Not everyday does one boast of having Bentleys for test drive or even sighting one is a rarity. But with the burgeoning number of millionaires swooning across in India, Mercedes cars have now been relegated to oblivion. Why, just the other day, we sighted some one racing in a BMW M5. This shows that all these cars have become common. However a BMW doesn’t elicit the same response from onlookers the way a Merc or even a Bentley would. Mercedes cars are still considered the epitome of luxury, though there are far more better competitors out there in the market. So when an E-class rolls by on the street, there are bound to be second glances, not because of the car but people are attracted to the aura of the 3 pointed star badge on the hood. 3 pointed star logo is just what the doctor promised for announcing to people that you have arrived in life and it just so happens that we have got one of the best in the business, the 2010 Mercedes E350 in India for a test drive. Due to the paucity of time and also the rainy season, we couldn’t put in a review of this car. But we have tried to cover as much as possible in this test drive report.
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The oval head lamps by which the previous generation Mercedes E-class was known for has been replaced with the slightly pointy ones. W210 as the earlier one was codenamed, there is now a demand for the new W212. The earlier conservative grille of the W210 has given way to the slightly gnarlish smile of the new one. There is oodles of chrome on the grille and unlike the C class which gets the 3 pointed star on its grille, this one retains the “on the bonnet” look and that is one satisfying thing to see when driving the car. The fog lamps act as the daytime running lamps with their LED configuration. The chin spoilers have also been artistically done. Just what everyone says is actually true in this case and that case is that the Mercedes E-class looks like a scaled down Mercedes S-class. Across the range and that includes the maniacal E63 AMG, this same look is repeated, albeit with some changes for the AMG variant. Taking a cue from BMW, Mercedes have started offering 17 inch low profile tyres which get a new 5 spoke alloy wheel design. The wing mirrors are a big disappointment with the fact that they have the same dated design carried forward from yores. Even the E63 AMG model carries forward the same dated mirrors, but experience says that they are highly functional. The AMG variant gets 19 inch alloys with fatter rubber attached to them. The waistline rises meteorically aft of the A-pillar and dumps itself into the C-pillar. The rear with its all LED configuration looks good with the reverse and turn indicators done in all white. Twin tail pipes complete the rear section of the car. There is a chrome strip for the boot lid as well.
Whilst the earlier Mercedes interiors used to be simply in muddy brown color, the new one promises to have some tones of black and approximately more than 1 shade of beige. Everything inside the cabin is swathed in leather and there is also hints of the S-class filtering into the cabin. Well, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? There is a dark veneer wood strip running across the dashboard which looks neat but has a glare in the harsh sunlight. There is a Multi Media Interface system which displays the instantaneous fuel consumption, outside temperature and also the other related details. However one would be shocked to notice that there is no gear lever and no Jaguar type whirring thing coming out of the central console. Then where is it? The answer lies behind the steering wheel. There is the stalk mounted gear lever. Takes some time getting used to. There are also paddle shifts behind the steering wheel. Though the shades inside the cabin are dark, they look good and soothing to the eyes. Mercedes have persisted with too many buttons inside the cabin of the E350. This makes the central console layout a bit confusing. Dual zone automatic climate control system ensures that the front passengers are comfortable. The rear ones don’t get the split system but going by the enormous leg room on offer, it is but natural to presume that this is a S-class. The seats though don’t have perforations to them. Everything has been put together solidly and the fragility that one sometimes experiences from Audi cars is not to be found in here. The central arm rest in the front is swathed in leather while the rear one is also not far off the mark. The AMG version has got a more cosseting bucket type seat which makes sure that the enormous power under the hood doesn’t throw you out of the window while attempting a high speed corner.
Boot space is also good standing at 540 liters and rear passengers get their window privacy screen, a much needed feature considering that passerbys are more interested in the rear seat occupants in a Mercedes. Mood lighting, just like in the Audi A6 has found its way here while the stock Harman Kardon music system sounds fantastic. The rear backrest however is a bit too upright for our liking but the fantastic leg space more than makes up for it. The boot is also an illuminated one and is a wide one with a remote operated opening system. Cooled glovebox and many cup holders and storage spaces make this a real practical cabin to live with.
