2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 4Matic Sedan
Raising the mid-size E-segment bar once againIt must be uncomfortably embarrassing to go up against Mercedes’ E-Class. After all, it outsells its direct competitors so dramatically there’s very little contest.
Even mighty BMW pales in comparison, the M-B E Sedan, Coupe, Cabriolet, Wagon and CLS four-door coupe resulting in a cumulative 54,700 sales last year compared to just 36,355 for the similarly diverse 5 and 6 Series models. And that’s the very best of the rest, with Tesla doing impressively well at 29,156 units considering the Model S is just one four-door body style and purely electric to boot, whereas Audi’s A6 and A7 combined for only 25,244 sales, Cadillac’s CTS and CT6 twosome managed just 25,080, Lexus’ GS achieving a mere 14,878 (albeit 73,177 if you factor in the similarly sized yet significantly cheaper ES), Lincoln with 10,212 Continental and MKS buyers (or 1,492 when including the comparatively inexpensive MKZ), Jaguar’s XF (here comes the red-faced embarrassment) pulling in only 6,665 buyers after a particularly good year (yet Maserati’s Ghibli did better), Hyundai group’s new Genesis division delivering 6,166 G80 four-doors (previously the Genesis Sedan) since August, Infiniti with a mere 5,872 Q70 deliveries, Volvo’s beautiful new S90 and archaic S80 combining for a scant 3,400 units, and Acura selling a paltry 1,478 RLX sedans.
The most amazing part of this scenario is that most E-Class rivals sell for considerably less and still can’t attract much sales chart traction (the aforementioned Lexus ES and Lincoln MKZ some $13k and $17k less respectively), the only two costing more (Tesla aside) being the hybridized Acura and new Cadillac CT6, which are nearly full-size and therefore bumping up against significantly pricier flagship sedans like Mercedes’ S-Class when it comes to overall length.
Obviously it helps to have so many body styles under one sales category, but the alternative E models and CLS don’t total anywhere near the sales of the regular four-door sedan, so it’s a moot argument. The fact is, Mercedes owns the mid-size luxury E-segment, and after my most recent drive in a nicely equipped E300 4Matic, I thoroughly understand why.
You’re looking at the entirely redesigned 2017 model, which is larger, longer, more accommodating, and faster, yet lighter and more fuel-efficient than its predecessor. I love it when everything comes together for one big positive, which can be said for the new model’s styling too.
First off, I liked everything about the outgoing E-Class’ design, especially the Coupe. Fortunately, what I appreciated most about that two-door hardtop carries forward into 2017, the fabulous sedan-like rear window cutout and C-pillar design. I suppose I’m getting off topic being that I’m currently reviewing the conventional four-door model, but it must be said. Where the previous E, in all its iterations, was purposely creased and edgy, the new 2017 model is all about curves and classic Mercedes character, the wide and narrow grille opening, together with its large three-pointed star at center, pulling cues from many of Mercedes’ current models, which inevitably owe their grille design inspiration to the fabulous 1955 300 SL “Gullwing”.
That’s a theme Mercedes has charted for quite some time, opting for the large star and ovoid grille to infuse some sporting style into a class that’s mostly been about staid, conventional conservatism in decades past. Certainly the W124-based 500 E and mid-’80s AMG “Hammer” that preceded it were hardly traditional luxury barges, nor the many in-house AMG-badged and -engineered E-Class models that have come since, but the majority displayed a relatively tall and comparatively narrow M-B grille front and center, oftentimes shimmering in chrome, which would be in sharp contrast to the performance-first look of today’s E-Class, even this much more luxury-oriented E300 4Matic tester.
Standard for 2017 is a seemingly F1-inspired lower fascia up front, extended sills down each side, and fat chrome-tipped dual exhaust pipes in back, these items part of an AMG Styling Package. This said a more luxury-oriented E300 with a traditional Mercedes grille can be had for no extra charge, along with a classic three-pointed star hood ornament perched on top like Es of yore, this model including subtler fascia detailing front and rear, more conservative V-spoke alloys, and a comfort suspension, although take note that in order to add it via Mercedes’ online configurator you’ll also need to include a set of $500 18-inch alloys in place of the base 17s, plus at least $2,990 worth of leather upholstery (this differs with the E’s brochure info). The beautifully detailed LED headlamps are standard no matter which E design you choose, but the 17-inch five-spoke AMG alloys at each corner of my tester are upgrades.
