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Mercedes-Benz E-Class 2016 review

Joshua Dowling road tests and reviews the new W213 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at its international launch.
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Meet the new automotive technology leader.

Forget for a moment that the new Mercedes E Class can easily be mistaken for its smaller sedan sibling.

Despite its familiar looks, this is one of the most technically advanced cars on the road.

It can detect a stopped vehicle ahead and avoid a collision by automatically slamming on the brakes from a staggering 100km/h (the previous benchmark set by Volvo was 50km/h).

It can also detect the likelihood of a collision with a car entering from a side road -- and decide in milliseconds whether or not to brake.

The new Mercedes E Class can even detect if the driver has had a heart attack or some other medical emergency that has made him or her unresponsive, and bring the car to rest after 60 seconds and activate the hazard lights.

It can steer itself for up to 60 seconds -- and even overtake automatically -- although as we discovered after a near miss, this is not foolproof.

The new E Class is so clever, Mercedes would be better off showing the car inside out, starting with the world's widest in-car display screen.

The one-piece design stretches two-thirds of the way across the dashboard -- and has the same high definition sharpness as the latest iPad.

The new screen (which will eventually replace the two-piece design in the flagship S Class) is also as thin as an Apple tablet -- but it's not a touchscreen. Mercedes wants the driver's eyes to stay on the road.

The glass screen is remarkable not only for its clarity and elegance -- but its ability to handle freezing sub-zero conditions, or a heatwave of up to 85 degrees Celsius inside the car when it's parked.

Drivers can choose from three screen settings, as well as set their own "favourite" display, and up to 64 colours for the ambient lighting.

The headlights and tail-lights are works of art and technology

Geeks will love it. Buyers not from the smartphone generation would be well advised not to leave the dealership without having the display set the way they would like it.

Touchpads on the steering wheel act like a thumbwheel, but you simply need to swipe up or down, or left or right. It takes some getting used to (and there are still buttons for other functions) but it works ok with practice.

You can now disable the cabin controller touchpad by covering it with the palm of your hand for five seconds. (On current models it is too easy to swipe it accidentally, and too time consuming to go into the settings menu to disable it permanently).

The headlights and tail-lights, although similar in appearance to those on the smaller and larger Mercedes sedans, are works of art and technology.

Each headlight has 109 tiny LEDs (the size of half a match head) that project a vast ray of bright white light.

In "smart" mode, you can leave the high beam on permanently and the Mercedes will detect oncoming cars -- or ones you are following -- and blank out the relevant LEDs so as not to blind them.

What you're left with is a dark 'box' that follows oncoming cars or cars you are following, but high beam coverage all around them.

It works better than other automatic high beam technology we've tested, due to the speed it processes information and the accuracy of having such a high number of individual LEDs.

It was so good, the lights on our car projected further up the road than those on older cars we were following.

Mercedes has even spared a thought for drivers following a new E Class in traffic.

The tail-lights (which shine onto two 'plates' of what looks like a layer of tiny diamond shards) each have 84 LEDs -- but the brake lights dim slightly two seconds after the car has stopped, so as not to blind the traffic behind you.

If a car behind doesn't notice your brake lights and is about to rear-end the new E Class, a radar in the rear bumper senses the imminent impact and activates a sound through the car speakers to prepare your eardrums for the loud hit.

On overseas models, drivers can get out of their car and watch it park into a garage -- or into a perpendicular space -- while continuously swirling the touchscreen of the smartphone app.

In Europe, smartphone users can also turn their phone into a "smart key". For now, though, it only works on Samsung and other Android devices. Apple won't unlock the heart of the iPhone's security, so Mercedes is developing a cover that will do the same job.

With the technology download done, it was time to get acquainted with the car.

The air suspension cars drove as if they were on a cloud

Australia will get a full suite of five models when it goes on sale locally in July: E200 petrol (2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder), E300 petrol (2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol with more power), E400 petrol (3.0-litre twin turbo V6 petrol with all-wheel-drive), E220d (2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder diesel) and E350d (3.0-litre turbo V6 diesel). All are matched to nine-speed automatic transmissions. The plug-in hybrid version and the high performance E63 follow in 2017.

Pricing is yet to be released but the new E Class range is expected to start from $85,000, a modest increase over the current car due to the new technology.

We sampled both diesel variants of the new E Class and the flagship E400 petrol; no E200 cars were available at the media preview.

The test vehicles were on a mix of standard suspension and optional "Air Body Control". The air suspension cars drove as if they were on a cloud, and the cars with regular suspension were comfortable but a little noisier over joins and bumps in the road.

All cars were quieter than we were expecting, too, but it was unclear if the extra-thick side glass in the doors contributed to this, and if that glass was optional or standard.

First impressions are good, and in some regards the new E Class feels better and more luxurious than Mercedes' $200,000 flagship S Class limousine.

However, because it is difficult to determine what is optional and what is standard on Mercedes cars tested overseas -- and exactly what configuration the new E Class will appear in locally -- we'll reserve final judgment until testing it on Australian roads.


Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

E200 2.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $33,888 – 57,990 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 2016 E200 Pricing and Specs
E400 Night Edition 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $64,700 – 81,840 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 2016 E400 Night Edition Pricing and Specs
E400 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $49,990 – 66,800 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 2016 E400 Pricing and Specs
E400 Night Edition 3.0L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $54,100 – 68,420 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 2016 E400 Night Edition Pricing and Specs