Strengths and weaknesses:
- quality engineering
- comfortable interior
- ho-hum performance
- little cabin storage space
- burns premium gas
Mercedes grades an E for entry to mid-size luxury segment
"Since spring 2012, Canadians have been able to buy an E-Class sedan not available in the U.S."
Here’s a challenge for you: go online, enter the words “2012 Mercedes-Benz E300 review” and see what you find.
I’ll save you the trouble: it won’t be a lot.
Most of the entries will be for the E300 Bluetec hybrid coming to Europe at the end of the year, but there will be one or two speculative stories from the U.S. predicting the E300 4Matic that’s sold in Canada will be arriving at American dealerships in summer 2012.
Since spring 2012, Canadians have been able to buy an E-Class sedan not available in the U.S. But you won’t find it in the expensive E-Class sales catalogue printed in Canada and available at Mercedes-Benz Canada dealerships. That’s because the catalogue was produced in 2011 before the decision was made to market an “entry level” E-Class sedan.
The phrase “entry level,” of course, has a different meaning when it comes to this market segment.
Still, the gasoline-powered E300 4Matic has a base price of $57,900 - some $4,800 less than the RWD E350Bluetec turbodiesel and $5,500 less than the E350 4matic sedan.
However, our test car is fitted with optional leather upholstery and a $3,900 Premium Package, which includes a rear view camera and navigation system, which boosts the MSRP to $63,790.
The E-Class is billed as a “midsize executive sedan” on the Mercedes-Benz Canada website, and whenever I’m in Europe I’m always amazed at the number of them I see. They’re about as common over there as Chrysler 300s here. (And maybe that’s why Europe is in so much trouble - too many people either making too much money or living beyond their means.)
The E300 has just about everything you could want in a car. It’s loaded with luxurious touches including a harmon/kardon surround sound system and heated 14-way power front seats, plus safety features to warn you when you may be getting drowsy and electronic stability with traction control.
Oh, its 248-hp, 3.5-litre V6 is quick enough for most drivers, although not as fast off the line as the 302-hp E350, and the seven-speed automatic is, as we road testers like to say, buttery smooth.
There’s even a switch to the left of the media controller on the centre console that can be flipped back and forth between E (for economy) and S (for sport). You really can feel the difference in your right foot, although there’s not a huge improvement in fuel economy - 9.5 L/100km in E vs. 9.9 L/100km in S. So you might as well get the kicks of driving in the sportier setting. You’ll have to select it manually though, because the default setting is E.
Cabin space is excellent, with lots of room for large adults in both front and rear seats, plus a useful trunk with 540 litres of luggage space.
Nice touches abound such as automatic climate control, a power glass sunroof and a heated windshield washer system. However, a heated steering wheel, heated front seats and rear window sunshade are optional.
Hallelujah! Finally, a German car with well-positioned front cupholders that don’t swallow a smaller cup. But other than the cupholders and a bin under the centre armrest, there are no handy places to stash stuff such as a wallet, sunglasses or cell phone - not even a pen.
While we’re picking nits from the interior, the standard dark ash wood trim shows dust and fingerprints too easily; you’re better to pick lighter burl walnut or aluminum trim, both available as no cost options.
There already is a digital clock on the seven-inch LCD screen, so why take up valuable space in the instrument cluster with a redundant analog clock the same size as the tachometer?
And at this price point shouldn’t even “entry level” luxury include standard leather seating?
To sum up, even in base trim the E300 is fairly well equipped and is as quiet, safe and comfortable as sitting in your living room. Unfortunately, it’s also just about as exciting.