First drive: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class in Oman
Arguably, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class reached its peak back in the 1980s, when it wasn’t even called the E-Class. Comprising of models such as the all-rounder 300E, the handbuilt-by-Porsche 500E and the aftermarket-tuned AMG Hammer among others, the German carmaker’s W124-generation sedan was iconic. Unfortunately, right after this model was discontinued in 1995 after an 11-year run, Mercedes-Benz entered an era of confused designs and cost-cutting measures that didn’t subside until more than a decade later. Now, four generations later, there is an all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but does it have what it takes to become an icon again?
We got the opportunity to take a mid-spec Mercedes-Benz E200 for a round in Oman when we were down there judging for the Oman Car Of The Year awards. Considering most E-Classes running around are indeed the lower-spec versions instead of the overpriced heavily-optioned big-engined ones, the E200 was the perfect one for us to test.
The handsome 2017 E200 looks pretty much like its pricier E-Class siblings, betrayed only by its smaller alloy wheels. Funnily enough, you can order one of these with an AMG kit anyway, and look every bit as premium as your neighbour’s Mercedes-AMG E43.
Inside our test car, the S-Class-inspired cabin features big screens and real wood trim, although being a mid-spec model, there are thankfully still a couple of analogue gauges for speed and revs instead of just an animated screen. There are nice (but probably fake) leather seats and an abundance of soft-touch surfaces, but the leather-stitched dash and real cowhide are reserved for higher-spec models.
In our brief time with the car, even though our car had far fewer options, there’s still so much tech that we could barely figure out how to quickly change radio stations while on the move, let alone play with all the settings and options via the weird controller where the gear-shifter should be. The actual gear-shifter is a flimsy electronic stalk behind the steering wheel. Even cruise control is controlled using yet another stalk, below the wiper stalk.
Cabin space has finally improved, offering decent legroom in the back for tall adults as well as a sizeable boot, even if some space is taken up by the cheaper goose-neck hinges.
Extensive aluminium use cut out “upto” 100 kg of weight compared to the old model, but the new E-Class is still portly for its size. So we didn’t expect much from the uncle-spec “base” engine — a 1.8-litre turbo-4 making 184 hp and 270 Nm of torque. It’s actually a pretty solid motor, with good low-end kick and complemented well by the 9-speed automatic. It moved the 1615-kilo sedan through our 0-100 kph run in a not-bad-at-all 8.2 seconds (although still off by half a second from the official time). You won’t have to worry about taxis overtaking you.
However, the biggest problem with E-Classes is their use as taxi limos by hotels, alongside Lexus ES and BMW 520i sedans. The public seems to know this and don’t respect these cars at all on the road. However, its use as a limo is justified, as the E200 rides well without being floaty or firm. It’s just right, with the smaller wheels and higher-profile tyres.
In some good news, the rear-wheel-drive E200 also handles well now. Previous Mercs had overly-aggressive ESP to compensate for their unbalanced handling, but these new models find a perfectly neutral compromise, with even a bit of tail-sliding fun if you provoke it. With well-weighted steering and good pedal feel, the E200 is a pleasure to drive. Surprisingly, we found it more enjoyable to drive than the C250, even though the latter is smaller and more powerful. We suspect the E-Class chassis has been fine-tuned even better as it came out a year after the latest C-Class.
So has the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class finally redeemed itself? Yes it has. It is a great car, completely not worth the ridiculous asking price, but definitely well-executed in all areas now. And while you still may get tailgated by other taxis, the E200 is not a badge of shame any more — it is the model you should definitely consider first, as it is abundantly enough for your needs in this segment.
For UAE prices and GCC specs, visit the Mercedes-Benz buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury.