Mercedes-Benz W212 is First Produced
The Mercedes-Benz W212 is a sedan sold as the ninth-generation E-Class, replacing the previous W211 model.
C207 is the chassis code for the related E-Class Coupe, a replacement for the CLK-class coupe and cabriolet. The new E-Class went on sale in Europe in March and in America in July 2009.
The design of the W212 and C207 E-Class is inspired by the ConceptFASCINATION design study. Certain elements of the exterior styling are also taken from the preceding W204 C-Class and W221 S-Class. The bulging rear wheel arches are meant to be reminiscent of the fender flares of historic Mercedes models.
The E-class sedan was unveiled at the 2009 North American International Auto Show. The new sedan went on sale in Europe in March, 2009 as a 2010 model year automobile. The new E-Class features several new safety technologies including driver fatigue detection, lane-departure warning, and traffic-sign recognition. It also includes features that improve performance, efficiency, and comfort, such as "Direct Control" adaptive suspension, active seats (which change shape to support the passengers in corners), and movable radiator louvers which improve the vehicle's aerodynamics. Standard Mercedes-Benz safety and convenience features, such as the Electronic Stability Program (ESP), airbags, and automatic climate control, are included as well.
The 2009 E-Class Coupé was unveiled at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show and went on sale in May 2009. The C207 E-Class Coupe is related to the W212 sedan, sharing approximately 60 percent of its mechanical components. The E-Class Coupe also possesses many of the same new and standard features of the sedan.
The estate version (chassis code S212) was unveiled at the 2009 Frankfurt motor show and was released for sale in Europe on August 5. Early models include the four-cylinder-powered E 220 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY and E 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY, the V6-powered E 350 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY and E 350 CGI BlueEFFICIENCY, and the V8-powered E 500. US models will begin sales in June 2010 for the 2011 model year.
The A207 cabriolet was unveiled January 11th, 2010 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan, USA, for sale March 27th, 2010 in Europe and in May 2010 in the United States. Available models are scheduled to be an E350 (268 bhp) and E550 (382hp) versions. The Cabriolet will feature the AIRSCARF system (a neck-level heating system for front occupants) and the new AIRCAP windshield spoiler system, deflecting air over the cabin for reduced draft and wind noise.
The 2009 E63 AMG sedan was unveiled at the 2009 New York International Auto Show. The new performance version of the E-Class is fitted with the same powertrain as the SL63 AMG, including AMG's 6.2-liter V8 and the SPEEDSHIFT MCT 7-speed sports automatic transmission with four driver-selectable modes including a fully manual mode. Similar to the C63 AMG, the new E63 is more extensively modified than before, with a new, wider front axle, heavily revised suspension, and more distinct body panels. 
The optional AMG Performance Package includes lightweight, forged 19-inch AMG light-alloy wheels with 255/35R19 front and 285/30R19 rear tires, stiffer suspension, a limited-slip differential, a special three-spoke sport steering wheel, and a reprogramming of the electronic top speed limiter to 300 km/h (190 mph) from 250 km/h (160 mph).
The E63 AMG will be on sale in the U.S.A. in November 2009. An estate version will go on sale in February 2010.
The E-Guard armoured version, which features VR4 (formerly B4) level protection, went on sale in April 2009. The vehicles are equipped with steel and aramid fiber (Kevlar) armour and bullet-resistant windows, as well as run-flat tyres rated for a top speed of 240 kilometres per hour (150 mph) (50 kilometres (31 mi) at 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph) when deflated), a special Level II version of the Airmatic air suspension system, emergency alarm system, intercom system, and underbody armour.
The E 250 BlueTEC is a concept vehicle based on the E 250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY sedan, but with urea injection and the 7G-TRONIC transmission. The vehicle was unveiled at the 2009 New York Auto Show. The E 250 BlueTEC is capable of 28 MPG city/39 MPG highway.
Purely and simply, the new E-Class is designed and built to be the "best medium sedan in the world".
The claim is that of Daimler AG boss, Dr Dieter Zetsche (made at the car's pre-Detroit Motor Show unveiling in January -- more here). And while the "medium" part of the claim was added for the parochial US market (the E-Class is a large exce EVERY else in the world), the rest remains relevant.
At the very heart of the Mercedes-Benz brand, the world's automotive community and Benz buyers demand every new generation of E-Class become a benchmark on four-wheels. In preparation for this responsibility, the new W212 was subjected to more than 36 million km of testing, over 150 real life crash tests and more than 17,000 virtual crashes and other simulations. Benz is not disclosing the total cost of development of the new E, but it clearly runs into billions of dollars.
