Malaysians have undoubtedly taken very well to the new crop of Mercedes-Benz Malaysia’s compact cars. The relatively affordable (for a Mercedes) 2014 A-Class and CLA-Class have impressed many, and as a result, you have the sort of numbers seen on roads today. But there are those who curse the new flock of three-pointed stars, poking pitchforks and proclaiming that while they may look good, they don’t handle as well as a hot hatch should, nor are they as comfy as a typical Mercedes-Benz should be. To be fair, they aren’t typical Mercs, are they? They’re part of a new range of cars from the Stuttgart-based company, made to be more affordable than the matured C-, E-, and S-Classes. Yet, staying in-line with the common theme of the company, they haven’t exactly been made to break records at the Nurburgring either. They just are, what they are: and that’s a more affordable, and slightly-less prestigious range, of not-so affordable and prestigious cars. Anyways, if those aren’t for you and it is within your means to look higher up the price scale, here is the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class E 400, sitting as far up the ladder as possible (in this segment), primed for luxury, with a whopping 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 under its hood.
Buyer’s Guide: If the base E 200 and mid-range E 250 models aren’t to your specific satisfaction, you’ve come to the right place. While the E 400 is RM88k more expensive than an E 250, driving it on a daily basis does make your money feel well spent, while just looking at it takes care of any remaining balances. Plainly, the car you see here is as significant a step up as the stepped-up prices. With BMW Malaysia no longer offering its six-cylinder rival, the 535i, the only other comparable German in the market is the Audi A6 3.0 TFSI for RM515,000. Further east, Lexus also has a GS 350 for RM470k, but the normally-aspirated 3.5-litre V6 in that may not rub your aspirations for a premium sedan the same way. And don’t forget, if it’s boyish ambitions that you plainly need to appease, Naza Italia has a full-blown Italian to offer, in the form of a Maserati Ghibli: RM539k, four doors, Ferrari 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, and all.
KEY SPECS: 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class E 400 Avantgarde
Driving a 2014 Mercedes-Benz E 400: PERFORMANCE: You might imagine that being a Mercedes, power delivery ought to be a lot more tamed and ‘sophisticated’ (a.k.a. lazy) compared with a BMW that was born to do just that. But you’d be quite surprised with just what the E 400 is capable of. Plainly, 333hp and 480Nm of torque is a mountain of power to live with and it’s enough to blast you past slower traffic with nearly no effort or notice at all. The seven-speed torque converter transmission takes a quarter of a second too long to spring to action in driving modes that aren’t Sport, but the surge of power is so smooth and ferocious at the same time, you don’t mind it at all. RIDE COMFORT: It’s sublime, to say the least. Having driven the new crop of compact MB cars, this thing is a whole other monster when it comes to ride comfort (just as we remember in the E 200 and E 250 we drove a while back). In popular cities and urban neighbourhoods where imperfect roads can be a bother, the E 400’s ride soaks it all up so well. Cruising on long stretches of bumpy and undulated Malaysian roads really is an absolute joy to trot along at legal limits. Well beyond that limit, overly sensitive drivers may be reminded of the car’s comfort-minded suspension when things start to twitch ever-so-slightly – but trust us, it’s nothing to bother most people.
HANDLING: Given the nature of the beast, we had no intention of going out of our way to find a few deserted bends to see out how well the E-Class would get on in the corners. But given the nature of Waze, what was supposed to be a straight-forward highway cruise to PD ended up being a detour through exactly the kind of roads we were looking to avoid. Even still, it’s wasn’t all that bad. If you work the grip as if you were in a hot car, yes, you’re going to lose it. But if it’s just over a few cheeky twists of the wheel, the car does well – especially with the kind of power you have to burst you around. NOISE, VIBRATION & HARSHNESS: There isn’t much to speak of, really. A slight amount of wind noises become apparent when you’re gunning it down long highways at ridiculous speeds, but again, it takes some serious effort to bring up any of this car’s imperfections. VISIBILITY: Having just walked out of a BMW 5 Series and into the E-Class, you get a sense that this car feels a lot narrower and shorter without having compromised cabin spaciousness, the E-Class actually is just hairs smaller (28mm shorter, 6mm narrower overall). However, a world of difference is apparent on the road, when generally manoeuvring around. Seeing out and around is a lot easier as well in the E-Class, than it was in the 5er.
Living with a 2014 Mercedes-Benz E 400: When Mercedes-Benz Malaysia launched the E-Class facelift last year, you’ll remember that it was a preview of things to come from the all-new S-Class that was launched months after. In short, you can sort of imagine the level of technological embellishments you’d be getting from the W212 E-Class facelift – even more so from this range-topping E 400. FEATURES: You can rest-assured that all the standard bits you’d expect from an E-Class are well accounted for: navigation, reverse camera, engine start/stop and keyless entry… the list goes on, so best we don’t waste your time there. However, there are two things that will likely grab your attention the most: the first being a 360° surround-view camera, the other being its range of entertainment offerings. The 360° camera combines views from four different surrounding lenses to give you a bird’s-eye view of your car, and is displayed alongside either the rear or front cameras (depending on your driving direction) on the seven-inch display screen. Overall, the entertainment appointments in the E 400 seem to add up. Rear passengers will be treated to two eight-inch display screens, high-quality wireless Kleer headphones and lots of connectivity options and ports to plug various video and audio devices into. That said, the primary audio system doesn’t quite live up to expected standards – it’s alright, but not quite as fantastic as you’d expect.
CABIN SPACE: Door to door, the E-Class leaves no room for complaint: it’s wide, comfortable and everything feels good to touch. Headroom, on the other hand, was quite disappointing – especially if you’re a taller chap. If not for the moonroof above which opens a gap in the headliner, it’d be very cramped. No such problem then for rear passengers, who also enjoy some very cushy seats, and a center armrest that folds down and opens up to a pair of cupholders and cubbyholes. STYLE: We don’t normally address a car’s styling, preferring to leave it to the ol’ adage of beauty being in the eye of the beholder. This time, though, we’re making an exception. The pictures you see here barely do any justice to the car’s overall looks - you can thank the hazy weather and rubbish photographer (who may be me) for this. The AMG Sports package transforms the E-Class into something visibly more special, adding 18-inch alloys, a bodykit, chrome strips here and there, and twin rectangular stainless-steel pipes at the rear. In the black paint you see it here, it’s just the ticket.
Verdict: Should you buy one? With no equivalent six-cylinder BMW to pit it against (officially), it’s a straight fight between this and the Audi A6 3.0 TFSI. The Audi option boasts a Quattro drive, and nearly as many luxury appointments as they E 400, but once you add up all the necessary options to properly match the two, don’t be surprised to see total bill in access of RM560k for your four rings. On paper, the E 400 looks a lot better for performance as well, being the quicker of the two, courtesy of the extra 23hp, and 40Nm of torque. But yes, Audi’s Quattro ought to right things in the real world, leaving the E-Class just hairs behind at the start, but catching quickly down the straight. So, should you buy one? Well, if the E 400’s price tag isn’t a cause for any concern to you, then you might as well be interested to know a full-on S-Class S 400 L Hybrid, dubbed by many as the best car in the world, is priced at just RM94k more – that’s if you can manage to book one. If not, then yeah, the E 400 is a decent substitute. And that says a lot.