In India, a whole generation has grown up aspiring to own a Mercedes someday. At the same time, the newer breed of customers entering the market today have been fascinated by other “younger” brands.
To bridge that gap, the three-pointed star has drove in the A and B Class compact cars into the domestic market. However, it is the E Class that still remains its bread and butter model — one that brings in the numbers as well as the money.
So while a facelift is important to prolong the life of any brand, the one in the E holds special relevance. More than anything else, making this car look young and contemporary will, in all likelihood, revive the fortunes of the German carmaker like no other.
The new E: a fresh design
While it is not a comprehensive step up — the likes we refer to as a design from scratch — there are enough enhancements in the vehicle to make it more appealing.
The head and tail lamps are new with the former particularly appetising. The quad head lamp set up has been dumped for a more stylish single cluster that incorporates a twin arrow-shaped LED daytime running lights.
While Audi has run away with the first-mover advantage in LEDs, this one can also become a signature Mercedes style.
Another good thing is that you can now have a sportier grille design with the three-pointed star boldly embossed in the middle. It not only saves you from being robbed off the star, it gives the car a purposeful look.
At the rear there is little change except the LED inserts on the lamps. Another notable mention are the five spoke, 18-inch alloys that lend an aggression to the way the car stands.
It is the first time Merc has paid attention to that. On the face of it, it still is a quintessential Mercedes and not quite clutter breaking as some of the other cars on the road but the looks are decidedly less boring. Maybe, five years down the line, even the E may break a few more ceilings.
Interiors: the same old story
Step into any Mercedes and you will be guaranteed best in class roominess and luxury. And the E is a master at that. What is disappointing here is that Mercedes could have stayed true to its origins but still given us a little more spice.
The dashboard design and instrument panel lay out remains more or less the same as Mercs from an older generation.
There was a need to break away from that. Yes, the build quality is one of the best, the leather stiching is flawless, the air convents are new and so are the sundry knobs.
But you would not notice it if you were not told. What is good is the rear seat comfort and the panoramic sun roof, which is now becoming a hallmark of a Merc.
Ride and handling : a quicker and faster Merc
At the outset, Merc does not give you as many engine options to choose from as a BMW or Audi. But the two they have here is competent enough. The 2-litre petrol variant now offers more torque and better fuel economy than the outgoing E class but it is the 2.2-litre diesel engine that is the show-stopper.
At 204 horsepower and 500 Nm, it is the most powerful sedan in its class. Of course BMW and Audi have their own 6-cylinder versions where Mercedes only offers four, but that is not an apples-to-apples comparison.
Courtesy the abundance of torque that triggers in at a low rpm of just about 1,200, the new E is lot more fun to be behind the wheel. No longer is it a car strictly to be driven around.
The only gripe --there is a perceptible body roll, which takes away the sheen during hard cornering.
The new E class retains all that was good in the older car and gives us a little bit more. It is spacious, loaded with features, suprisingly peppy and a better-looking car.
The interiors are underwhelming but it reeks of quality. The bigger battle is of perceptions and Mercedes is figting that hard with the A and B class. The E class will aid that battle in its own way as well.
If you want outright performance you would still want to look at a BMW. If you want style and good looks, perhaps you could toss a coin between an Audi and a Jaguar.
For sheer luxury and comfort and for those who believe in making subtle statements, the E class stands tall.