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A class apart from itself

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SAFEKEEPER The new E comes with as much security as Fort Knox
SAFEKEEPER The new E comes with as much security as Fort Knox

The new E-Class might not look all different from its predecessor, but the changes under its skin qualify the car for this story

Not that you'll catch yourself discovering radical new changes at first glance, but you won't miss the new bumper which has been redone in order to add a sharper feel. Not your regular E-Class, this one, but one close look and you'll be tempted to jump in and take it for a spin. Heck, just running through the feature list is enough to get your adrenalin levels high and for anybody to realize that the new E is most definitely a significant upgrade from its previous model.

Appearances are deceptive

The styling, suspension and steering tuning, and safety systems are three areas that have been worked on to make substantial changes on the new E-Class adding the wow factor to it. Still unmistakably an E, the biggest changes are witnessed on the nose and the rear of the car. The softer curves on the earlier model have been done away with and new sharper, more aggressive looking lines with more pronounced edge sit on the new E. The Merc's grille is spanking new. More traditional, with a protruding centre spine and thicker top bar, this grille also sees the return of the iconic Mercedes-Benz laurel wreath badge. Overall, the car's nose is more aggressive and Merc's wide grin is exaggerated and wide, but some of the clean lines of the original car are missing. But for the larger mirrors, the new E Class is almost identical to its predecessor from side-on. The rear gets new tail lamps and a longer chrome strip across the boot, making the car look wider. As is the case with every Merc face-lift, the subtle changes aren't meant to radically alter the looks, instead just to jazz up the car.

The inside truth

The biggest changes, however, are under the skin. The E280 and E280 CDI get similar motors, but Mercedes has provided a big upgrade to the supercharged E200 K. Although the car, in its new avatar hasn't been launched yet, the face-lifted car is expected to have an additional 26 bhp, taking the total up to 184 bhp. The new E has also received some hand-me-downs, in terms of safety features, from the S-Class. Mercedes Pre-Safe system comes as standard in all variants which allows the car to minimise damage on braking hard, steering violently or on sensing an impending accident. It pre-tensions the seatbelts, straightens the seatbacks and closes the sunroof and windows. The E also comes with another hi-tech feature known as Neck-Pro. This system reduces injuries during rear-end collisions providing additional support to the neck. Once the sensors detect a rear-end collision, the headrests pop out by 40mm, preventing your neck from snapping. Also, there is Mercedes' Adaptive braking system that helps reduce stopping distances. When it senses the rapid removal of the driver's foot from the accelerator, the system interprets it as an emergency braking situation and increases the hydraulic pressure in the brake lines and brings the brake pads into light contact with the brake discs so they can bite immediately with full force. Though Merc has done away with the problematic SBC brake-by-wire system on the new E, the Hold function has been retained. The system allows you to lock the brake with a mere dab of the right pedal when the car is at a standstill, even when the car is in drive. This is a great boon in stop-start traffic, especially as a tap on the accelerator pedal disables Hold, allowing you to drive away. The suspension and steering have been tweaked to improve the E's handling and ride. A more direct steering ratio improves turn-in especially while cornering.Mercedes' `Direct Control' package, has also improved the overall geometry of the suspension. The reconfigured suspension manages to hold onto its wheel alignment and geometry better while cornering, thus improving grip at the front wheels. The interior is a definite improvement as well. The new light tan colour scheme looks very classy, brightens up the environment up and also doesn't stain easily. The new, sporty interior, from the SL sports car via the CLS, has manual blinds for the rear windows and the gear lever is different. Of course, the best part is that these solid interiors are fantastically built, eliminating almost all sounds from the outside world. Yes, the new E-Class costs about a lakh more than the earlier car, but then it also comes with enhanced dynamics, striking interiors and a host of new safety features. Superb ride and comfort, greater safety, agile handling, fresher looks and matchless refinement and performance, are what you can expect even from the diesel. OUSEPH CHACKO

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