With more interior space but built on a similar footprint to the W211, the latest E-Class pioneers new, more efficient engines, is fitted with new technologies to propel and pamper, and arrives with an armoury of updated safety features.
Though not all the features or engines will come Down Under, we will see a significant upgrade in safety equipment and at least two four-cylinder powertrains when the new E arrives Down Under. The stalwart V6 and V8 models land first (in July) but, before year end Mercedes Australia will have on offer the most frugal E-Class ever -- one that sips at just 5.3L/100km and still punches out 500Nm.
PRICE AND EQUIPMENT
Australian pricing and final specification for all-new E-Class models is still to be finalised, says the company's local connections. Dr Z claimed the new E-Class' more efficient drivetrains, enhanced safety and significantly upgraded quality and interior would all come at "no increase in cost" at both Detroit and again last week at the Geneva show, so we're not expecting local prices to drop either.
More likely what we'll see is a rationalising of the E-Class specification and option price list with local E-Class models benefiting via higher equipment levels.
The Australian W212 E-Class range will kick off with the arrival of the petrol 350 and 500 models and the 350 CDI turbodiesel in July. Then around the end of the third quarter of 2009, three four-cylinder models will land -- the 250CDI direct-injected turbocharged petrol four and Benz's latest diesels, the twin-turbo 220 CDI and 250 CDI.
The full-welly 380kW-plus E 63 AMG will debut at the Frankfurt show in September and arrive Down Under in time to be parked under your Christmas tree.
Though the AMG car will be offered in one-spec, across the wider E-Class range Elegance and Avantgarde trim levels will be offered, and for the first time, you'll have badges inside the cabin to help you remember what variant you're driving.
In Europe, both Exclusive and AMG Sport Pack model upgrades will also be offered. Expect the same Down Under.
Standard specifications of E-Class differ markedly across the world. For example, in Germany and other Euro markets, Benz offers manual gearboxes in the small-engined models. Locally all Es will be auto and standard specification levels will be high.
Benz lists standard E-Class fare as including adaptive airbags, antilock brakes with brake assist and in-traffic hold function, electric mirrors, windows and (in Aussie models) memory seats. An eight-speaker audio system, climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels with tyre pressure monitoring system, cruise control plus speed limiter, auto headlamps and wipers, Bluetooth handsfree, and alloy and high-gloss eucalyptus interior trim elements are all included.
Avantgarde adds a sporting edge to the E and features 17-inch five-twin-spoke alloys with 245 series tyres, bi-xenon headlamps with Intelligent Light System and washers, revised front bumper, three-bar grille and brightwork, LED daytime running, LED taillights and lowered sports suspension.
Inside ambient lighting is featured and there are special Avantgarde-specific colours offered. The seat trim piping orientation of the E-Class' new pillow-top seats is horizontal and the instrument panel features unique recessed gauges complete with sporty chrome bezels. Interior trim is black high-gloss ash or optional brushed aluminium.
The Elegance models feature ten-spoke alloys (17-inch on the 500) and add body finish tweaks, a four-bar grille and chrome external trim highlights. Inside ambient lighting is added to doors and dash, the seats get a traditional longitudinal piping pattern and trim elements are upgraded to brown high-gloss burr walnut.
The AMG sports package will likely prove as popular on the W212 as it has on previous Es -- in part as it offers a number of components (such as larger drilled discs and upgraded brake calipers) that cannot be optioned separately. In its latest form the pack includes 18-inch alloys and wider rear rubber, three-spoke Nappa leather sports steering wheel with shift paddles, manual shift program for 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission (on V6 and V8 models), AMG sports suspension and body add-ons. Sports front seats are also featured.
In the case of all trim grades extra equipment is added depending on the powertrain. For example E 500 variants feature Airmatic adjustable air suspension as standard, while all other variants use steel springs and Benz's latest Direct Control dampers.
The E-Class' active and passive safety systems are extensive enough to need an article in their own right. Check out SAFETY below for a summary of the key systems of the new E-Class' suite of safety equipment.
Under the skin, the E-Class is a technical tour de force. It literally builds on decades of experience.
Mercedes says the new W212 claims a record for the percentage of high and ultra-high strength steels in the construction of its body-in-white -- a whopping 72 per cent. Body rigidity has been boosted by 30 per cent, with attendant improvements related to safety, suspension tuning and refinement all claimed by the carmaker.
The new car's design features front and rear subframes that are integral to the E's crash structure and also locate the front and rear suspension, steering and drivetrain components.
Front suspension is a three-link modified McPherson strut design. Benz uses its Direct Control variable damping system in non-Airmatic models and two of the three lower links are aluminium alloy. The company claims the Mac strut-based design has crash and refinement benefits over a double wishbone.
