I’ve been wearing a new Merc-in

Having had some numpty run into my car with his bus last month, I have mostly been smoking around in a rented 2008 model Merc E280CDi. Thanks to repeated fails in the bodyshop’s attempt to get the right bumper for my car, I ended up with this chugaboom-wagon for about 3 weeks.

I’ve just got my own car back, and this has given me some perspective on the E-class. So, as I did last time I had a hire car inflicted on me, I may as well report back on my experience.

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First of all, performance. With 190BHP and 1700KG to haul around, it’s not very surprising that this car can, at times, wheeze along in a most unbecoming fashion. I have no idea how anyone who bought an E200 or E220CDi manages at all.

To a degree, this is mitigated by the lovely, silky smooth 7 speed autobox. But only to a degree. That, coupled with a modicum (325lbft) of torque, does give a satisfying hint of the waftage that one should expect from an E-class. Continent crushing, though, it is not.

On the driving experience more generally, the car is stable and much more chuckable than previous Mercs of this size. Taking advantage of the 7 speed ‘box and the paddleshift controls for gear-selection, it’s possible to hustle this car along quite respectably. As with any big car, though – particularly with a diesel engine, where throttle response is an impossible dream – conservation of momentum is key: look ahead, plan your lines, ride the torque and let the tyres and suspension do their thing.

The exterior styling is quite fetching from most angles, with interesting detailing, particularly at the front-end. There were, though, a couple of occasions that I emerged at twilight and wondered who had put a Toyota Camry in my parking space. It’s that rear 3/4 view that totally lets the car down and suggests a sop to the US market.

Behind the wheel, things are as one should expect in a Merc.

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The car is comfortable and quiet – notwithstanding the Barleymow soundtrack that accompanies a cold diesel engine.

Mercedes aren’t known for including masses of kit as standard, so the hire company obviously went long on the options list. Auto-levelling xenons, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlamps, turning lights, electric seats, folding mirrors, auto-dimming rear view mirror etc.

All well and good, but there is one option they’d have been as well swerving – the COMMAND sat-nav system. Let’s not beat about the bush – this is absolute toilet. It takes a year to programme a destination, the spoken instructions are very misleading indeed, the screen is well away from your view ahead and while you can have the sat-nav instructions displayed in the matrix display at the centre of the speedo, they’re not terribly helpful. Oh and expect to pay about the cost of a top-of-the-range Tom Tom to get a new navigation DVD.

This fitted sat-nav jobby probably costs a couple of grand as an option. Apparently you can play DVDs on the display, but meh – I always go and sit in the car and use a 5” screen when I want to watch a movie, obviously.

And don’t think you’ll be getting a decent stereo as part of that rig. Perhaps you would get a decent stereo if they added amplifiers, bass tubes and some proper mid-rage cones. As fitted in the car I had though, puny is the only word. There’s a 3.5mm stereo jack for you to attach an MP3 player. Line level isn’t great though, and there’s nothing specific to accommodate an iPod – maybe a factory option, or more likely a dealer-fit. (Personally, I ditched the MB sound system in my own car and put in an Alpine iDA-x100 with iPod control and bluetooth phone kit.)

All this is trivia though. There is one really inexcusable niggle. It’s the same one Clarkson indentified recently while reviewing the S-class. There are no cup holders.

That’s right – in a car that is expected to deliver you fresh from hundreds of miles on the road, it’s somewhat surprising that there is nowhere to put a brew down. My BMW had (okay, shit) cup-holders. My S2000 had them. My slightly older Merc has them. Where the fuck are they on the E and S classes, Mercedes?

But enough of niggles. All in all, I liked this car a lot. My generic pet-peeves were tickled by the diesel engine and the factory-fitted navigation system, but the fit and finish, comfort, equipment levels and overall coherence of the package put this car squarely where the E-Class should be – at the top of its class.

Sure, one could argue about the relative merits of a BMW 5er or an Audi A6, but then we’d just have to agree that the 5er is a quite different kind of car, with BMW’s focus on sportiness, and that the A6 falls squarely between the two stools occupied by the Merc and the BMW.

So, would I buy one? Yeah – one day – I’m not quite that old yet, and I’d almost certainly avoid the tractor engines in favour of a V8 petrol model.

In the meantime, I’m happy to be back in mine, with oodles of power, a proper sound system and a proper engine note. Out of habit though, I do miss one feature of the E – the foot operated parking brake – I wonder how long it’ll take me to stop instinctively searching for it with my left foot, before remembering where I am.

AJ

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About Al Jahom
Anti-social malcontent, misanthrope and miserable git.

One Response to I’ve been wearing a new Merc-in

  1. Ethan says:

    Know what they call your Diesel Merc over in ‘Dat there Jaairrmany?’ (apologies to Stan Boardman).

    Taxi !!

    Still I hope the tips were good….:)

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