Even in a world headed for full electrification of motoring, a new Mercedes-Benz E-Class seems significant. The model, with its many various names and designations, has been a lodestone of the Mercedes model line-up since 1947, and more than 16 million have been made and sold. Through that time, it has been one of the brand's most popular models on the Irish market, too.
A conventional choice?
Now, here comes the new W214 version, which will go on sale in the autumn of this year in time for the January 2024 '241' registration plate. It effectively sits alongside the all-electric Mercedes EQE as a more conventional option that retains combustion engines but augments them with improved hybrid performance.
Looks-wise, the new E-Class is closer to a mini-Mercedes S-Class than a sized-up C-Class, with a slightly bulbous grille at the front (which can optionally have an illuminated surround) and a tapering tail with slim brake lights. It's a conservative design, leaving the avant-garde looks to the all-electric EQ models. Impressively, and in spite of fairly upright styling, the new E-Class has a drag coefficient of just 0.23 - matching many supposedly more aerodynamically efficient electric cars.
Inside, the look is for the most part also familiar. The latest version of the MBUX digital cabin layout now uses a separate, standalone driver's instrument screen and, unlike the smaller C-Class and larger S-Class, the E-Class's central infotainment screen is integrated into the dashboard, rather than being a free-standing tablet-like display. If you pick the optional extra screen in front of the passenger seat, then you get the new 'Superscreen' layout, which like the more expensive 'Hyperscreen' offered in the EQS and S-Class, makes it look as if the entire dashboard is one big screen. The passenger-side screen is blocked from the driver's view using angled pixels and an eye-tracking camera, so that it can be used for entertainment streaming.
There are some new interior tricks and gimmicks, such as a 'sound visualisation' that uses the LED mood lighting to disco-like effect, pulsing in time with whatever music you might be playing, as well as the addition of popular third-party apps for the big central screen, including TikTok, Zoom and Angry Birds (do people still play Angry Birds?).
There's also an artificial intelligence system that will learn your routines and automatically pre-set the cabin - temperature, lighting, seat position and heating, stereo etc - as you approach. You can also pre-set specific options yourself. You can also use your iPhone or Apple Watch as a digital key.
The air conditioning system now includes active air vents in the front, which can automatically swivel and adjust to send warm or cold air where it's most needed in the cabin.
The E-Class is also more spacious than before, with an extra 17mm of rear legroom, while the boot now has up to 540 litres of luggage space depending on the version.
Of the six engines available at the E-Class's launch, three will be plug-in hybrids. You'll be able to choose from an E 300 e with either rear- or four-wheel drive, or an E 400 e that comes with four-wheel drive only. The E 300 e uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with 204hp that combines with a 95kW electric motor to produce up to 312hp, with 550Nm of torque. The plug-in hybrid system uses a 25.4kWh battery which, when fully charged, enables a WLTP electric range of up to 115km. The four-wheel-drive version of the E 300 e, badged 4Matic, goes for up to 109km on electric power alone. CO2 emissions start from as little as 12g/km.
The E 400 e 4Matic uses a more powerful, 252hp version of the 2.0-litre engine, which, combined with the same electric motor, produces system maximums of 380hp and 650Nm of torque. It has the same 109km electric range as the E 300 e 4Matic.
Buyers can also choose from an E 200 powered by a petrol four-cylinder engine, with 204hp; or an E 220 d diesel four-cylinder with 197hp (which is also optionally available with four-wheel drive). Both engines get mild-hybrid assistance - which includes a compact 17kW electric motor - and CO2 emissions start from 125g/km for the diesel, or 144g/km for the petrol.
As is tradition, the new E-Class comes with five-link rear suspension, and buyers can optionally upgrade to air springs and the same rear-wheel-steering system as used by the S-Class, which cuts almost a metre off the turning circle.
As ever with an E-Class, safety is high on the agenda, and along with standard autonomous emergency braking, active cruise control, lane keeping assistance and a reversing camera there's also a driver attention warning system that uses eye-tracking to make sure you're paying attention.
While it's not fully electric, the E-Class is also aiming at lower environmental impact, such as by using seat upholstery made of undyed alpaca wool combined with recycled material, and by being made in Merc's Sindelfingen plant in Stuttgart, which has been certified as being CO2-neutral.
Irish prices and specifications for the new Mercedes E-Class have yet to be released.