The rear suspension is a further development of Mercedes' trademark multi-link independent suspension. Modifications mean the forces channeled into the passenger cell are reduced for better refinement. Aluminium is extensively used.
The V6 and V8 W212s are the first Mercedes-Benz models to feature Airmatic air suspension with electronically-controlled adaptive damping. The system uses seven sensors to monitor factors such as road speed, steering wheel angle, braking torque, engine torque and body attitude and then calculates optimum damper characteristics. The system then adjusts the damping force for each wheel individually.
Both Comfort and Sport modes are offered, however, the system will also automatically adjust to driving style.
The new E-Class' steering is rack and pinion with Benz's Direct Steer variable system standard on V6 and V8, and optional on other models. Steering assistance is hydraulic, but as part of the drive for better fuel efficiency it's a 'smart' system that only pumps to deliver assistance when required.
Adaptive Brake is Benz's title for the antilock braking system fitted to the new E-Class. In addition to normal emergency brake assist, brake force distribution, brake drying, fade compensation and hill holder functions, Adaptive Brake includes the E-Class's signature hold function. This function allows the driver to depress the pedal a touch further once stopped to activate a hold mode that is automatically released when the accelerator pedal is pushed. Perfect in heavy traffic...
The four-wheel brake hardware ranges in size, depending on the specific E-Class model. At the top end of the range the E500 gets vented 344 x 32mm front brakes with four-piston calipers, while the rears are 320 x 24mm rotors gripped by single-piston units.
In terms of powertrains, it's largely steady as we go for the V6 and V8 end of the E-Class range. Though minor improvements have been made to the E 350's 200kW/350Nm 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine and E 500's 285kW/530Nm 5.5-litre V8, the engines are essentially unchanged.
Australia will not get the new 215kW E 350 CGI BlueEfficiency direct-injected petrol V6 for the foreseeable future for reasons of fuel incompatibility -- Australian unleaded petrol has too much sulphur. We do get the E 350 CDI, however.
Though the base 3.0-litre single turbo V6 turbodiesel is unchanged from its appearances in the W211, it now delivers 170kW and 540Nm -- 30kW and 100Nm more than the current range's top diesel, the E 280 CDI).
Benz claims the 350 CDI returns a Euro cycle economy figure of 7.3L/100km. By way of comparison the abovementioned E 280 is 0.2L/100km thirstier (on the similar but not the same, Aussie cycle)
All V6 and V8 models (petrol and diesel) retain Mercedes' proven 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic gearbox. In this generation, the shifter is moved to the steering column -- the same set-up as the S, M, GL, G and R-Class models. Avantgarde spec cars get steering wheel shift paddles.
The four-cylinder models retain a 'normal' transmission tunnel shifter -- as required by their older 'analog' shifting five-speed autobox. But though they are saddled with this 'old' transmission, both the petrol and turbodiesel fours are for all intents and purposes new engines.
The 250 CGI shares the same bore and stroke dimensions of the old 200K supercharged fours, and therefore their 1796cc capacity, but little else. A new direct-injection system has been developed necessitating a new cylinder-head design and the engine is now turbo rather than supercharged.
Benz claims 150kW at 5500rpm and 310Nm stretched from 2000-4300rpm for the new engine -- along with a Euro combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.3L/100km. This easily outguns the 135kW/250Nm and 8.7L/100km of the old E 200K and compares more than favourably with the credentials of the old E 240 variant (130kW/240Nm). The new entry-level petrol E's 0-100km/h time of 7.7sec is better than both (8.8 and 9.1sec respectively).
On the diesel side of the fence the E 220 CDI and E 250 CDI share the same (new) longer-stroke twin-turbo 2.1-litre engine architecture and, in the case of the latter, is the surprise package of the new E-Class range.
The 220 CDI is now rated at 140kW and 400Nm up from the 125kW/400Nm currently fitted to the C 220 CDI (to date there's been no E model equivalent Down Under). Fuel economy is rated at 5.3L/100km.
Packing 150kW at 4200rpm and 500Nm from 1600-1800rpm (and more than 350 from almost idle through to 3700rpm), the 250 CDI may be slower on paper than its petrol namesake (0-100km/h in 8.2sec) but on the road, the diesel just torques away into the distance. It also matches the 5.3L/100km combined Euro figure of its diesel entry-level sibling.
In Europe a hybrid-equipped diesel E-Class will go on sale in early 2010. Until then, the 250 twin-turbo is arguably unique. Where else can you get this sort of fuel economy coupled with V8 levels of torque?
