The Mercedes-Benz E300 is an attractive package of looks, luxury and performance
Mercedes-Benz may have a firm grip on the competitive executive sedan segment but rival carmakers have been attacking this market share by adding refinement and luxury to their new models.

To keep its loyal fan base coming back, the luxury German carmaker has to ensure that each new launch has a wow factor. Its cars have a strong reputation for good handling, drivability and practical technology, on top of comfort and class. So you could say the pressure was on the new E300 to not only match its E-Class predecessors, but to offer something extra.

Based on looks alone, this new generation of Mercedes means business. The sleek, curvy-backed models that typify the latest breed of cars are designed to bring in new, younger drivers while still keeping a tight hold on diehard fans. But while looks are important, they aren’t enough to convince buyers. That usually means offering greater luxury and comfort to win them over. In that department, the E300 is a clear winner.

Its cabin exudes quality and sophistication. Two large 12.3in high-definition infotainment screens sit in the centre of the elongated dashboard. They are the brains of the car, displaying the hi-tech satellite navigation system, media options and the car’s multiple camera views.

The engine of this elegant beast is a 2.0-litre power plant paired with a ninespeed gearbox, easily producing 241bhp and 370Nm of torque. It allows the E300 — which weighs a hefty 1.6 tonnes — to tackle the 0 to 100kph century sprint in just 6.2 seconds. For the record, that’s faster than the new Volkswagen GTI, which takes 6.4 seconds.

While I tested this out for myself, driving an E-class isn’t about speeding around, itching to be the first away at the traffic lights. Instead, it’s a car better driven with decorum and zero pressure to impress other drivers — a gentleman’s car, designed with the executive in mind. While Mercedes-Benz hopes that executive is below 40, they still want them to treat the car with respect on the roads.

The drive is nothing short of faultless. The car glides over all surfaces, and has you feeling almost like you are hovering over the road. The transmission is mighty fine and so smooth you can barely sense the gear changes. I played around a lot with the dynamic select function, which enables the driver to change the set-up of the car (steering, suspension and throttle response).

Sports mode has always been my favourite mode, although that means I sometimes have to compromise on the smoothness of the ride. This is not the case with the E300, which felt like it was in Comfort mode throughout. The secret of this is in the air suspension, which remains whatever mode you are in.

Another highlight of the E300 is the sophisticated cruise control system. Once you have set it up, you can literally just sit back and relax. You can let go of the steering wheel and foot pedals until the car prompts you to take over the wheel, for safety reasons.

This semi-autonomous driving is just the start of things to come, but still takes some getting used to. What I liked about it was how easy it was to use, supported by all-around cameras that alert the driver to any dangers and cars close by. Just set the distance you want to be from the car in front and let the intelligent cruise control system do the rest. Just don’t fall asleep.

Linked to this is Mercedes-Benz’s Presafe sound alert that comes standard across the E-Class range. It works by triggering a short signal of about 80 decibels that allows the driver’s ear to be ready for the high level of sound that typically accompanies a collision.

Many of the luxury carmakers are pushing the boundaries when it comes to technology, adding as much as they can to the cabin even if some of it will never be used. But I feel Mercedes-Benz makes sure the technology it uses is practical and ultimately makes things easier for the driver.

The test drive really couldn’t get any easier for me. Parking was a cinch thanks to the bird’s eye-view camera; the electronic seat controls could adjust the position for even the fussiest driver and other gadgets were so simple to use.

All in all, the E300 balances elegance and sportiness, and has enough new technology inside to please both new and existing Mercedes-Benz d rivers.

Price: $312,888 inc COE
Engine: 1991cc, 4-cylinder,
in-line, 16-valve, turbocharged
Power/torque: 241bhp/370Nm
Fuel consumption: 6.9l/100km
0-100kph: 6.2 seconds
Top speed: 250kph

Justin Harper is a freelance journalist with a passion for all things fast

This article appeared in Issue 801 (Oct 16) of The Edge Singapore.