Demand for six-cylinder diesel engines in Ireland isn't high, but there is a core of buyers that can afford such luxuries and appreciate the more cultured engine note and higher performance. They'll like the new E 350 d lots. Here we review it in distinctly sporty AMG Line guise.
In the Metal:
The AMG Line E-Class can be identified thanks to a series of subtle, but effective exterior upgrades, most notably in the front bumper design, the sportier radiator grille and larger alloy wheels. The rear bumper is tweaked as well. It all gives the E-Class a welcome dose of visual aggression and really suits the E 350 d version.
Our test car was equipped with loads of options that show how far buyers can go down the personalisation route. Highlights include the 'designo' quilted leather upholstery and a high-end Burmester sound system. Ambient interior lighting was fitted too, with 64 colours to choose from, adding light to individual trim parts inside, including - a little too garishly for my liking - the Burmester tweeters within the doors.
Mercedes didn't say much about the E 350 d's engine at the launch, as it's not new, but it's still worth considering if you have a little more to spend on your E-Class, as it really enhances the driving experience. It has considerably more power and torque than the E 220 d has at its disposal, but we reckon buyers go for it because the V6 layout gives it a unique and cultured sound, most un-diesel-like. It's deceptively fast too, managing to push the E-Class from zero to 100km/h in a claimed 5.9 seconds.
Some will prefer to stick with a subtle looking exterior and standard suspension, but we reckon the E 350 d is at its best when fitted with the optional Dynamic Body Control system. It's 15mm lower than standard and comes with adaptive damping. In conjunction with lower profile tyres, the extra firmness in the chassis is immediately obvious in this car. It could never be called uncomfortable, but it certainly tips the balance away from outright comfort towards ultimate body control. Keener drivers will appreciate it.
All versions of the E-Class we drove came with the optional Driving Assistance package, and we'll use this review to discuss it in more depth. It's a suite of driver aids including Drive Pilot that's touted as the next step to autonomous driving and in certain situations the car can completely drive itself - with the proviso that the driver is entirely responsible and they must remain at the wheel and ready to take over control. So on the motorway, for example, it's possible to let the car do all the steering, braking and accelerating. If you let go of the wheel completely it will prompt you to take hold of it again after a while, but the electronics can steer the car using road markings as a guideline, follow cars in front at speeds of up to 210km/h and even make a good guess at the direction of the road at speeds of up to 130km/h even if the road markings are unclear. It works well, particularly when there's plenty of traffic about, and it can even bring the car to a complete standstill if the vehicle in front of you stops. It'll be a joy to use in stop-start traffic and even on open roads it's capable of maintaining the speed limit when possible.
It has limitations, and we hope this is pointed out to buyers. For example, in the interests of research, we left the system to its own devices on a windier piece of road. Unfortunately, the Steering Pilot function only seems to work for moderate corners, yet it doesn't use the satnav data to predict when a bend will be too severe for it to manage on its own. Instead, the driver is quietly notified by a flashing yellow icon in the dashboard and they need to ensure they are paying attention, as the speed limit on the road may not be suitable either. Mercedes could, legitimately, argue that the system is not intended to be used in this manner, but we suspect that owners will at least experiment with it. In an ideal world, the system would look further ahead using mapping data to ascertain the road's suitability. That aside, the Active Lane-change Assistant works well, as does Crosswind Assist and Active Brake Assist, though the latter can be a little too eager to help out at times.
Most of the other functions you'd hope never to need, but could be useful in an emergency situation, such as Evasive Steering Assist, which helps get the car back under control after you carry out an evasive manoeuvre; Active Brake Assist with cross-traffic function, claimed to have the ability to completely avoid accidents at speeds of up to 100km/h; Active Lane Keeping Assist, which applies the brakes on one side of the car to stop it going into the next lane accidentally; Pre-Safe Impulse Side, which moves the driver away from the side of the car that is detected to be imminently in an impact; and Pre-Safe Sound, which audibly gets the car's occupants ready for the sound of an accident, supposedly reducing stress.
What you get for your Money:
At the time of writing, Mercedes-Benz Ireland hasn't released information on pricing or specifications for the new E-Class, but the information above regarding the upgrades inside and out should be correct and we'll tweak this review if we hear otherwise. Pricing for the E 220 d is expected to start at €52,850 so expect to pay north of €60,000 for the E 350 d. A few choice options worth mentioning here include Multibeam LED headlamps with 84 individual LEDs, allowing purely electronic actuation of the various beam patterns and a Digital Vehicle Key that enables owners of smartphones with Near Field Communication (NFC) to use the phone instead of a car key.
Although the brand new four-cylinder diesel engine in the Mercedes E 220 d makes it even more difficult to justify upgrading to the V6-engined E 350 d, the latter is a lovely car with effortless performance from any speed. It works equally well as an understated luxury car or an efficient sports saloon when paired with the AMG Line specification and a few choice options. One for E-Class buyers to aspire to.