In the Detroit Motor Show last month, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the upcoming W212 E-class to massive media fanfare. As of now, orders have already been taken in Europe for this eagerly anticipated car and deliveries will commence in March. The long-running battle between Mercedes and BMW continues, and the specs-sheet of W212 will give the development team of the F10 5-series plenty to think about.
Prices in Europe for the W212 remains at the same level as the outgoing W211, ranging from €41,590.50 (E220 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY) and €70,269.50 (E500 4MATIC) ex-works, excluding options. There are a further eight different variants sitting in various points between the two models, with two new engine options available when the E-class goes beyond the continent.
Specification levels are best described as competitive, with the option of all-wheel drive available for the likes of the E500 and E350. The car is loaded with electronics, some advanced enough to match the F01 BMW 7-series – adaptive main beam assist, blind spot assist, lane keeping assist, speed limit assist, ATTENTION ASSIST, and more. As you read on, you may wonder if you even need a driver for this car.
Prices & Variants
The press release from Daimler on the prices of E-class is a whopping six pages long – detailing all the various options and trim levels that can be specified. It listed the prices of ten different variants for the European market. There was also mention of another two four-cylinder engine options (one petrol and one diesel), which should be the E200 CGI and the E200 CDI, to be introduced come fall 2009. Also still to come is the top of the line E63 AMG, which is as yet unlisted.
The above prices gets you standard features such as a fatigue recognition system, a driver kneebag, active engine hood, daytime running lights, Bluetooth compatibility, and a coloured LCD on the dash. The V6 (E350) and V8 (E500) models feature direct steering and 7-speed automatic transmission with steering column mounted gear levers, with the E500 getting electronically controlled air suspension as standard.
Mercedes is offering two models, the E220 CDI and E250 CDI with 6-speed manual transmission. Though not listed, I am sure auto versions of these models are available as well. As mentioned earlier, the rest of the range comes standard with 7-speed automatic transmission, with the exception of the E250 CGI making do with a 5-speed auto.
On top of the above prices, customers can also choose to up-spec their cars to Elegance or Avantgarde trim levels as cost options. Folks with even more cash to burn can opt for the AMG Sports Package or the Exclusive Package to further customise their cars.
The options does not end there of course. Mercedes has put together a set of add-on packages to help drivers ‘benefit to the greatest extent possible’ from the ‘extensive and cleverly aligned interaction between state-of-the-art driver assistance systems’ found in the E-class. First up is what is called the Lane package, which includes Lane Keeping Assist and Blind Spot Assist.
Should the Lane package prove insufficient, the more expensive Driver Assistance package includes features found in the Lane package in addition to DISTRONIC PLUS, Brake Assist PLUS and the PRE-SAFE braking system – technologies that make you wonder if you’re actually doing any of the driving at all.
What if you drive a lot at night, and can’t quite figure out how to operate all the lights at your disposal? No worries, there’s always the Light package for you. Packages that provide additional comfort include the Active Multicontour Seat package, which practically installs massage chairs into your E-class, while the Rear Comfort package, geared for the rear-seating towkays, include individual rear seats and integrated rear door sunshades.
When the W212 finally comes to Malaysia, expect to see no more than one diesel variant and two or three petrol variants. The E200 CGI is a almost a surefire bet to appear on our shores. We are also likely to see the E250 CGI BlueEFFICIENCY, and if we’re lucky, the E350 CGI BlueEFFICIENCY. If Mercedes-Benz Malaysia does bring in a diesel version, my bet would be on the mid-range E250 CDI, but in five-speed auto guise.
“In 1995, the E-class was the first Mercedes model to appear with the highly acclaimed twin-headlamp face – a highly symbolic design feature that still characterises the identity of the E-class.” – Daimler press release.
Whether the W210‘s ‘four-eyed’ look was highly acclaimed or not is subject to debate, but there’s no denying that the basic theme, which was carried forward to the W211 has become something of a E-class trademark. For the W212, Mercedes has re-interpreted the ‘four-eyed’ design to a set of more rectangular figures. This practically sets the tone for the rest of the car’s design language that seems to embrace angles wit far greater propensity than the W211.
Buyers of the Avantgarde trim get bi-xenon headlamps, a reworked front bumper, and a chrome plated radiator grille with three horizontal slats (Mercedes calls them louvres, whatever) painted in glossy black. For the AMG Sports Package, the bumper is reworked even more aggressively, with angles being sharper and less rounded, making the E look even more menacing.
