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

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - • Full dis­clo­sure: Im­pres­sions gath­ered dur­ing a launch on invite of the man­u­fac­turer.

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.

Drive Pilot

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!

Mul­ti­func­tion Tele­phony

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)

PHO­TOS: QUICKPIC

(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.

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