How do you improve upon a car like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class? The popular luxe sedan wasn’t exactly bereft of features, and it was already a very comfortable car to be driven around in – just ask the thousands of people who have sworn by it for years. The answer is to make it more like an S-Class, without quite annoying the large number of S-Class owners who have paid top rupee for the company’s flagship sedan – and the best way to do this is to stretch the E-Class, give the rear cabin lots more leg room and spruce up the car so that it becomes a ‘baby’ S-Class.
With the launch of the V213, to give it its internal moniker, Mercedes has made India the first country in the world to receive the long-wheelbase E-Class in a right-hand drive version; what’s more, the car is assembled here too, giving the company much more control over its price. As I’ve mentioned, S-Class owners would have felt hard done by had this car been launched earlier, so Mercedes did the sensible thing and first waited for the S-Class to embed itself at the top end of the market. Having regained market leadership in the luxury car game, and thus being in a rude state of health, the decision to introduce a car like this was not a surprising one for Mercedes – and it may well prove to be an excellent one.
To the cabin, then, because that’s where the action is in this car. Unless you’re The Great Khali, you’ll delight in the back seat experience, because it’s quite frankly stupendous – there isn’t another car in its class which can touch it for space. The seats are crafted of fine, soft leather and have reclining backrests (and don’t get me started on those wonderful little pillows on the headrests), and the left one has controls to move the front passenger seat back and forth, for even more space; seriously, I’m almost 6 feet tall, and I threw my hands in the air like I just didn’t care and there was still room to spare. Other than a lack of cup-holders and audio controls at the rear, there’s no real cause for complaint – the cabin is sumptuously appointed and made of the highest quality of materials, with great features like a panoramic sunroof, a huge 12.3-inch infotainment screen (no touch capability, though), a 13-speaker Burmester audio system and little touchpad scrollers on the steering wheel, for the infotainment screen and the display between the dials.
For the buyer who likes a little time behind the wheel as well, the e350d (with a smooth V6 diesel engine putting out 258 bhp and 63.2 kgm of torque) is an absolute belter. For a diesel, it’s very silent from inside the cabin, even when you’re giving it the stick; floor the throttle and the car simply whooshes its way to 100 kph in under 7 seconds, which is commendable, given its size (it’s just over 5 metres long). It isn’t a race-tuned machine, mind you, so it handles a little soggily with the suspension in Comfort mode – switch to Sport or Sport Plus, and it tightens up appreciably, without a discernible loss of ride quality. Speaking of ride, the car’s full air suspension, in Comfort mode, really does feel like a magic carpet – a little too much, in fact, since it made me queasy after a while; I found Sport mode to be absolutely perfect.
In answer to the question of whether you should buy this car, I can only say that you should, if you’re in the market for a hugely spacious limousine that doesn’t cost S-Class money. In fact, this new E-Class is so good that it (almost) makes the S-Class a pricey indulgence – which it is, of course. Something that costs Rs 69.47 lakh (ex-Mumbai) isn’t usually called a bargain, but the new E-Class is just that.