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For all the glitz, glamour, and breadth of the Mercedes-Benz passenger car range, it's nice to see the E-Class sedan, to many, the Mercedes-Benz, still persevere.
While Benz has re-invented its small cars and SUVs multiple times to stay up to date with global trends, the E-Class has soldiered on for the brand's faithful in the same form it always has, only now the time has come for its gradual steps into electrification.
But does this electric update improve the core Mercedes experience or only work to compromise it?
I took this latest version for a week to find out.
If you’re in the market for a dual-cab ute but your budget doesn’t quite stretch to the $70K price tags of a lot of new models – then maybe you should check out the SsangYong Musso.
The Ultimate XLV variant, a lifted and stretched version of the standard Musso, might be the sweet spot for work-and-play duties. It’s auto, it’s 4WD, it has a stack of standard features and its price-tag is closer to $45,000 than $70,000.
But, does this ute make sense as an appealing value-for-money buy? Read on.
It's nice to see the E-Class still embody the ancestral heritage of Mercedes-Benz, a brand which has had much change forced upon it in the last decade.
This hybrid one in particular does a remarkable job of blending the future and the past in one deeply capable and customisable package, but not one without its flaws.
While the E 300 e manages to unite these elements nicely, it's ultimately held back by its classic rear-drive underpinnings which have consequences for packaging and electric range.
The Musso is a decent dual-cab ute with plenty to like in terms of its comfort and performance on and off the road.
It’s refined, capable and it has a stack of positives going for it: an unstressed engine, impressive practicality and a no-fuss driveability about it.
Sure, its lack of driver-assist safety tech is a let-down, especially in this day and age, but in a market where utes are getting more expensive every day, the Musso offers plenty of value for money.
And I reckon the Ultimate XLV would be a solid choice from the line-up for some.
The E-Class recently received a significant facelift to bring it in line with the brand's latest design ethos, and it serves to refine an already elegant sedan.
The E-Class isn't just the brand's definition by reputation, but by its look, too. While some may be disappointed by how similar it now looks to the C-Class below, or the S-Class above, giving the core Mercedes sedan range near identical silhouettes, it cuts a unique path from its traditional rivals.
BMW's 5 Series leans into a sharper and more aggressive design language, while Audi's A6 does much the same with a post-modernist edge.
I'd argue the stoic Germanic stare of the E-Class’ softer face places the Mercedes exactly where it needs to be, but it doesn't stray from its sporty rear-drive underpinnings entirely.
The car's new blacked-out highlights accentuate its width, and the 10-spoke alloys on our test car fill the wheelarches and draw your eye to the car's low stance and big brakes.
A classic Benz beltline runs from the front lights to the rear, uniting a tidy and clearly well-built package.
It's not all retro, though, with the E-Class wowing observers with its giant single gloss panel hosting the multimedia suite and digital dash elements.
Obviously, you can go further here, with a long list of optional interior colour and trim combinations to customise the E-Class to your heart's content, although I was happy with the classic black on brown woodgrain of our test car.
In terms of size, it’s 5409mm long (with a 3210mm wheelbase), 1950mm wide, and 1855mm high.
In terms of styling, it stays well within the lines of what we’ve all come to expect from most modern-day utes – solid looking with a bit of chunkiness and a hint of understated flair – but there are no surprises here, which is good.
The Ironman 4x4 suspension has given the Musso, in Ultimate XLV guise, a lifted and upright, commanding presence, and the lack of side steps adds to that sporty stance.
The E-Class takes many forms around the world, and one of them is a taxicab which makes a lot of sense because the E-Class is one of the few cars I've had on test of late that I'd actually like to be driven around in rather than always take the helm myself.
The rear seat space is enormous behind my own driving position, and the detailed luxurious trims continue, complete with the dazzling milled silver speaker fittings, woodgrain trim, and in our test car, rear heated seats.
Again, the seats are ones you simply sink into, and the window is nice and wide for great visibility.
Alongside rear heated seats in our car, amenities include large bottle holders in the doors, flip-out ones in the armrest, hard shell pockets on the back of the front seats, as well as dual adjustable air vents with a lock-off.
The front seats also offer generous space, comfortable and supportive designs, and a lavish space for full-sized adults with a high level of adjustability.