The shoulder and waist lines along the flanks rise steadily going backwards, creating a powerful visual effect, most obvious in lighter colours. This has the effect of visually raising the aft section of the car, giving it a more aggressive look. The flared rear wheel arches have a slightly bulbous shape, as a tribute to the old 1953 W180 Ponton Mercedes, which is said to be the ancestor of the E-class.
The W212 can be specified with 12 different possible tyre/rim combinations, with wheel diameter options starting from 16″ going up to 19″. The conservative Elegance spec is equipped with a modest set of 16″ alloy wheels with ten twinspoke design. Avantgarde spec cars get an extra inch on their lightweight five twinspoke alloys, while the AMG Sports Package brings with it a set of 18″ rims.
The rear section is visually far simpler than the rest of the car, with the mostly rectangular taillights looking unremarkable from the pictures. It’s not bad, but it does look like Mercedes ran out of ideas when the time came to design the rear. The integrated rectangular exhausts of the E500 pictured below are nice visual touches, and moves the rear up one notch in the classiness stakes. In the AMG Sports Package, the integrated exhausts rest in the area of the grey-painted diffuser.
The interior of the W212 is designed to incorporate a wide range of luxurious features and allow a great degree of customisation by the buyers, with up to 6 different seat upholstery materials available in 5 colour combinations. Compared to the W211, the W212 offers twice as many choices for interior trim with high-gloss exotic wood, open-pored wood and aluminium added to the list of options.
The standard 4-spoke multifunction steering gets lined in Nappa leather trim and chrome inserts. The Audio 20 CD (yes, that’s the proper name for the system) infotainment system features twin receivers, a CD-player, 8 speakers and Bluetooth handphone connectivity. The dashboard features a coloured LCD display that can be operated by both the driver and front passenger by means of the Controller (yes, Mercedes treats this as a proper name too) on the centre console.
The standard seats feature what Mercedes calls padded seat piping, which involve the insertion of additional foam filling under the seat covers. I don’t know what difference that it’s supposed to make, but those found in the Avantgarde are transversely contoured, while the Elegance features longitudinal piping. However, if that does not sound good enough for you, then Mercedes has plucked a piece of equipment from the S-class that should.
The optional active multicontour seat package from the S equips the driver and front passenger with what essentially is a massage chair each – featuring two-stage massage backrests and comfort headrests. The backrests can vary their support (even lateral) with piezo-electric valves inflating / deflating air balloons in the backrests. There is also a rear-seat comfort package that allows for the inclusion of two highly specced individual seats in the rear with seat heating and a centre console.
In standard trim, the W212 features the dual-zone THERMATIC climate control system, but seeing how the press release only dedicates one sentence to this feature, expect the salesperson to talk you into opting for the THERMOTRONIC triple-zone climate control system, which splits the car into three zones – driver, front passenger & rear passengers. Occupants can even set the system to distribute air in Diffuse, Medium or Focus mode.
Each of the higher-spec trim levels also bring about minute changes from the standard to allow for product differentiation. The Elegance interior features burr-walnut trim, complemented with the useless but cool fibre optic ambient lighting. This mood-setting lighting also comes in Avantgarde trim, which features a sporty tubular instrument cluster design.
The AMG Sports Package, meanwhile, adds sports seats, three spoke steering and shift paddles, while the Exclusive Package gets a wood/leather finish steering, on top of Alcantara finish for the roof lining, pillar cladding, and sun visors. It also gets Nappa leather lined in the seat upholstery, armrest and door panels.
If anything the auto industry crisis has taught us is that we can no longer afford to continue producing inefficient gas-guzzling cars. While the Japanese and Germans continued to develope more powerful and efficient powerplants, the American players stuck to their “there’s no replacement for displacement” mantra and are now facing almost imminent collapse.
No such thing with the E-class. It is optimised to save fuel by a combination means of weight reduction, new design, improved function and efficient energy management. For starters, the drag coefficient of the W212 is rated at a lowly 0.25 – equal to the 2010 Toyota Prius! Tyre rolling resistance has been reduced by 17%, though whether these low resistance tyres will be widely available when the W212 comes to our shores is another matter altogether.
The alternator, fuel pump, air con compressor and power steering are all connected to an energy-saving control system which deactivates them when necessary. In addition, the E200 CGI will feature an ECO Start/Stop function to further reduce consumption.
Mercedes has developed a wide range of highly advanced and economical engines to power the W212. Petrol and diesel alike, they embrace turbocharging, direct injection and a variety of other tricks to extract the maximum output with minimum consumption. Indeed the claimed figures of the various engine variants show respectable performance married with astonishing economy.