The best part of buying a Mercedes E-class is the class leading refinement package that it comes with. Be it the AMG version or even the usual model. The AMG however has a tuned exhaust note which makes all the right noises when it comes to the throttle being fully depressed. Earlier E class cars, apart from the AMG variants weren’t much fun to drive, however, the newer ones come with a variable steering assist resulting in a better driving experience. Needless to say, the AMG unit is a tauter one and is very easy to use. Unlike some other steering units, which take some time getting used to, the Merc unit was right upto the mark. However that said, upping the speeds meant that the Merc doesn’t give the good steering feel or rather the benchmark that BMW cars are known to carry. It has that sort of artificial feeling creeping in once past a certain 3 digit speed. In the front, the E350 has got struts for company whereas at the rear, it is multi links. The shock absorbers are the electronically controlled ones. What however shocked us was that the Merc handled with aplomb, just falling short of the benchmark set by BMW cars or rather the 5 series, which is its direct competition. Mercedes have made the chassis more rigid and tauter than the previous W210 chassis and this means lane change maneuvers are executed rather easily. The AMG is the one which is more accomplished at this job and it has a finesse going about this job.
People buying the Mercedes E-class want it more for their everyday commute and also for its stellar ride quality. The ride quality is silence personified. While the car rides on firmer suspension, never once did the car display any sort of contortion when going over the small potholes that we encountered during the rainy season. Its only the biggest of potholes which elicit a muted thud from the car’s suspension. The car however displayed some tyre noise post the 80 kmph mark. This was more evident on the broken concrete surfaces than on the tarred ones. ESP and other electronic aids do help in bringing the car back into its line, once it has strayed away a wee bit during one particular hard cornering stunt that one of our road testers was making it go through.
Engine options for the Mercedes E-class are many however the key ones that we looked around were the ones in the E350 petrol variant and the E 63 AMG. As for the AMG, we had lesser time with it than the E350 petrol one. There is no launch control provided however the 518 Bhp kicking V8 motor propels this car to dizzying speeds within no time. Here is a word of caution. Avoid flooring the throttle of this car within city limits. Even part throttle responses are met with such violent bursts in the engine chamber that even peacefully grazing bovines nearby, stopped midway with grass dangling from their mouths and ready to charge at the car. The E350 petrol is also no slouch and its 3.5 liter engine pushes 272 Bhp of power and 355 Nm of torque. Both the AMG and the 350 are mated with a 7 speed G-tronic gearbox which is quick to respond to upshifts but on the downshifts, lags a bit behind. However on the AMG variant, this gearbox tightens up its act. The throttle has been tuned for better response in both the models and part throttle modulations are met with a great zeal of enthusiasm. The standard E350 engine however doesn’t like to be hurried around. It prefers to go about its task at a sedate pace. Anything hurried and the engine would definitely signal to you that its not comfortable enough doing it. It can cruise all day long at speeds exceeding 130 kmph but then trying to redline it in each gear is something which it would detest.
Brakes for the Merc, both the models, have been uprated and have a progressive bite to their action. They are ably supported by ABS, EBD, ESP and various other electronic aids. As far as safety is concerned, airbags, driver drowsiness warning, parking assist, pretensing seat belts and other stuff complete the package. Needless to say, the E class garnered the maximum ratings in the EuroNcap crash tests. As far as fuel efficiency goes, the AMG is said to offer a combined 5.6 kmpl while the standard E delivers 8.8 kmpl with its V6 configuration. If you are looking the fuel efficiency way, then the E350 CDI would be a better option with lower running costs and overall good fuel efficiency of approximately 11.2 kmpl.
Now for the prices. The Mercedes E63 AMG price in India is approximately Rs 1.53 crores while the Mercedes E350 price in India is Rs 47 lakhs. All these prices are ex-show room, Mumbai. Mercedes are the more established of all the luxury manufacturers in India and it would be a good time to pickup the E class over its peers. The AMG in the meanwhile stands an exclusive thing and one would have to wait for approximately 2-3 months before laying their hands on it, since it comes in as a CBU which is summoned once a confirmed order for it comes through.