As much as I hate the fact that you have to tick pricey option boxes on an already pricey car, the amenities they afford are properly luxurious.
The seat heating, for example, extends to the armrests in the doors and centre console, and the third climate zone is a necessary touch if you're ferrying around rear passengers often.
While a sedan like this is never going to have the ease of seating of an SUV, there are lots of little areas where this Benz shines.
The layout of the E-Class creates a significant reduction in boot space in this hybrid version, however.
Because it's a rear-drive sedan, it requires the batteries to be awkwardly packaged under the floor and on top of the axle, so the boot floor is an odd, tiered surface, with space reduced from a decent sedan-sized 540 litres (VDA) in purely petrol variants to a hatchback-sized 370L in this PHEV.
As you might be able to tell from the pictures, this shelf arrangement makes the space hard to use, although it did manage to fit our largest (124L) CarsGuide travel case on an angle.
The Musso’s interior is neat and well laid out. It’s also very roomy; SsangYong has made the most of this ute’s generous dimensions, taking the interior’s width right to the logical conclusion.
The pleasantries continue with an impressive all-around build quality and though there are plenty of durable plastic surfaces, there are also nice touches, like the leather seats and steering wheel.
Rear seat passengers get directional air vents, but they miss out on charge points.
The 8.0-inch touchscreen is too small for my liking, and the multimedia system’s functionality is basic and a bit clunky – plug in your phone and use Apple CarPlay or Android Auto rather than the Musso’s built-in system – but the 12.3-inch instrument cluster is a nice touch.
Generally speaking, the cabin is an impressive space.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has a complicated range, consisting of multiple bodystyles as well as performance options, but the E 300 e is the only hybrid.
It is the electrified version of what would normally be the mid-grade sedan, and it wears a starting price, before on-road cost (MSRP) of $122,872.
Sitting below is the E 200 (from $98,576) and above is the E 350 (from $127,100) which replaces the old petrol-only E 300.
This brings the total cost for our car to ($140,900) and that doesn't even include the Type 2 to Type 2 charging cable ($565.16) which you'll probably want for the convenience of topping up your charge levels whenever you stop at the shops (more on this later).
If it were my Benz I'd probably leave off the ‘Innovation Package’ and ‘Vision Package’, although the pricey ‘Energizing Package Plus’ adds compelling upgrades.
It's worth noting when it comes to rivals the Audi A6 range tops out at a suddenly-cheap-sounding $116,177, although there's currently no PHEV variant in Australia, while the BMW 530e PHEV comes in at a closer-to-the-mark $122,900 before you start ticking option boxes.
There are two variants in the Musso line-up: the entry-level ELX, available as a manual or auto, and the top-shelf Ultimate, which is available as auto only, and has a drive-away price of $42,090 (at time of writing).
Our test vehicle is the Ultimate.
For engine and transmission details skip ahead to the ‘What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?’ section further down this page.
Standard features onboard the Ultimate include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated leather steering wheel, leather seats, LED daytime running lights, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
So, those additions – the XLV pack, the Ironman 4x4 suspension (dubbed the constant load coil spring kit), as well its tow bar ($1530 fitted), electronic brake controller ($620 fitted) and 'Pearl White' paint ($595) – push this ute’s price as tested to $47,065.
A $3000 Luxury Pack is also available – adding a sunroof, dual zone climate control, Nappa leather seats, powered front seats and driver’s lumbar support, and heated rear seats – but our test vehicle does not have that. And I don’t reckon you need it, but suit yourself.
There are a range of exterior paint jobs available for this variant, including 'Atlantic Blue', 'Indian Red', 'Space Black', 'Marble Grey', 'Grand White' and Pearl White, which is on our test vehicle.
The E 300 e has a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine producing 155kW/350Nm mated to a nine-speed torque converter automatic transmission, driving the rear wheels.
The transmission contains an electric motor which is capable of producing 90kW/440Nm on its own, allowing full range of motion in the ‘Electric’ driving mode.
It is also capable of hybrid assistance to the petrol motor, making the E 300 e the fastest non-AMG-badged E-Class model to 100km/h, with a claimed sprint time of just 5.7 seconds.
It also has a 13.5kWh lithium-ion battery pack, which is good for a claimed electric-only driving range of 51km (on the more lenient NEDC testing cycle).
