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2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 4MATIC First Drive

A First Step to Autonomy By ,

Ottawa, Canada – The Silver Star manufacturer continues with its reorganization by adding the first variant of the 2017 E-Class sedan. Available at retailers since June, the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E 300 4MATIC is, in the view of its manufacturer, the first step on the road to autonomous driving – though this new model can by no means be considered an authentically self-driving car.

Autonomous-driving technologies aside, this German luxury sedan is chockfull of technologies whose mandate is to improve the experience of drivers and passengers alike, but also to push beyond current standards when it comes to safety. Such is the level of sophistication of the technologies in this E-Class that buyers can expect an introductory training session that stretches well past the hour mark.

A Familiar Silhouette
Before getting too wrapped up in the technological goodies the 2017 E-Class has to offer, let’s take a few minutes to enjoy what envelops them. A first glimpse already reveals the common heritage it shares with both the C-Class and the S-Class. Will owners of the limousine be offended to see a “vulgar” E-Class on the street? Not necessarily, but the question is worth asking. Let’s just say that the silhouette of this new mid-size sedan strays very little from those of the rest of the current Mercedes-Benz lineup. 

This lack of distinctiveness notwithstanding, the E 300 4MATIC sedan is, in my humble opinion, the most successful of the three models, particularly due to the better balance of its proportions. Fitted right out of the box with the AMG ensemble, the sedan is not short on charisma either. Opting for the no-cost Luxury Package adds the famed Silver Star on the hood, subs in a more traditional front grille and sprinkles a few other choice details here and there.

Efficient Performance
Looking for some extra punch in your E-Class? No need to worry - the German division will be upping the power ante when it comes to the 2017 E-Class. Later this autumn the E 400 4MATIC sedan will add a V6, 329 HP turbo engine to the equation, while an E 43 AMG with a 396 HP twin-turbo V6 is already confirmed for the end of the year.  As for the explosive E 63 AMG, it is expected to make its twin-turbo V8 hum for consumers much later in 2017.

For the base model, Mercedes-Benz is trusting in the 2.0L, 4-cylinder turbo engine, which can produce 241 HP and 273 lb/ft of torque. Energy efficiency being the current automotive catchword, it is not surprising to find as well a direct-injection system and stop/start technology. The engine bloc is wedded to a 9-speed automatic transmission that allows for manual shifting. The 4MATIC designation, meanwhile, signifies the car is a four-wheel drive - a more-than-welcome feature for motorists tackling treacherous Canadian winters.

At the Wheel
So how does the 2017 E 300 4MATIC behave? Mercedes-Benz invited local media for a road test session in the beautiful Ottawa region. Spread over two days, this first contact would serve to confirm or not its return to the top of the mid-size luxury sedan segment. 

Right from the get-go, one can sense a new agility in the sedan. Not only is it roomier than in the past, but the strict diet imposed on it has done it a world of good. Gone is the feeling of driving a slightly overweight large car. The sedan feels nimble on sinewy back-country roads, with the steering precise enough to maintain a sustained pace and the suspension (whether air or not) able to keep the car on the straight and narrow. 

Overall, the mechanics of the car operate so discretely you just about forget they’re there! During acceleration the small front fan becomes audible, of course, but for the rest the E 300 4MATIC remains a remarkably silent automobile. As for the transmission box, it functions smoothly, though perhaps a little less so when challenged while in Sport mode. 

A Highly Assisted Drive 
What is particularly impressive about this 2017 edition is the available driver-assist feature. In fact, thanks to the DRIVE PILOT adaptive cruise control and automated steering system, the car can follow the lines of a curve without the driver needing to turn the wheel. Unfortunately, when curves get too tight the system seems unable to keep up - so remember to keep both hands on the wheel at all times!

The system also allows the driver to change lanes on the highway by holding down the turn signal for more than two seconds. Yes, you read that correctly! What’s more, if the system notices that both hands are no longer on the steering wheel, it emits a sound signal to warn the driver to retake control. After a certain time lapse, the system will then slow the car down until it comes to a complete stop, while activating the hazard lights. 

At present autonomous driving in the car remains to be fine-tuned, but the manufacturer has definitely made progress in this domain. Will the Mercedes-Benz solution be ready for 2010? The possibility remains… 

Safety, Mercedes-Benz Style 
While the carmaker’s advances in self-driving technologies are incremental and unfinished, when it comes to passenger safety it’s a whole other matter. There is simply not enough room here to list all the systems (standard and optional) included in this E-Class. From brake assist when pedestrians are detected to Active Park Assist, not to mention the available lateral collision avoidance system, which uses the seat back to literally move occupants aside to minimize injuries during an accident, there is something for everyone in this sedan. 

For its part, the PRE-SAFE SOUND system may be the most precious-sounding of the newly included safety features, though admittedly even it makes some sense. It works to protect occupants’ hearing in anticipation of a collision, notably as it concerns the explosion of airbags, by emitting a specific sound via the audio system that prepares the ear to absorb the much louder noise to come.

The Verdict  
The numerous little details present in the cabin – heated armrest, touch buttons on the steering wheel, and of course that central thumbwheel that allows for navigating on the screen – make life aboard this German sedan that much more pleasant. 

With an interior strongly inspired by the recent S-Class (due notably to the elongated screen on the dashboard) and a level of quality befitting the brand, the 2017 E-Class re-takes its rightful place as a standard-setting sedan in its class, at least in terms of luxury. And of course, this is just the beginning: The V6 and V8 are already en route for this side of the Atlantic!  


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2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class