Luxury is addictive
It’s never been cheaper to make the E-list
BIG sedan sales around the world are tanking, something from which even one of the world’s best four-doors is not immune.
As Mercedes-Benz’s massively revised E-Class goes on sale this week, the benchmark prestige sedan is coming off a May sales tally of 75. Indeed, in five months this year, only 356 E-Class sedans and wagons have shifted— last year 337 sold in May alone.
In contrast, the smaller and older C-Class remains the bestselling mid-size import at any price level.
The paradox is that the renewed E-Class has never been better value and includes fixtures of the coming S-Class limousine.
Up to $23,000 in extra equipment is the lure laid by Mercedes-Benz to keep prestige buyers out of SUVs and in its bigger sedan.
The line-up has been trimmed of some slow-selling versions but adds the debutant E300 BlueTEC Hybrid. At $109,900 it combines its already considerable fourcylinder diesel with an electric motor to achieve fuel economy superior to most small hatches — 4.3L/100km— and emissions of 113g/km CO .
‘‘ It’s a big car for a big country but without the big-car thirst,’’ Benz boss Horst von Sanden says. ‘‘ Our hybrid is unique, as the combustion engine is diesel, rather than typical petrol (combining) the economy of a powerful fourcylinder diesel over long distances at high speed with the advantages of an efficient hybrid in city traffic.’’
Unusually for a hybrid, passenger and luggage space are not affected by the extra drivetrain components. Yet for all the hybrid’s eco-niceness— and the $23K saving on the diesel wagon— the E250 is likely to be the most attractive package.
Some $15K of previously optional extra kit includes an advanced driving package from the new S-Class and it’s still less than six figures.
Benz’s ‘‘ most advanced driver assistance system moves even closer towards autonomous driving’’ with new functions including adaptive cruise control with steering assist, which uses dual cameras to keep the E-Class in the lane.
A lane-keeping assist function scans the road for solid and broken lines. It brakes a wheel to avoid crossing solid lines and alerts the driver with a vibration in the steering wheel if he’s veering over a broken line. If it detects oncoming traffic, it also brakes a corner to bring the Mercedes back into its lane.
There are active park assist, auto dimming and folding mirrors, full LED lighting and sports package with 19-inch alloy wheels. The new Euro 6 compatible 2.0-litre fourcylinder turbo petrol engine— as seen in the A250 Sport— produces 350Nm, an increase of 40Nm on the current E250.
Benz’s mid-life revisions have become more like new model launches, so pervasive are the changes. Visual changes are minimal, a measure that keeps existing owners sweet and protects resale.
Look hard and you might discern that the front lights are a single unit with a pair of daytime running lights in a tick shape. The front end still comes in two guises, the Elegance with a bonnet-mounted threepointed star and three-strake grille and the sportier Avantgarde style that uses a larger Mercedes roundel mounted in a two-bar grille.
Inside, it is even subtler. A new ‘‘ split view’’ seven-inch screen (also in common with the coming S-Class) projects one display for the driver and another for the passenger.