It's a complex mix of gear, and the electric range I experienced was certainly less than 40km. In other words, it's used up very quickly.
The Benz offers some interesting driving modes to help with this, which we'll explore later in this review.
The Ultimate is powered by a 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine – producing 133kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm at 1400-2800rpm.
However, it’s worth noting that in Ultimate XLV Guise, the Musso gets another 20Nm of torque, bringing it to 420Nm at 1600-2600rpm.
It has a six-speed automatic transmission, part-time 4WD with low- and high-range gearing, and an auto-locking rear differential.
The engine outputs look a bit underwhelming, but it does pretty well with what it has once you’re actually driving it. And that Aisin auto is a well regarded transmission, having already proven itself in this and other utes, such as the Isuzu D-Max.
All of this hybrid gear leads to impressive consumption figures. Officially the E 300 e will consume just 2.2L/100km on the combined driving cycle, with around 13.0kWh/100km of energy consumption worked in as part of that calculation.
However, the hybrid Benz requires 98 RON premium fuel, has a smaller tank (60L) than its all-combustion counterparts, and its claimed 51km of NEDC range is more in the late thirties or early forties in the real-world in my experience.
That said, our car consumed a blend of 5.6L/100km and 8.3kWh/100km in my time with it, which is a nice balance of fuel and energy consumption.
Expect somewhere between four and five hours for it to charge to 80 per cent from a 2.4kW wall socket with the included charger.
The system as a whole works well, but I wish it had more purely electric range. A battery closer to 20kWh would offer 60 or 70km of real-world range for a car of this weight, but would eat significantly more boot capacity.
Official fuel consumption is 9.0L/100km on the combined cycle.
On this test I recorded actual fuel consumption of 10.2L/100km, but we were doing a lot of low-range 4WDing, so factor that into the figure.
The Musso has a 75-litre fuel tank, so going by those fuel use figures I’d expect to get a touring range of about 700km – that includes a safe-distance buffer of 30km.
Bear in mind, though, your fuel consumption will likely be higher than ours – and consequently your driving range will be lower – because we were only carrying a set of four Maxtrax in a carry bag, a vehicle-recovery kit, a tyre-puncture repair kit, a first-aid kit, an air compressor, some tools – and my massive ego.
You’ll be carrying a lot more if you’re heading off for a weekend out bush with your mates or your family. Think camping equipment, food and water, as well as everything else that goes along on a trip away.
For all the electrification and evolution in Mercedes-Benz’ greater range, it's almost like coming home to sit in the E-Class.
Not only does the E 300 e stay true to the brand's luxury sedan roots with the comfort and refinement on offer, but it's perhaps the one variant in the E-Class range that makes a significant stride toward the future of the nameplate.
I'm sure we'll see a fully electric version of the E-Class in the near future (the brand is shifting to electric-only with an aggressive timeline), but for now, at this price, hybrid is the way forward for luxury sedan refinement.
The way this car blends its electric and combustion modes is notably smooth, and the engine is so distant it's genuinely hard to tell when it turns on, unlike this car's smaller A 250 e PHEV hatch sibling which takes a major drop in refinement when the rattly 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine needs to be relied upon.
This is likely due to the higher-end nature of the 2.0-litre engine and nine speed longitudinally mounted transmission in a much larger and heavier car. One thing I've never liked about the Mercedes PHEVs (and is a common problem among many PHEVs) is the ‘hybrid’ mode could be a bit smoother and more transparent on how it divides its time between electric and with the engine on. At times it runs the engine at the lights for no reason, and it seems unusually keen to turn it on when it could be using electric power. Perhaps we are spoiled by the simplicity and twenty years of refinement of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy drive, but it has the affect of making you wish every hybrid was as good.
The default ‘Comfort’ mode, while the most forgiving in terms of this car's ride, is weighted toward entirely draining the battery before it uses combustion power. The extra drive modes and customisation this PHEV offers are very useful though. Battery Saver mode lets you rely predominantly on combustion power. It's better to use on the freeway where combustion power is at its most efficient, allowing you to switch back to Comfort or Electric when you're stuck in traffic.
