2012 Mercedes-Benz E300 4Matic – E-class value leader

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The Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan is the cornerstone of the German luxury automobile manufacturer’s world wide range of vehicles.  The solid, upright, mid-size E-Class sedan has long been THE vehicle most people associate with the Mercedes-Benz brand, particularly in North America where consumers see the company as strictly a luxury premium brand.  But anybody who’s been to Europe knows the three point star manufacturer offers a much broader price range and diversity of passenger and commercial vehicles than is available here.  E-Class diesel sedans are especially popular for taxi use in Europe because they’re efficient (especially with diesel power), roomy and reliable.

So what does the 2012 Mercedes-Benz E300 4Matic offer to Canadians in the market for a premium luxury mid-size sedan?  Value!  That’s right, value.

The Mercedes E-300 is the base, 248 horsepower 3.5-litre V6 model of the five E-Class sedans offered (including E350 diesel, E350 with 301 horsepower V6, E550 with 402 horsepower V8, and E63 AMG with 518 horsepower.)  The E300 starts at $58,300 (with all-wheel-drive, which Mercedes calls ‘4Matic’, standard equipment) and when compared to the rest of the E-Class range pricing – the E63 AMG’s pricing is in the ‘if you have to ask, you can’t afford it’ category, it truly is the model’s value leader.

While car enthusiasts may dismiss the 248 horsepower V6 for lacking punch, it performs impressively well indeed.  Only the most lead-footed drivers will feel the need for more power.  The 3.5-litre V6 is torquey, smooth and acceleration is aided by the 7-speed automatic transmission’s gearing.  Typical of many new transmissions, there are ‘Economy’ and ‘Sport’ selectable settings, with the Economy setting programmed to make the transmission shift early at low rpm.  I found performance of the Mercedes entirely acceptable while driving in the Economy setting.  (Interestingly, the more powerful 301 horsepower E350 gets a marginally BETTER fuel economy rating than the lower power E300, but you need to want that extra 53 horsepower a lot; the E350 is $8,000 dollars more than the E300.)

If there’s a complaint to level at the E300 its at the sedan’s light, overboosted power steering.  For years, Mercedes-Benz sedans have been my personal benchmark for how the steering should feel on a large sedan that’s enjoyable to drive, providing good feedback and ‘weight’ that physically communicates the level of cornering speed by the amount of movement and resistance of the steering wheel.  The E300’s steering lacks that precise level of communication that drivers love in older models.

Where the E300 excels is in how it cossets its passengers.  Driving the E300 around town is truly a luxury experience.  The cabin is bank vault solid and remarkably quiet.  The Mercedes is a European car, so it’s suspension is expectedly firmer than Asian and American premium sedans, but is still heavily biased towards comfort and luxury compared to its German counterparts, the sportier Audi A6 and BMW 5-Series sedans.

Front seats (heated) are broad and comfortable and rear seat passengers have loads of head and legroom.  The standard audio system is remarkably good and the interior design of our demo unit (light grey leather with dark ash wood and satin aluminum trim) exudes a distinct European sense of refinement and style.

Our test vehicle was fitted with a number of useful features, such as the optional Driving Assistance Package, which includes blind spot warning indicators (located in each side mirror) as well as a sensor that detects when the vehicle is straying from its marked lane (and alerts the driver by vibrating the steering wheel), parking assist warning and backup camera, power open/close trunk, and automatic folding side mirrors, all beneficial in daily driving.

For Canadian driving conditions (that means competence in our severe winter season), the all-wheel-drive 2012 Mercedes-Benz E300 4Matic is the true value leader in the company’s luxurious E-Class range.  Starting at $58,300, you could spend more – a lot more, the top-of-the-range E63 AMG starts at $99,700 – the E300 4Matic offers all the style, luxury and comfort of its E-Class siblings, but at a price savings many thousands of dollars less.  From where I sit, that makes the 2012 E300 4Matic a top pick in the Mercedes-Benz’s Canadian line up and one of the best choices in the luxury mid-size sedan segment.

The Specs

2012 Mercedes-Benz E300 4Matic

Type of vehicle:  Premium luxury all-wheel-drive 4-door sedan

Engine: 3.5-litre V-6 cylinder

Power: 248 horsepower at 6,500 r.p.m; 251 pound-feet of torque at 3,400 r.p.m.

Transmission: 7-speed automatic

Brakes: Front/rear ventilated disc brakes. ABS with Brake Assist and Electronic Stability Program

Tires: 245/40R17 front/rear, temporary spare

Price: $58,300;  As-tested:  $63,825 (includes Premium Package $3,900, Keyless Go $975,  Driving Assistance Package $800, Trunk Box $250.)

Transport Canada fuel economy (L/100 km): 11.1 city, 7.0 highway (premium unleaded)

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