Review: Mercedes-Benz E400

Will anyone lament the loss of the V8 from the engine menu in Mercedes-Benz’s standard E-Class line-up for Australia when a tasty V6 has been added?

Probably not.

The twin-turbocharged 3.0-litre of the new E400 means that Mercedes at last has a six to rival those of Audi and BMW.

Rival? Actually, with 245kW and 480Nm, it beats the maximums of the same-size engines in the A6 3.0 TFSI and 535i. Smoothly potent and easy on the ear, it’s everything it needs to be.

Mercedes’ twin-turbo 4.7-litre V8 continues in production after the E-Class’s mid-life 2013 makeover. But Mercedes-Benz Australia, seeing steadily declining demand for the V8, and wanting to simplify its E-Class offering, has decided to delete the E500 from its range.

From now, the only way to get a V8 in an E-Class in Australia will be to choose the E63 AMG.

When it launched in 2009, the W212 E-Class featured a clumsy attempt to evoke the memory of a long-gone ancestor, the 1953 W120 ‘Ponton’ Mercedes, with an old-fashioned bulge around its rear wheelarches.

With this facelift, the rounded retro-style treatment of the car’s rear quarter is banished. The effect is to make the E-Class look more cohesive and coherent.

Retro was never the right look for the E-Class, now more than ever. Nearly all the advanced safety tech developed by Merc for the forthcoming S-Class under the ‘Intelligent Drive’ label is being made available in the updated E-Class.

As in the forthcoming S-Class, an forward-facing stereo video camera is a key to the most notable advances in the new E-Class’s amazing level of driver support. It can, for instance, recognise the danger of collision with another vehicle approaching too fast on a sidestreet, and react.

The camera also enables a new pedestrian-recognition system and active lane-keeping assistance feature. Driving the new E-Class with everything activated can provide a brief foretaste of what driving an autonomous car would be like.

If there are clear road markings for the Distronic Plus active cruise control’s Steering Assist system to see, the E-Class will steer itself around gentle curves without a hand on the wheel or foot on a pedal. But the car soon delivers a warning to put your hands back where they belong.

Ignore it and Steering Assist will be disengaged.

While Mercedes-Benz Australia is dropping the V8, it is adding the E300 hybrid. Partly, it’s said, because of Wheels’ positive reaction to the diesel-electric at its European launch early last year.

The hybrid will slot into the line-up between the E250 CDI (which uses the same 150kW 2.1-litre turbo- diesel four) and the 185kW E350 CDI V6 turbo-diesel. The 125kW E220 CDI will remain the entry point to the model’s compression-ignition line-up.

The facelift brings new, turbocharged, direct-injection, stratified-charge 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines in place of the old 1.8-litres. The 135kW E200 and 155kW E250 are more efficient than the smaller engines they replace.

As if killing the E500 wasn’t enough, the E400 V6 will also effectively replace the naturally aspirated 3.5-litre V6 E350 in Australia.

All except the E400 and E63 AMG models are scheduled for Australian launch in June. “Aggressive” prices are promised by company spokesman David McCarthy.

Nothing of the E-Class’s comfy-riding, sweet-driving nature has been lost with this facelift.

It’s better looking and more technically advanced than ever, and there are new drivetrain choices more in tune with the times than the V8 of the E500. As mid-cycle updates go, this one’s a goodie.

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