Sport hunkers the E-Class down for a sportier and firmer experience, and it also tweaks the accelerator response and auto transmission for a far more aggressive driving tune. As this mode won't use the electric motor at all, even at low speeds, it can be handy to use it to charge the battery via regenerative braking for times when you might not have access to a charger.
In fully electric mode, the regen braking can be tweaked to the max using the paddle shifters to increase your electric efficiency and range.
Like the smaller A 250 e, it's a highly customisable experience, letting you experience as much or as little electrification as you want in the moment, although in this case it's let down a little by the limited battery capacity.
Still, the E 300 e is an E-Class, quieter and sleeker than before. The ride is as stately as the interior suggests, and even on those 19-inch wheels little noise or discomfort makes its way into the plush cabin. The transmission is as close to an old ‘slush-o-matic’ you can get, and I mean that in a good way. Unless you're in one of the Sport modes, it will never interfere with the experience from behind the wheel.
Once you do awaken it in Sport or Sport + though, it shifts, even via paddles, with a surprising urgency, and it's in those modes where the air suspension transforms the cosy barge-like ride from Comfort or Electric into something far more rigid and responsive.
The dynamic breadth of ability in this car is a reminder of what premium money like this can buy. On the one hand you have the luxury of an economical comfort saloon, and on the other you have at least an inkling of semi-electrified performance at the flick of a switch.
Just remember to plug it in when you get home, or you're lugging around a lot of battery for no good reason.
The news is mostly good. The Musso is quite refined and rather impressive, in terms of comfort and performance, especially for a ute that’s considerably cheaper than a lot of others in the dual-cab realm.
At almost five and a half metres long and weighing in about 2100kg, the Musso Ultimate XLV has a planted feel about it on-road – length, weight and suspension combining to produce a settled vehicle.
The 12.2m turning circle is a minor issue on busy suburban streets, but it’s nothing terrible.
Steering has a nice weight to it, although it can feel a little bit too “trucky" at times. The steering wheel is reach- and rake-adjustable, so that’s good.
The tub/tray (whatever you want to call it) is 1625mm long (at floor height), 1612mm wide (1140mm between the wheel arches), and is 578mm deep, which is handy for extra packing space.
The load space has a durable looking plastic tub liner and four tie-down points that appear pretty solid.
The Musso has an unbraked towing capacity of 750kg and a braked towing capacity of 3500kg.
Mercedes’ impressive safety equipment is all present here in the E-Class. Active tech includes freeway-speed auto emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist with lane departure warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, traffic sign assist, and adaptive cruise control with stop and go function.
The E 300 e grade also scores the higher spec ‘Multibeam’ LED light clusters, which have auto high-beams capable of dipping around oncoming traffic without turning down completely.
It's an impressive suite backed by other Germanic upgrades like pre-crash cabin conditioning and seven airbags alongside the regular suite of electronic traction, brake, and stability controls.
The E-Class officially wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating it carries across from the pre-facelift model in 2016, however this notably doesn't apply to MHEV or PHEV variants, which remain un-tested.
Some things worth noting in particular about this system: The full Mercedes adaptive cruise suite is one of the most impressive on the market, with its active steering and distance control being the closest to Tesla's ‘autonomous’ driving modes you can get.
Also, our car committed to a full AEB stop in the middle of a deserted suburban street in the middle of the night. There weren't even any parked cars nearby. Puzzling, but a reminder that these technologies aren't bulletproof.
The Musso line-up does not have an ANCAP safety rating, but it does have six airbags and a suite of safety tech, including AEB, driver attention warning, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, as well as front and rear parking sensors, a tyre pressure monitoring system, and a 360-degree camera view.
Mercedes covers all its passenger cars with a five year and unlimited kilometre warranty, beating out its primary Audi and BMW rivals which persist with three-year offerings, and generally out-performing the premium segment.
The E-Class needs to be looked at once every 12 months or 25,000km, whichever occurs first, and like many German automakers, service packages can be bundled in at the time of purchase to bring overall costs down.
In the case of the E-Class, this will set you back $2450 for three years, $3200 for four years, or $4800 for five years, at a claimed minimum saving (three years) of $550 compared to paying-as-you go.
It's not as expensive or as unknown as it used to be here, but at close to $1000 per year, even when purchasing via the pre-paid packs, it's still very much at the premium end.