That was my first surprise. Not the optional rims, but rather that all the sporty AMG styling bits were standard. My satisfied smile turned into slack-jawed shock and awe upon opening the door, mind you, where the most advanced use of TFT displays appeared more concept car than reality. In one fell swoop Mercedes has upended the entire mid-size luxury segment in similar fashion to how the brand said goodbye to analog gauges in its S-Class way back in 2012 for the 2013 model, what’s left being a much more efficient full-color, high-resolution configurable TFT display that stretches from the very left side of the instrument panel to the rightmost point of the center stack. Drama? You bet! If you’re a lover of classic design, I recommend hitting the auction and picking up something from Mercedes’ past, because the new E shows the rest of its class exactly how to fully step up to the 22nd century.
It looks like one long floating tablet, Mercedes somehow pulling this tech trick off elegantly. Its clarity, richness of colors, and depth of contrast is beyond compare, while the graphics are superb. It sits atop a massive curved plank of open-pore ash, although you can choose from a long list of alternative inlays, any one of which will extend across the tops of the door panels, the floating theme highlighted by standard ambient lighting with a choice of 64 colors glowing from behind. A tasteful assortment of metals and black lacquers add to the elegance, plus contrast stitched perforated leather trim and upholstery in my upgraded example.
The E300 starts at $52,150 plus freight and fees, by the way, and comes standard with such a long list of features that I won’t dare itemize them all. The 12.3-inch gauge cluster display is optional, the base model utilizing a conventional set of analog dials separated by a 7.0-inch color multi-info display, while additional E-Class standard equipment includes the full LED headlamps mentioned earlier, plus power-folding side mirrors, pushbutton ignition, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column with memory, auto-dimming rearview and driver’s side mirrors, dual-zone auto HVAC, a large infotainment system with a palm-rest style lower console controller that hovers above a large rotating dial, the latter beautifully finished with knurled metal edges and a finger gesture-capable top. You can modulate the infotainment system from innovative steering wheel touchpad controllers too, while the system incorporates Apple CarPlay, MB Apps, Google Automotive Link, and a navigation system with phenomenal landscape-style mapping (but strangely there’s no standard backup camera), the E’s other standard items including a gorgeous analog clock, an overhead console with an always appreciated sunglasses compartment, 16-way powered front seats with four-way power lumbar and three-position memory, Artico leatherette upholstery, a powered glass sunroof, rain-sensing wipers, a universal garage door opener, plus all the usual active and passive safety features including attention assist, active brake assist, blindspot monitoring, a driver’s knee airbag, and much more.
Mercedes’ ubiquitous 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is also part of the entry-level E-Class package, making 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. This is plenty, partly because of the new E’s ultra-efficient 9G-Tronic nine-speed automatic transmission with sporty optional paddle shifters and my tester’s 4Matic all-wheel drive (rear-drive is standard), but mostly due to the new car’s lighter curb weight, the slightly heavier all-wheel drive version now tipping the scales at 3,891 lbs compared to 4,015 lbs for the outgoing car.
Notch that up to advanced lightweight materials, because the base E certainly hasn’t gotten any smaller, its wheelbase now 2.5 inches longer at 115.7 inches and overall length 2.1 inches greater at 194.2 inches. It’s actually narrower by an imperceptible 0.02 inches at 81.3 inches, whereas its 0.03-inch reduction in height may add some aerodynamic benefits if any noticeable visual enhancement on its own.
With a 0.27 coefficient of drag the new E is reportedly slipperier than its predecessor, which will aid interior quietness and fuel economy. I couldn’t help but notice how silent it was, but I certainly didn’t complain about the previous version’s audible imprint, while its fuel economy, aided by ECO Start/Stop that shuts the engine off when it would otherwise be idling, is superb at a claimed 22 mpg city, 30 highway and 25 combined for the rear-drive model and 22, 29 and 24 for the as-tested 4Matic. That latter number is an improvement of 2 mpg in the city, 2 on the highway and 1 combined over its E350 4Matic predecessor, although it’s still a long way from matching last year’s BlueTec turbodiesel-powered E 250 rating of 27 mpg city, 37 highway and 31 combined. That engine has yet to show up for the redesigned E or any other 2017 Mercedes product, the German brand quietly pulling its diesels from North American markets, ironically the same year that British challenger Jaguar shows up here with a new oil burner for its XE and FX compact D-segment and mid-size E-segment sedans, plus the new F-Pace SUV. Right about now Mercedes might be wishing it hadn’t dropped its E 400 Hybrid variant for the 2015 model year, but no doubt it was a minor player when it came to sales.
