I have always been a fan of Mercedes-Benz road cars. Ever since I was growing up in the 1980s in Hong Kong, where you could find a W126 S-Class around every corner, I’ve always been attracted to the allure of one day owning a Mercedes-Benz, to be able to sit behind that three pointed star gunsight logo on the bonnet. Owning a Mercedes-Benz was a status symbol. It was a symbol that demonstrates that one had made it in life.
My parents have also been fans of the brand, perhaps not to the same extent that I have been. But the desire to own one was there too, just as it is for me. So, when dad was looking for a new car about four years ago, I had half-jokingly suggested that he looks at the advertisement I found online for a used Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor. We went to check it out, and it was one of the tidiest examples I have ever seen, having only done 72000km at the time, with full log books and only one owner from new. A few days later, the paperwork was done, and there was a Mercedes-Benz in our driveway.
Okay, this is technically my dad’s car, but in the past couple of weeks I’ve had the opportunity to live with it as a daily driver while dad is recuperating from surgery.
This particular example was built in December 2007 and was first registered in Australia in January 2008. It is finished in Flint Grey, and is equipped with cashmere beige ARTICO man-made leather, which has held up very well over the years. Coupled with the burr walnut woodgrain trim that was standard on the Elegance line, I think the interior is a very nice place to be. The previous owner had optioned this car with 12-way power adjustable front seats (even the head restraints are power adjustable) with three position memory (which also stores in memory the position of the steering wheel and mirrors) and the COMAND system. So even though this is the second cheapest E-class, it didn’t feel like it was lacking anything.
It took me a little while to get accustomed to the driving position. The steering wheel is offset left of centre, while the pedals are offset right of centre, so it kind of feels like your body is twisted as you’re driving it. But once I got used to it, it became second nature. Which brings me to the driving bit.
The E200 Kompressor is powered by a supercharged 1.8-litre in-line four-cylinder engine that produces 135kW at 5500rpm and 250Nm at 2800-5500rpm. I have found that to extract any decent performance from the car, I need to keep the revs up to about 3000-3500rpm when accelerating. It isn’t slow, but it does feel somewhat underpowered. In ‘Sport’ mode (the 5-speed automatic transmission has a selector for ‘Comfort’ and ‘Sport’ modes), the car accelerates from standstill in first gear, and generally holds onto gears longer than in ‘Comfort’ mode, where the car would start from second.
The power rake/reach adjustable steering wheel is rather large, and not very direct. It seems as though there is a ‘lazy’ area just off centre, where it requires a bit more encouragement to respond to steering input. But there is very little body roll, despite the 55-series Pirelli Cinturato P7 tyres and 16-inch rims. It remains remarkably composed through bends and corners.
The above is not meant to be a criticism. To me, it’s just some of the traits of an older Mercedes-Benz. It’s not a car that likes to be hurried, but drive it sedately, the way a Mercedes-Benz should be driven, then it’s a comfortable, quiet cruiser that wafts along without fuss. There is some minor wind noise emanating from the A-pillar, but I’m nit-picking here. According to Mercedes-Benz, the W211 sedans had a drag co-efficient of 0.27, which is very good for a car that age.
Despite being 13 and a half years old now, there is not a single rattle to be heard in the cabin. Everything – and I mean everything – works as it should. In the four years we have had the car, we haven’t had to spend more than regularly getting it serviced at an independent Mercedes-Benz specialist. Yes, there are some cheap plastics around the cabin, but they fit together well. The COMAND infotainment system is the only thing that shows its age in the cabin. When using the NAV function, the screen refresh rate is laughably slow. Also, the map hasn’t been updated for quite some time. I understand that there are map updates available from Mercedes-Benz, but I have also heard that it costs an arm and a leg to get it. Given that most people would rely on their phones for navigation these days, we felt that it was an unnecessary expense to update the map.
In terms of fuel efficiency, I have been averaging around 10-10.5 litres per 100 kilometres in mixed highway/urban usage.
If there is one criticism of the car, it is the lack of cupholders in the cabin. As a heavy coffee drinker who usually likes to sip on the go, I have instead had to spend time relaxing in a café to finish my coffee before I get going, because there is nowhere in the cabin to put the coffee cup. By my count, there are only two cupholders in the cabin, located in the rear centre armrest, and those cupholders aren’t particularly deep. There is an optional cupholder that could be fitted to the centre console, which can be found online relatively easily and inexpensively. Unfortunately, it wasn’t fitted to the car, so I haven’t had an opportunity to try it out, but from the reviews I’ve read, it’s not ideal as it rises up out of the centre console over the driver’s left leg.
Despite that, it’s a spacious, comfortable mid-size sedan, and in E200 guise, doesn’t drink a lot of fuel. Boot space is very good, at 540 litres, and the back seats fold 60/40 to hold bulkier items. It has Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, and almost everything is electrically adjustable, so aside from the offset steering wheel and pedals, it’s not hard to find the perfect driving position in the car. Aside from cupholders, and maybe more power, I don’t think there’s much more I could possibly want.