Read about the car that set a new standard with this open-pore wood finish.
ALWYN VILJOEN lists four new standards in the E-Class that others car builders will soon follow
MERCEDES-BENZ has unleashed the new E-Class in KZN and with it the German car builder set four new standards for others to follow.
These are the exceptional consumption, dynamic lights, inductive phone charging and gorgeous new open-pore wood trim finish.
Of course, for now these features are all optional and what with the Euro and all, prepare to pay in units of R15 000 for anything other than what is provided standard in the entry level E200, which sells for R707 100.
For an extra R41 000, Merc will fit the driving assist package called drive pilot, a semi-autonomous steering system that will steer the big saloon around corners of up to 15 degrees.
Unlike with the trucks in the Daimler Group, which are fully steering themselves on highway test programmes as you read this, Merc said the legal groundwork is not yet ready for self-steering cars.
All-new diesel engine
The E-Class introduces a new four-cylinder diesel unit that will quickly filter down the ranks.
Despite being only a two-litre, the diesel makes 143 kW and 400 Nm and delivers 3,9 litres per 100 kilometres, which equates to CO2 emissions from 112 grams per kilometre — my old scooter used more fuel than this!
The E-Class also introduces Merc’s new infotainment system. It allows mobile phones to be charged and, at the same time, connected to the vehicle’s exterior aerial with absolutely no need for cables or a telephone holder.
Cables and USB ports are however still provided, as the E-Class is now a generation ahead of most smartphones’ ability to use the wireless, inductive charging system.
Only phones that support the Qi (pronounce “chi”) standard will work on the inductive charging pad, built into the stowage facility at the front of the centre console.
The one criticism I have of this system is that it only fits smaller mobile phones with a screen diagonal of up to 15,2 cm. Phablet users must move smartly along.
I initially also could not see my Sony Experia on the system, until for the first time activating the Near Field Communication (NFC) on the phone.
The Merc’s system took over and paired my phonebook, music and call lists in an eyeblink. You still have to turn Bluetooth on to use the system.
If the vehicle is equipped with the optional Comand Online, it is also possible to use Apple’s smartphone-based infotainment system CarPlay as well as Google’s Android AutoT.
3D listening pleasure
As a fan of the late Ivan Rebroff and of late, Mongolian throat singing, I thought I had the best test for the new Frontbass system in the new E-Class.
Merc claims it delivers a unique listening experience using the space in the cross-member and side member of the body structure as a resonance chamber for the bass speakers and it certainly sounded like I was jostling for space with the uvela of these deep-voiced male singers with the volume turned up.
A Burmester 3D surround sound system is optionally available with 23 speakers, some in the roof, which should treat the occupants to the closest thing to a concert hall experience a car can offer.
Pads that touched me
But it is the small things that impress, like the mini-mouse pads on the steering wheel. These are so intuitive, my right thumb was feeling for the little pad in the next car I drove. Like a smartphone interface, these pads mounted on the left and right of the steering wheel 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.
Further controls for the infotainment system are provided in the shape of a touchpad with controller in the centre console, which can even recognise handwriting, and the Linguatronic voice control system.
Merc is proud to say while the new E-Class is considerably more intelligent, it is not that much more expensive, considering how much value the rand has lost to the Euro.
We can thank all the credits built up by the thousands of C-Class models exproted from the world-class factory in East London for this saving.
Merc’s Premium-Drive sixyears or 100 000 km maintenance contract is included in the prices below.
Pricing and power:
E 200: R707 100 (1991 cc, 135 kW/300 Nm) E 220d: R759 100 (1950 cc, 143 kW / 400 Nm) E 350d: R946 300 (2987 cc, 190 kW/ 620 Nm)
(Top) Understated on the outside, the new E-Class comes loaded with digital intelligence. (Above) Expect to see a lot more of this open-pore wood trim in other cars.