Ok, time for some serious Mercedes-bashing. Long-time readers of this blog know that I’m a Mercedes driver for family purposes since many years, currently so in the form of a 2013 E 63 AMG Estate, so as a loyal customer I feel I’m entitled to some bashing, especially after some quite serious disappointments on various drives with the new E-class (well, it’s been around since 2017, but that’s still new in my book). The conclusion is quite simply that in a few crucial aspects, Mercedes have built a worse car than its predecessor. Here’s my take on why:
Looks: I guess this one’s debatable but I still haven’t found anyone who finds the new E-class particularly beautiful. The design is kind of uninspired, lacking distinctive features, angles and curves. Now you may claim it’s not the only one (A6 anybody?), but that doesn’t make it any better. The higher in the model range you go, the more obvious it becomes. The new E 63 quite simply doesn’t look the part.
Interior quality: the new dashboard has a nice, floating look, with much more choice of materials and looks than the old one (not to mention the dozens of available interior light colours…). The problem is that most of these materials look kind of – cheap. The first person to say so in this family was actually not me but my 19-year old daughter. The quality-feel is also so-so, and not on par with the very solid interior in my 2013 car. Finally some plastic parts that I guess Mercedes doesn’t think you’ll pay attention to, for example the lower parts of the doors and the rear part of the centre armrest, are more reminiscent of the plastic in an old Hyundai than a Merc.
Luggage space: if like us you have two children and a dog cage, there’s basically no other estate that does the trick – the sloping roof line of an A6 or a 5-series make it hopeless to load bulky items like a cage, and still have enough luggage space. Now that the E-class also has a sloping roof line, the cage still fits, but you lose some space vs the old model. It’s still bigger than a 5-series, but in absolute terms it’s a step backwards. And let’s be honest: for many of us, luggage space was a critical factor in opting for an E-class rather than a 5-series.
Back seat: incredible but yes, in the car we’ve all ridden as a taxi, they’ve actually managed to mess up the back seat. It took me three dealers to get confirmation of something that was very obvious as soon as you sat down, but the new E-class has a shorter rear seat bank, meaning you sit with your legs in a steeper angle and lack thigh support. On an 8-hour vacation drive through Europe, that will make quite a difference.
Infotainment: saving the best for last, it’s no secret that for some reason I fail to understand, Mercedes until recently have been far behind competitors in infotainment solutions. Earlier this year the supposedly market-leading MBUX system was launched and is now featured in various models from the A-class to the new GLE and GLS. The problem is, with the E-class having been launched in 2017, you still have the older system (as you do, by the way, if you spend EUR 200.000 on the new G63 which only preceded MBUX by a few months), and will do so until the first face lift sometime next year. This means the screens lack touch functionality. Instead, Mercedes offers you the option to operate them in three ways: over small pads on the steering wheel, on a pad on the centre console, or on a small wheel below that same pad. Having driven a couple of cars a few hours each, I can only say that this remains quite confusing and very counter-intuitive. I felt myself constantly reaching for the screen, then remembering, then going to the control on the steering wheel, then not finding the right menu, then going back to the centre console etc. I guess you figure it out with time, but it’s simply not good. On a brand level, it’s also quite incomprehensible that you get the latest system in an entry A-class but not in top of the line cars until three years later!
The E-class is still a great car – but it’s not as great a car as it used to be. Most people probably won’t care and just order a new one when the lease runs out, but given you’re nerdy enough to read this blog, chances are that like me, you do care. You don’t need to agree with me though, and if you don’t, feel free to say so!