The range consists of four, six and eight cylinder units, with Mercedes claiming fuel consumption improvements across the board – some achieving as much as 23% reduction in consumption. All engines comply with the latest EU 5 emission standard, with the upcoming E350 BlueTEC set to conform to EU 6 ratings, to be implemented in 2014.
The petrol range starts with a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine in the E250 CGI featuring turbocharging, direct injection and variable camshaft timing. It is rated at a respectable 204bhp and 310Nm, with claimed fuel consumption at an impressive 7.4l/100km and CO2 emissions rated at 175g/km. Later, this engine will be offered in a lower state of tune (184bhp) in the E200 CGI, which sips a mere 6.8l/100km. Further up, you get the direct injection V6 in the E350 CGI producing 292bhp, and a 388bhp V8 in the E500.
For the diesel variants, Mercedes has unleashed three all-new four-cylinder motors for the E200 CDI, E220 CDI and the E250 CDI. The yet to be launched entry-level diesel, the E200 CDI is rated at 136bhp, but boasts an astonishing fuel consumption figure of 5.3l/100km. Even more astonishing is that Mercedes is claiming that the E250 CDI, with 204bhp, gives the same consumption figures as well. The folks at BMW will be watching this one closely, as the 250’s max torque is at the magical 500Nm mark – in direct competition with the 530d.
Completing the diesel range are the 170bhp E220 CDI, and the E350 CDI with 231bhp V6. Come autumn 2009, Mercedes will introduce an EU 6 compliant version of the E350 – the E350 BlueTEC, rated at 211bhp. Finally, topping the range of E-class powerplants is the 6.2 V8 engine in the E63 AMG, rated at 525bhp.
There are a total of three transmission options available for the W212, with rear-wheel drive as standard. The 4-cylinder models are equipped with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 5-speed auto. Based on information in the press kit, it seems that each engine would come only with one possible transmission pairing, though it’s unlikely that Mercedes is this rigid with model options.
The entry level E220 CDI and E250 CDI are mentioned only with the manual gearbox, as is the later release E200 CGI. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that these variants will eventually be offered with the 5-speed auto that’s standard in the E250 CGI as an option. In Asian markets, these models are likely to be offered in 5-speed auto anyway.
At the higher end of the league, the E350 and E500 variants come standard with a 7-speed automatic transmission with steering column mounted selector levers, as per the current W221 S-class. For these V6 and V8 models, Mercedes has made the option of its 4MATIC all-wheel drive system available a cost option. As usual, Merc claims that this AWD unit has greater efficiency, less weight, and more compact dimensions.
Highlights in the chassis department include what Mercedes calls its ‘intelligent bodyshell technology’ featuring a 30% improvement in rigidity over the W211. Together with the all-new suspension set-up and the improved seats in the interior, the W212 is set to further cement the E-class’ pedigree as an effortless Autobahn cruiser.
The W212 comes standard with adaptive shock absorbers, which vary their damping rates based on driving conditions. In normal highway cruising mode, the shocks soften – allowing the car to absorb road undulations without troubling the occupants. During high-speed cornering or sudden directional changes, the shocks then firm up to give improved handling characteristics.
Standard in the E500, but as a cost option in the E350, is electronically controlled air suspension. The control system receives input from various sensors and controls each wheel independently. At the touch of a button, the driver can set the system to operate in Comfort or Sport mode.
During development, the E-class was subject to over 150 high-speed crash tests (speed not specified) and more than 17,000 crash simulations. The front crumple zone acts on four independent levels, and about 72% of all body panels are made of new high-strength steel alloys to ensure the body being able to withstand heavy impact forces.
The new E-class is arrayed with a mind-boggling range of electronics that helps you do everything from operate your lights, watch your blind spots, monitor the speed limits, and pre-applying the brakes in an emergency. According to Mercedes, these technologies makes the E-class an ‘intelligent partner who can see, feel, react reflexively in critical situations and if necessary act independently to prevent accidents or mitigate their consequences.’
That last part of the sentence is scary. No doubt it’s all well and good when your car can automatically switch the headlights on and off for you, or channel appropriate amount of traction to wheels based on available grip, it’s not funny when your car decides to apply the brakes or make steering corrections itself. Softwares sometimes (if you’re talking about Microsoft, all the time) have the habit of working when they shouldn’t, and not working when they should. I am a big fan of Knight Rider, but I still believe that certain elements of driving are best left to human control.
