By Martin Mutai
Tracing its roots since the W124 sported the 'E' name for the first time in 1986 in the form 200E and later in 1994 when the 'E' moved to appear before the nomenclature to what we know today such as E250, the E-Class remains the pride of Daimler. The new E-Class epitomizes the midsize luxury car segment with its elegant furnishings and exacting workmanship, and even though its neither as sporty as the C-Class nor as luxurious as the S-Class, it straddles the line between the two in a retro yet stylish approach with a distinctive aura that speaks softly yet resoundingly to its peers, "enough of the staring contest; daddy's here."
For 2014, the E-Class exudes what might just be the most robust facelift in its history. It boasts myriad changes, most noticeably being on the front fascia where a new nose with more refined headlights has been employed, with its signature quad-lamps now merged into two, the sort of facelift revamped on the Lexus LX570. Grille choices have been extended from its simplistic nature to appear more chic, with the AVANTGARDE version bearing two horizontal bars while the coupe and cabriolet types have a single one cutting the grille halfway and branding the Mercedes logo at the middle. The ELEGANCE trim reserves its fashion with simple chrome bars like in the C-Class. The bumper remains without any lights and rises towards the ends with a smooth line running from end to end that swoops down at the middle giving it a sublime cutting-edge appearance. Changes to the rear include the smoothing of the lines in the rear fenders but this hasn't applied to the coupe and cabriolet versions. Other changes to these versions also include downsizing of the E350 to an E250 four-cylinder engine while AMG models now embrace a standard all-wheel drive.
One E-Class is not another E-Class, well, empirically speaking. This is because there is an E-Class at almost every point of the performance curve, starting from E250 to the E63 AMG. The most common engine is the base gas-powered 3.5-litre producing 211 kW (302 hp) and accelerates from 0 - 100 km/h in about 7 seconds. This engine is very efficient, with its fuel economy ranging at 5.5 - 6.0 litres per 100 km on a broad range. The hybrid version is more economical for it sips a meagre 4 litres for the same distance. The E63 AMG has a 385 kW (550 hp) bi-turbo V8 engine which does 0 - 100 km/h in 4 seconds. (This was the fastest saloon up to 2006.) Available transmissions for the E-Class include a 6-speed manual and a 7-speed automatic referred to as the 7G-TRONIC, which is similar to VW's DSG that made the CC a remarkably fuel efficient car. An interesting innovation here is the M mode which allows some thrill since the driver can shift gears like in a manual for a pre-defined time after which the system reverts to the default automatic mode. Also standard is the ECO start/stop mode similar to Mazda's i-STOP. This switches off the engine when you stop during traffic jams and restarts when you open the throttle. This function can however be disengaged at the press of a button for the individuals who will find the switching on-and-off disconcerting.
Change is as good as rest, and in the business world organizations that keep up with the changing world always have a competitive advantage over their competitors. But while drivers of change busied themselves on the exterior panels, few of them saw their way to the inside of the 2014 Mercedes E-Class. There is still plenty of space for five adults to sit in comfort and the front seats are among the most comfortable in its segment, with the interior fit and finish in general being without reproach. I however found it as a let down by Mercedes to use vinyl seating upholstery in the base model while lesser cars like Kia entail leather seats with heated options. For models beginning with the ELEGANCE trim a choice of aluminium or carbon-look trim is available. In the base and ELEGANCE trims the instrument cluster features a black outline on each dial while AVANTGARDE versions have a silver lining about the instrument panels. The most visible change here is that the gear shift lever is nowhere to be seen. And if you think it employs the telescopic function of Jaguar's shift knob then that's not the case. Instead, gear operations are handled at the multi-functional steering wheel through the DIRECT-SHIFT lever with paddle shifters. The shifters are firm and responsive, but the COMAND system can get a bit fizzy. Rear view camera is optional on the base models but Bluetooth streaming and power sunroof are standard. Other luxurious appointments include adaptive sport seats, surround-view camera, voice-controlled navigation and a larger-than-life 1200-watt, 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen® audio system.
Key updates to the 2014 E-Class come on the electronics side, enhancing safety through an array of sensors and algorithms. It offers a blind-spot information system to monitor cars driving in the blind area of the car and a front-mounted stereo camera to monitor obstacles and traffic. Mercedes' PRE-SAFE technology is standard with an add-on: DISTRONIC-PLUS. This is essentially a system that 'detects' an oncoming accident and automatically closes windows and sunroof, tightens seatbelts, fills up air cushions and moves the seats to a safer position for example if you were reclining. Another safety innovation that was in the S-Class but is now included in the 2014 E-Class is the ATTENTION ASSIST. This system monitors your driving for the first twenty minutes so that should you start to show drowsiness or signs of fatigue it will beep alarmingly and if your attention doesn't meet required standards then it will stop. The car can also maintain a set following distance to avoid hitting the car in front and helps you keep in lane by indicating if a car is in a lane you want to change to. Together with these and other sensors the 2014 E-Class can even steer itself in limited circumstances and at a low speed.
To sum it up, the 2014 Mercedes E-Class not only has sleek aerodynamics that define visual perfection, it also entails a super smooth ride with the cabriolet variant being the quietest car in its class thanks to the windshied-mounted Aircap system and rear wind deflector technology. The E-Class has always been the reserved member of the Mercedes family, but it's grown to be more oriented towards a driver's needs. The family is growing, and the E-Class only gets better. That is why when you look at the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class you realize it's not just the work of a group of people - it's the result of a constantly refined tradition.