IN THE

Popular Mechanics (South Africa) - - Tested -

THE HIP­STER IN ME likes to be the first to do some­thing. Right now I’m not do­ing any­thing, re­ally. I guess mak­ing amends with a de­ity does count as do­ing some­thing. I’m also fight­ing the urge to take back con­trol of the steer­ing wheel, be­cause test­ing a new func­tion takes full com­mit­ment. I peep at my vis­i­bly dis­tressed pho­tog­ra­pher in the rear-view mir­ror. A truck cuts in to my lane up ahead and I no­tice that it’s trav­el­ling be­low the na­tional speed limit that the Mercedes-benz E-class I’m driv­ing is set to. I also no­tice that the road is about to curve quite sig­nif­i­cantly. As one of the first peo­ple in the coun­try to be test­ing this car’s self-driv­ing chops on pub­lic roads and high­way speeds, this is the mo­ment of truth. I cross my arms and legs and put faith in the car.

Mercedes-benz is mak­ing a state­ment with the lat­est ver­sion of its E-class premium saloon. With com­peti­tors tak­ing ma­jor tech­no­log­i­cal leaps, the Ger­man man­u­fac­turer has seen its tra­di­tional mar­ketlead­ing cars lose ground. That changes now. The old dog has learnt some new tricks and is de­liv­er­ing high-speed semi-au­ton­o­mous driv­ing to the South African mar­ket.

Viven­dren Patchi­ap­pen knows the new E-class back­wards. He should, be­cause he’s the prod­uct man­ager for Mercedes-benz South Africa and has lit­er­ally just re­turned from Daim­ler HQ in Stuttgart, where he was ex­ten­sively briefed on the car’s many ca­pa­bil­i­ties. “When Con­nect (Mercedes-benz’s smart­phone app) ar­rives later this year, your smart­phone will be­come your car key,” he teases. “You’ll be able to un­lock the car via an NFC chip in the door, then place your phone on the Nfc/wire­less charg­ing pad in the car and press Start.”

Con­nect will en­able more than just that. In the June 2016 is­sue of Pop­u­lar Me­chan­ics we sketched the dream sce­nario of hav­ing your car drop you off at a shop­ping mall and go off to park it­self. The new E-class is half­way there.

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