All these electronics are bundled into separate packages for the buyer to choose from, based on his/her needs and requirements. For people who do a lot of night driving, Mercedes has the Light Package for you, which controls, what else, the lights. It consists of adaptive main beam assist, intelligent light system and LED daytime driving lights. Adaptive main beam assist monitors incoming traffic by means of a windscreen mounted camera and automatically dips the headlamps to avoid glaring the oncoming motorist. The range of the headlamps can vary between 65 to 300 metres.
For those who can’t be bothered to turn their heads when changing lanes, or those who can’t keep to their lane, please opt for the Lane Safety Package. It has Blind Spot Assist, which warns you of objects (read: overtaking vehicles) in your blind spot, and Lane Keeping Assist, which gently vibrates the steering wheel when it senses that you’re unintentionally leaving your lane.
The stuff in the Lane Safety Package can also be bundled together with the DISTRONIC PLUS cruise control, Brake Assist PLUS, and the automatic PRE-SAFE system in the Driver Assistance Package. The radar system that comes with the E-class has a range of 200m in front, with two wide-angle sensors that has a shorter range of 30m.
Feeding on data from the sensors are the said DISTRONIC PLUS cruise control, which adjusts the vehicle’s speed to keep its distance from the car in front, and the Brake Assist PLUS (BA+) system. In an emergency, BA+ calculates the required braking pressure that needs to be applied to prevent a collision, and warns the driver accordingly. As soon as the driver steps on the brakes, the system will apply the calculated pressure on the brake discs.
But it does not end there. If the driver ignores the system’s warnings, it will go on an apply the brakes by itself, first partially, and if still no response, the system will slam the brakes full force for you. It is a very impressive sounding system, but it is one that I will leave out of my options list. Can you imagine what happens when the radar shorts out and the system detects an obstacle that’s not there when you’re barreling down the PLUS highway at 160kph? No, thanks.
Of course, I was just kidding with the last one. Nobody drives at 160kph on the PLUS highway, because the national speed limit is only 110kph, but just in case you didn’t know, ticking the option for Speed Limit Assist might be a good idea. It analyzes images from the windscreen mounted camera, scans for speed limit signs, and then flashes the speed limit of the road on the speedometer, in case you missed it.
Another toy lifted from the S-class is the Night View Assist system that displays the view ahead in night vision mode on the central LCD screen. It incorporates a new pedestrian detection function, which highlights the presence of night walkers onscreen, a feature the main characters of a few horror movies would have found useful.
Years of research by Mercedes engineers have found that drowsy drivers make ‘minor steering errors that can often be rapidly corrected in characteristic ways.’ With that, they have come up with the ATTENTION ASSIST system, which comes with a sensitive steering angle sensor that indirectly monitors the driver’s condition based on 70 different parameters available as standard feature on the W212.
If all the above fails to prevent the unfortunate event of a collision, the E-class is also well equipped to at least limit the damage done. The active bonnet, a pedestrian protection feature, raises the rear section of the bonnet by 50mm within miliseconds in the event of an impact. Mercedes also thoughtfully engineered the spring system to allow the driver to reset the bonnet position by him or herself without having to visit a workshop. The point of this extra effort is questionable, since you would expect that after a collision, your car is going to the workshop anyway. For the folks inside, there are no less than 7 airbags, seat belts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, crash-responsive headrests (to prevent whiplash) and ISOFIX child seat mounting points.
Still to come…
On paper, the W212 appears to be a huge leap forward from the W211 – reported to have sold more than 1.3 million units worldwide, part of over 10 million cars belonging to a line of models stretching back to 1947 with the Model 170V. The styling language used is far bolder than the W211, leaving the predecessor looking a little dated by comparison.
While the figures have yet to be verified by independent testing, the consumption levels that Mercedes has quoted for the new engines are very impressive. The array of electronics equipped in the car is extensive, to the point of overkill. Having heard of many complaints of dodgy electronics on the W210 and W211, there are some reservations regarding the W212’s reliability.
Mercedes has fielded a strong candidate for the next bout of the eternal E-class vs 5-series battle. BMW is widely expected to introduce the F10 5-series in 2010, or late 2009 at the earliest. Until then, the aging E60 will have a thankless task of holding the forte. The W212 will appear in showrooms around Europe by March 2009. Expect it to hit our shores at the end of this year, or early next year.
Recently, Mercedes has also introduced a coupe version of the E-class to replace the CLK. Stay tuned for a full write-up on that one too.