Magazine article The Spectator

Mercedes Power

Magazine article The Spectator

Mercedes Power

Article excerpt


The Mercedes Class is possibly the world's most aspired-to saloon, so a new model is therefore not to be missed. I had the petrol E 320 V6 on test.

Having driven this engine in its earlier S-- Class variant, I expected it to be powerful and flexible but was still surprised by the electronic tweakings they've contrived. The figures - 0-62.5 mph in 7.7 seconds, maximum speed 149 mph - are plenty fast enough for most of us, but the car's handling is such that they feel like an underestimate. I drove it as fast as I dared on a winding road with swan's-neck bends, no braking, just power off or on, and it went through them like a rattlesnake.

You can select standard or winter suspension settings but what added most pleasure to performance was the electronically adaptive accelerator. This adjusts to your style and brings the five-speed automatic gearbox into play exactly when you want it. You can also use the Tipfunction to change manually with a touch on the selector. Distronic radar-assisted cruise control is an extra, though cruise control itself is standard. With some models you can opt for the six-speed manual gearbox, but many find that awkward to co-ordinate with the Mercedes foot-operated parking brake. Anyway, automatics suit Mercedes better.

The fly-by-wire braking system is excellent. By connecting the pedal electronically to the main cylinder, it removes the need for vacuum-powered assistance; a microprocessor then activates the hydraulic brakes via electronic pulses. Left to itself, this system would convey no brake 'feel', so that has to be built back in. What happens when floodwater gets into the computer or shorts out the battery, I've no idea. Everything stops, I guess. But mechanical brakes failed, too, sometimes, and these clever electronic ones worked superbly on my secret brake testing ground (a permanently muddy stretch of country lane at the foot of two hills). Also, they shorten the stopping distance by 3 per cent at 70 mph, which could mean the difference between this world and the next. And if that's not enough, there is the Electronic Stability Programme, six airbags, a reinforced cage and a rollover sensor. You're about a safe as you can be in a car.

CO/2 emission is 238 g/km, urban mpg 19.1, extra urban 37.7, combined a surprising 28.5. That fifth gear is high: at 70 mph the engine turned over at about 2,300 rpm. The E 320 costs 33,440 but its diesel equivalent, when it comes, will be 645 less. …

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