As it is the E300 pulls strongly off the line and ramps up speed quickly, Mercedes estimating its zero to 60 mph sprint time at 6.2 seconds for rear-drive and 6.3 for the 4Matic, the engine eager to rev and plenty enjoyable to row through the transmission’s many forward gears. The available aluminized paddles allow for a level of driver engagement expected from a German premium car, as do the Sport and Sport Plus driving modes, and the base E’s standard sport-tuned suspension, now upgraded with a new multi-link design, doesn’t disappoint either, combining athletic handling through tight serpentine corners, sensational stability through fast sweeping curves, and a solid stance at Autobahn speeds that’s as good as this class gets, with absolutely sublime ride quality, even over rough and unruly stretches of tarmac.
For those wanting more, the E400 Sedan is no longer available this year despite being popular in other markets, which is shame as it’s 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 is good for 329 horsepower, 354 lb-ft of torque, and a standstill to 60 mph sprint of just under 5.0 seconds in those lucky jurisdictions, but the new Mercedes-AMG E43 is part of our lineup and makes an even more robust 396 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque from the same engine, while delivering the 60 mph dash in just 4.6 seconds, the quickest version also getting special rear-biased all-wheel drive and a sport-tuned air suspension. No doubt a V8-powered AMG E63, or something similar, will follow soon.
Self-driving features like Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Distronic Plus with Steering Assist, BAS Plus with Cross-Traffic Assist, Pre-Safe Brake (autonomous emergency braking), Pre-Safe Plus for rear-end collision avoidance, and Pre-Safe Impulse Side, which uses radar sensors to detect a pending side impact and then automatically inflate the outside seat bolster to push the driver toward the center of the car (the active side bolsters also hug you around corners) are available as part of the various Premium packages.
On that note my tester fitted with the $11,250 Premium 3 package that added adaptive cornering headlamps with auto high beams, proximity entry, a head-up display system, rapid-heating front seats, an Air Balance air purification system with changeable fragrances, a 360-degree parking camera, a sensational 14-speaker Burmester surround sound audio system with stunning brushed aluminum speaker panels, satellite radio, ultra-comfortable Drive-Dynamic Multicontour front seats with airliner-style luxury headrests, a powered rear sunshade, a powered trunk lid, autonomous self-parking, blindspot assist, and rear cross-traffic alert, and all the aforementioned active safety upgrades; a $600 Warmth and Comfort Package that added a heatable steering wheel along with heatable armrests and front door panels (and would’ve included the enhanced heated seats if they weren’t already added); additional options included $600 illuminated doorsill panels, the fabulous $850 12.3-inch TFT instruments mentioned earlier, $2,990 perforated leather upholstery, $450 ventilated front seats (that would’ve included heat too if the car still needed it), an awe-inspiring $4,550 1,450-watt 23-speaker Burmester 3D audio upgrade, a $1,090 panoramic sunroof, and more.
As I’ve tried to express, the E’s cabin is second to none, from its design to the quality of materials used and its overall execution, while the car’s aforementioned added length makes it the most accommodating E-Class yet. When I set the spacious driver’ seat to my five-foot-eight frame and sat in the seat behind I had a generous six inches of knee room left over, plus three to four above my head. The rear seatbacks are supportive too, especially for the lower back, while I had more than enough room from side-to-side.
If you plan on taking advantage of the E300’s 4Matic all-wheel drive on the way to the ski hill, rear seat passengers can rest assured that both heatable outboard window seats will be available despite the need to expand on the trunk’s already commodious 19.0 cubic-foot cargo capacity. Compared to many in the class, which only provide 60/40-split rear seatbacks, the E’s fold in the most utile 40/20/40 configuration.
Mercedes goes further than most competitors when it comes to passenger/cargo flexibility, yet the E-Class is easily a cut above all challengers in every other way too. Of course, a new 5 Series is upon us and therefore I’ll need to experience its improvements firsthand before fully declaring Mercedes koenig of the mid-size E-segment heap, but at least it’s pretty safe to expect that E-Class sales dominance will continue.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press Copyright: American Auto Press