Replacements are a tricky business. Look at the Batman movies. They’ve been through so many Batmen over the years- more than 30, if I remember correctly. And while a fav got it right, the rest were downright disasters.
Remember Val Kilmer’s Batsuit with the nipple? Oh and let’s not forget the cow horns on Lewis Wilson’s head. So yes, replacements can very easily blow up in your face. But this is not one of those stories. This story is of a replacement that was executed perfectly- the W213.
I’m going to be honest here. I’ve never been a big fan of the E-Class. To me, it always felt like a bit of a boat – large and unwieldy. Of course, there are hardly any E-Classes that are self-driven in our country. But even from the back seat, the high window lines and the dark interiors didn’t really work for me. Needless to say, the thought of driving the W213 on Goa’s narrow roads wasn’t exactly getting me all excited. But now, I stand corrected and how.
As I said before, my primary complaint about the E-Class has always been that it made its size obvious. So much so, that if I had one, I wouldn’t even consider driving it myself. Unless, of course, it was the AMG. Then, I wouldn’t let anyone else drive it. Why? Because, well, AMG! But I digress. To get back to the point, the new E-Class is nothing like its predecessors – something that became evident within minutes of driving it.
Despite being only available in the long wheelbase version (makes sense since India is a primarily chauffeur driven market), the W213 is super manageable. From the outside, it looks like a proper limousine, thanks to the 5063mm overall length. But the moment you start driving, the car shrinks around you. Before you know it, you’ll be pushing through spaces an E-Class has no business being in. Before long, the locals were staring at me, all impressed by my great driving abilities. Or maybe, they were just impressed by the new car. Because, believe me, it Is good looking. The older E-Class was looking a bit long in the tooth despite Merc’s best efforts to hide its age with that mid-life facelift. The new car gets the family face. The headlights and tail-lights look a lot like those on the younger and older siblings unless you look real close. In my opinion, the whole package looks a bit too much like the C and the S. But then that’s not a bad thing since they’re both great looking cars. But what really stands out (again) is the sheer size of the thing.
And that size truly manifests itself when you’re seated inside, at the back. With 320mm of rear legroom, the W213 EWB is more spacious than most apartments in Mumbai. And thanks to that reclining back-rest (up to 37 degrees), the rear seat is a zone of ultimate relaxation and peace. The only things missing are those massage functions and a leg rest. But then who’d buy an S-Class if you had those options in the E.
And since we’re taking about the S-Class, I’ll also say that the new E’s interiors are dangerously close to S-Class territory.
The plush leather and the open-pore, black, ash wood finish combined with the 64-colour ambient lighting makes you feel all special inside. It also makes you feel guilty and wonder what makes you worthy of such luxury. And as if that wasn’t enough, Merc’s thrown in a 13-speaker Burmester sound system, a 12.3 inch hi-res infotainment screen that can put your smartphone to shame, the trademark panoramic sunroof, touch pads on the steering wheel to control the infotainment system and three- zone climate control with those C-Class like horizontal slat air vents. Yes, I think it’s quite ridiculous too.
And it’s not just the insides. The incredible sense of luxury doesn’t end there. It only gets carried forward with the way theW213, quite literally, glides on the road. If this were Salem, Merc would have been burnt at stake for the black magic that is Air Body Control. The ride quality it offers is so good that you could play Jenga inside. Even on the worst of Goa’s roads, the car transfers nothing to its occupants. And it manages this without wallowing or excessive body roll around corners. I’m telling you, this Air Body Control is magic.
But it doesn’t end there. As with all other Mercs, the new E too comes with driving modes – Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport + and Individual. Each of them have different combinations of suspension stiffness, steering weight, transmission shift points and throttle response. Eco and Comfort are the gentlest of the five. Sport is a bit more aggressive. But in Sport+, you notice a serious difference. The suspension becomes more taut and the throttle response, more direct. The transmission holds revs higher and this means that the 3.0-litre turbo V6 under the E 350 d’s hood (India gets only the E 350 d and E200) delivers the255bhp and 620Nm with more aggression and urgency. And for something that cossets you in such luxury, the performance is quite alarming. In fact, Merc claims it’ll hit l00kph in 6.6 seconds and hit atop whack of 250kph. That’s serious performance for along wheelbase sedan.
And for along wheelbase sedan, it doesn’t handle too badly either. Of course, it is no corner carver. You do feel the extended length a bit under hard cornering, but the W213 will never shy away from being hustled.
However, hustling isn’t what this car is made for, obviously. This car is built for that plush back seat and being such, it is best enjoyed in Comfort mode, sitting in the backseat. And it’s so good, that I can even see a few potential S-Class customers buying this one instead. And that’s saying something. But the problem with this is, it’ll also push the price closer to that of the S. But the extra money isn’t for nothing. Because in the W213, Mercedes has a worthy successor to the W212. It has a successor that has the capability to remain the most sought after model in Merc’s portfolio. And in that sense, it is a great replacement for the older car. A bit like when Daniel Craig took over from Pierce Brosnan. Quite the upgrade.
MERCEDES-BENZ E 350 d
Engine: 2967cc, V6, turbodiesel
Power: 255bhp @ 3400rpm
Torque: 620Nm @1600-2400rpm
Transmission: 9-speed auto
Pros: Great ride, great interior, great drive ability
Cons: Will be expensive
Bottomline: The new E-Class is better than its predecessor in everyway. It might even have inched into some of the S-Class’ territory.