Hand­some ... and so is the price

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Short Cut - RICHARD BLACK­BURN CUTS TO THE CHASE

VALUE

The price is $145,900, a rise of $14,000 — you get more metal for your dol­lar as the pre­vi­ous model was based on the smaller C-Class. It’s $35,000 more than the E300 but there is added oomph from the twin-turbo V6 (245kW), all-wheel drive, very good 13-speaker Burmester au­dio, head-up dis­play, sun­roof and me­tal­lic paint. The in­te­rior de­sign is top-notch, with two huge dig­i­tal dis­plays dom­i­nat­ing the dash and a choice of colours for the am­bi­ent light­ing.

COM­FORT

The E400’s air sus­pen­sion can be set up for boule­vard cruis­ing (com­fort mode) or sportier driving. In com­fort mode it soaks up bumps well but feels too floaty and wob­bly over cor­ru­ga­tions and bumps. Sports mode is an im­prove­ment but oc­ca­sion­ally the sus­pen­sion runs out of travel and thumps dis­con­cert­ingly. The cabin is supremely com­fort­able, with sup­port­ive bol­sters on the seats and a sur­pris­ing amount of shoul­der and knee­room for rear pas­sen­gers, once they’ve squeezed past the front seats.

SAFETY

You’d have to be pretty in­com­pe­tent to crash the E400. On the free­way it can keep a safe dis­tance be­tween you and the car in front, slam­ming on the brakes if you’re not pay­ing at­ten­tion. Around town, it can pre­vent or mit­i­gate the ef­fects of a col­li­sion with a pedes­trian. The Benz will keep an eye on you dur­ing longer trips, mon­i­tor­ing your steer­ing in­puts to recog­nise any signs of fatigue. If you have a mi­crosleep, the car can steer for you if the road is prop­erly marked. If you take your hands off the steer­ing wheel it will warn you then slow the car if it gets no re­sponse.

DRIVING

The E400’s au­ton­o­mous driving fea­tures are im­pres­sive and the temp­ta­tion is to let it do all the work. But on a twist­ing road, it’s more fun to be in con­trol. The big car feels ag­ile. It’s no sports car but the steer­ing is ac­cu­rate and well weighted and there’s loads of grip through cor­ners. The sus­pen­sion feels more set­tled the faster you go. The V6 is a strong, silent type, although there is a hint of a growl at higher revs. Matched to a nine-speed auto, it gives ef­fort­less per­for­mance with­out pin­ning your ears back.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES

Lexus RC F coupe, $138,240 Cheaper and comes with 5.0-litre V8 that puts out 351kW. It’s not nearly as ac­com­mo­dat­ing for rear pas­sen­gers, though, and can’t match the Benz’s safety tech. In­finiti Q60 Red Sport, $88,900 More than $50,000 cheaper and de­liv­ers sim­i­lar per­for­mance from its 298kW twin-turbo six, but as with the Lexus, the rear seat is cramped. Can’t match the el­e­gance of the Benz’s cabin nor the safety tech.

VER­DICT

Noth­ing comes near the Benz for cabin qual­ity, hi-tech in­stru­ment read­outs and semi­au­tonomous driving . You’ll pay hand­somely for the priv­i­lege.

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