2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 4Matic essentials: Outstanding inside, great everywhere else

 

What is it: The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 4Matic is the entry-level all-wheel-drive E-Class competing in the luxury midsize class.

Key Competitors: Lexus GSBMW 5-SeriesAudi A6

Base Price: $55,575 As-Tested Price: $71,695

Highlights: The new E-Class comes with two 12.3-inch displays, as well as more driving assistance packages, enhanced parking functions and ambient lighting with 64 colors.

Our Opinion: I just climbed from the car Mercedes calls “one of the most intelligent machines ever made.”

When it landed here a couple months ago, the new E’s reputation for self-driving/autonomous capabilities was well-documented. The car is a little bigger than the E-Class it replaces, and the interior is enormously improved. If it’s not the best interior on the market, I submit it IS the best interior on the market for this price. The materials are great, with the wood trim particularly fabulous. All of the techie stuff is easy to decipher, even for me.

As we asked on autoweek.com, do we judge the car on the engine/chassis performance or on the self-driving abilities?

I suppose the answer is both. The engine, with 241 hp, isn’t bad, especially in the middle revs. That said, I complained about the turbo-four’s sound, saying a luxury car shouldn’t sound like an economy car. So I have to say that here, as well. It just doesn’t seem right to have an engine sounding, well, like a four-cylinder in my $71K sedan. Power isn’t an issue, though, so that base is covered.

The E’s steering is fine, well-weighted and isolated, and the ride/handling mix feels good.

As for autonomy, it’s easy: Engage the system, set the speed and you’re on your way, the car happily motoring down the freeway or surface street, slicing through corners and always keeping appropriate distance from the car in front. Fully trusting the system takes some getting used to. Benz says the E300 can switch lanes by itself if you just flick on the turn signal. I didn’t try that. Benz also says the car can do all this from slow to freeway speeds by itself. I didn’t leave it in autonomous long enough to find out. I’m a newbie at this, as are all of us.

So even though I spent a weekend driving the latest E, I’m not sure what I think of the autonomous stuff — need more time to play with it. Like I said, it’s a whole new experience.

 

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