The E-Class is a class act
- 2009 Mercedes-Benz E500 Elegance; 5.5-litre V8, petrol; seven-speed automatic; sedan - $178,900*
It’s the best looking E-Class yet, and given the LED running lights in the blacked out corners of the front bumper, it cuts an imposing figure in someone’s rear view mirror. Of course, the dual headlamp set up remains, but the inside lights are a lot smaller, and slope away from the grille. You also get dual Mercedes logos with a grille badge, and the three pointed star directly above it, on the bonnet.
The angular theme continues through the interior, with the old model’s swoopy dash replaced by a classic squared off look. Dash plastics which are soft to touch, glossy, lacquered wood, smooth leather – the quality cannot be faulted. The seats are also very, very comfortable with plenty of adjustment in all directions. Especially nice is the seat movement buttons located on the door, in easy reach.
When first confronted with the myriad of buttons that are dotted throughout the interior, it may seem overwhelming. Don’t worry; they’re laid out in a very logical fashion and fall to hand easily. The COMAND system will take a few goes to get the feel of how it works, and although it’s not as initially intuitive as other systems, you come to grasp its layout fairly easily.
The voice control makes things nice and easy, though, and in a few minutes you’ll be entering destinations on the sat-nav, and making phone calls on the Bluetooth.
Practicality is high on the list, with generous foot, leg and head room in all seats, and a 540 litre boot that’ll swallow plenty of luggage. The interior, then, gets a big tick of approval.
Under the bonnet, things are also salivation material. There’s 5.5 swept litres of classic German bent eight. The velvety-smooth engine glides through the rev range without a hint of coarseness. It just pulls harder and harder as you reach to upper notches of the tacho – noticeably so from 5500rpm - and slips into the next gear almost unnoticed. At low revs you wouldn’t even know what engine is powering the car, but as you press on the beautiful V8 growl comes alive, without ever being intrusive. Perhaps it’s a little too quiet for someone who enjoys mechanical symphonies.
The 0-100km/h sprint is dealt with in a snappy 5.2 seconds, but the massive cross-drilled brakes wash that off quickly and cleanly. Brake pedal feel is nothing short of perfect, with no over-assistance either.
There’s no question about the automatic’s brilliance, also. Seven speeds will see to it that you’re in the right gear at the right time, and that the transitions between ratios are smothered. You’ll notice them at full noise, no doubt, but they’re still unimpeachably smooth.
There are paddles if sir is so inclined, however the ‘box is smart enough in Drive to leave them alone. Also deterring their use is the slowish response times when selecting gears manually. The E500 doesn’t really need them, though. It’s more supremely comfortable cruisemobile than track weapon. The suspension set up also indicated this.
Airmatic is Merc-speak for air suspension, and in Comfort mode, there’s a bit of roll and wallow to keep passengers, erm, comfortable. It still needs a little work, as minor imperfections still make it through, with the dampers not quite able to catch the initial shock of small bumps like a coil-sprung set up would. On smooth roads devoid of potholes, it’s a dream. Sport mode firms it up a fair bit and allows a bit more involvement as it ups your cornering limits.
Speaking of which, turning off the stability control still doesn’t completely de-activate the electronic nanny, with a mid-corner slide caught by the ever wary system, however its predictive ability which tightens the seatbelts in the event of sideways motion is brilliant. Who needs extra bolstering when you’ll never slide out of your seat?
Turn in is sharp on Sports mode, too, but the steering is quite light, and with the glossy wood segments on the Elegance model line, the steering wheel can get a little slippery at the top and bottom. The Avantgarde’s all leather tiller is a much better bet.
Again, it’s not a sports car – Mercedes-Benz has an AMG range if that’s your bent – so it’s a much more relaxing drive than some of its Germanic competitors. You’ll always feel refreshed upon emerging, yet it has the urge if you need it. That’s something that the demographic that it suits has worked out.
Normally driving a $180,000 car you’ll have a few women remarking that your choice of vehicle suits them (or words to that effect). But I’ve never had more comments from middle-aged men than while steering the E500. They stare, they point, they come and ask questions. I’m sure after seeing the car up close, some of them trundled off to their local Merc dealership.
Thing is, if they do, there aren’t too many options to tick. The list of standard kit is very impressive: Automatic dipping headlights, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, pre-tightening seatbelts, a driver attention monitor, motorized rear sun-blind, reversing camera, television tuner, heated and cooled seats, Harman/Kardon stereo, auto dimming mirrors, sun-roof, etcetera, etcetera.
Really, the Mercedes-Benz E500 has everything you’d ever need. This is a car that will do it all. From being an autobahn cruiser, to a twisty backroad chaser, to a family hauler, the E500 has the power and safety to handle what ever you throw at it.
Yes, this E-Class will tackle any task tactfully.
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