly and dynamically.

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All functions of the Intelligent Light System in low-beam and high-beam mode can furthermore be depicted purely digitally and without mechanical actuators for the first time, including, as a world first, a purely electronically implemented active light function.

3D  listening pleasure

The speaker system in the E-Class uses the space in the cross-member and side member of the body structure as a resonance chamber for the bass speakers. This added depth and panache to the sound.  Our test car came with the Burmester® high-end 3D surround sound system with 23 speakers, and this treated your servant to a listening experience of concert hall quality thanks to … even roof speakers!  We rarely were so much acoustically impressed… and certainly we looked forward to every drive in this Mercedes!

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Conclusion

Quite an astonishing saloon, this E 220d. It truly shows the level of outstanding mechanical and dynamic perfection the oldest car manufacturer in the world is building into its cars. The new diesel engine and the 9speed transmission are also setting new benchmarks in performance, smoothness and efficiency.

The styling, workmanship, build quality and the very high level of electronic assistance and infotainment systems also add to the unique driving experience this car offers.

Further good news is that the car is hardly more expensive than its predecessor, so we would say, if you want a medium size sedan close to perfection, opt for this good star…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

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