Perhaps the most amazing fact about the new E-Class range is its drag coefficient (cd). Somehow, the wizards at Stuttgart have presented a car with undeniably E-Class proportions but with a cd of just 0.25 -- the same as the new Prius.
And this in a car that is actually larger than the W211 it replaces. The dimensional changes are not huge, but the car is 22mm longer (4868 v 4856), rides on a 20mm longer wheelbase (2874 v 2854), has more track front and rear (up to 34mm at the rear) and is wider as well. The only dimension not bettered is height -- the W212 is 18mm lower than the car it replaces.
The amazingly low drag number is the result of very careful airflow management over, around and under the car. Measures include "automatically adjustable fan louvres which control the airflow to the engine compartment in line with the engine's cooling requirements" plus underbody fairings and other tweaks...
This is no aero special, however. The new E has an imposing presence on the road -- befitting its place in the automotive hierarchy. Sharper than the car it replaces, there's added angularity to the lines, but what we'd call a somewhat awkward blend of geometric and organic elements to its front end.
That it picks up aspects of both the W204 C-Class and the current S-Class marque flagship suits its place in the manufacturer's model range. That said, as we noted after the car's Detroit sneak peek, there's a touch of the 'oriental' to the car -- especially the rear end.
Where the W211 had real elegance to its lines from all points of the compass, the new car has awkward angles -- a few of them, in fact. As good as the new E may drive, this writer is not a fan of its styling.
Inside the cabin is all new. The dash is a double element affair with traditional three-dial instrument panel (the Avantgarde gets its own three-barrel look) plus large separate eye-level central nav screen a la S-Class. The angular theme continues here, with the binnacle itself recalling older Benz efforts.
The centre stack is much more vertically oriented than the previous model, to the point that it plunges almost vertically to meet the centre console at a near right-angle. There Benz's COMAND controller sits within easy reach of the split-lidded centre console and on the 7G-TRONIC versions there's extra storage room in place of the shifter (see MECHANICAL above).
A proper-sized glovebox and doorbins provide incidental storage. It would be nice if every manufacturer could adopt Audi's hinged door bins -- the E-Class' are too tight to be really useful.
That said, this is a cabin in which you'd happily spend many hours. The materials used are wonderfully tactile and there's beautiful detailing everywhere -- like the fine satin alloy vent surrounds and dash spears. The wood looks like wood -- and is... At night, ambient lighting under the metal highlights across the dash and on a corresponding level across each door face perfectly sets off the beautifully tooled upholstery.
We love the pillow-style seats. They look like the Benz armchairs of old, but have more initial plushness. They too are simply gorgeous in their detail.
There's more room in the new car, thanks largely to the wheelbase stretch. Benz claims more shoulder room front and rear, too. As the W211 was hardly lacking in either, suffice to say you and yours will be comfortably accommodated.
Well four of you anyway, if you choose the 'club' style rear seat option. Offered as Benz's 'Rear Comfort Package' the optional layout delivers "luxury individual rear seats for the rear passengers, luxury head restraints, roller sunblinds integrated in the rear doors and an electrically operated roller blind on the interior of the rear window".
Mere mortals will likely opt for the three-place bench Mercedes Australia will make standard across the local range.
Boot space is stated as the same as the W211 (540 litres). We were surprised to find conventional goose-neck hinges back here -- rather than the more space-efficient multi-element hinges most prestige cars use. At least there's a load through option.
There's such a wide range of options and features available across the new E-Class range, there seems little point in prattling on about specifics. Chances are, if you want it -- Benz can deliver it: panoramic sunroof, special wood finishes, ballistic anti-terrorist protection, drinks cabinet... And so on...
Though once all of Mercedes' key new technologies were introduced in the range-topping S-Class, the E-Class increasingly wears the mantle of joint technology leader these days. Thus W212 introduces a host of driver safety aids.
The new E sees Benz's (optional) Distronic Plus dynamic cruise control paired with brake assist and Pre-Safe Braking for the first time to provide a four-step defence system against collisions. In essence the systems overlap to prompt and assist the driver that a high risk situation is imminent, and if necessary then provides autonomous emergency braking.
The E-Class also debuts a new version of Benz's night vision system and an excellent (we've tested it, so we can say so) high beam assist system that automatically adjusts the light available in deference to oncoming traffic. These systems will be optional in Aussie Es too.
All E-Class models will, however, benefit from blind spot and lane departure warning systems. Benz's new Attention Assist -- a driver alert system which monitors 70 parameters to detect building drowsiness -- will also be standard across the range.
Not coming Down Under is Benz's Speed Limit Assist -- a system that recognises speed limit signs and alerts the driver. In our experience, this is no loss.