Last time we reported on the E-Class, we titled it the big easy. That was the entry level E 200 and yet this E 400 does the business even easier.
It’s the luxury leader of the range and traditionally the best seller here. Where once a V8 did the work, now there’s a smaller capacity 3.0-litre V6. Boosted by a pair of turbos, the go is plentiful with 245kW, and 480Nm of torque from 1600rpm. It’s rated at 8.7L/100km, but 13 is a more realistic figure. This six is the basis of the engine in the AMG 43 range, but even in standard Merc tune there’s gobs of grunt off the bottom and no need to wait around for it. And the E 400 feels pretty quick thanks to the addition of AWD this time around which helps maximise the benefits of all that free flowing torque.
As these luxo cars need to master all aspects of motoring, the E 400 has variable drive modes and adaptive dampers with air suspension in this instance. Comfort is just that with a cushy ride, a placid throttle response and light steering, which, with the quick variable rack, makes commuting almost leisurely. And if that’s not enough, you can engage the help of the abundant driver assistance features on board to ease the load further. Even pesky speed bumps are sorted superbly by the air springs. The turning circle is on the large side, wider than the rear drive models, but then the E is a big car, nudging 5m in length.
Moving to greener surroundings, and through the drive modes, Sport plus is a viable setting on road, gaining you access to better body control as the air springs hunker down for the faster paced action, even though you can feel a few bumps, particularly at the rear end. While not overly charismatic, the V6 delivers the power when egged on, revving to just past 6000rpm, though 5000rpm more than suffices. It’s a reticent revver, a fairly muffled and generic V6 grumble coming from up front but the throttle response is quick enough and when in not such a rush, the midrange urge makes progress, you know, easy. The nine-speed auto sorts the outputs well, the ratios being well spread and thoughtfully selected; you never feel like you’re in a hole or waiting for the action to happen, at least in Sport mode. The steering is well weighted, and points the front of the big E accurately but is isolated from the road, which we kind of expect from an E-Class. Once it’s turned into the bend, you have to wait a moment before gassing out otherwise you’ll push the front end wide as the AWD is not of the variable torque split variety. But once at the exit point, you can stomp the gas without worry. All-wheel drive is just handy when you have this much poke and live somewhere like NZ where it’s often slick under the treads. It helps make the E 400 a well refined and well mannered express, one that’s quick but doesn’t raise the heart rate. Back in Comfort mode, where most owners will likely keep it locked, it delivers a more pampering ride and, apart from the overly dull throttle response, it still manages to round up rural roads in a quick but unfussed manner.
As the top model, the E 400 gets plenty of everything with no real need to spend more on options. However, you can still splash more about, this car’s appearance enhanced both inside and out with the $3500 AMG kit, which is not a lot in the scheme of things. The cabin is well finished, the wood treatment blending with the leather and alloy trimmings, while the tech assault is led with the large dual screens that dominate the dash. There seems to be no limit to the configuration options with these, and controlling the vastness of the infotainment system can be made easier by mastering the thumb pads on the steering wheel. While the seat was a little firm, we didn’t mind the brown leather trim of the test car, but you need to choose the hue of the ambient lighting carefully. No problem as there’s the whole colour spectrum to pick from.
It’s just one of the many configurable set-ups you can spend your downtime fine tuning to get the E 400 just to your liking, and if it’s a quick but refined and effortless luxury sedan you desire, this fills the brief admirably.
|Mercedes-Benz E 400 4MATIC
|2956cc, V6, T/DI, 245kW/480Nm
|9-speed auto, all-wheel drive