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Eager anticipation awaits any model that the mainstream prestige car manufacturers decide to rip apart and start again. What was once an extra soon becomes a standard. What we dropped our jaws at; we now barely bat an eyelid. So how can a company, such as Mercedes-Benz (Daimler Chrysler) change an already esteemed car such as the E-Class and make the somewhat over zealous middle class/upper class part with upwards of £30,000 without losing any of her appeal and class. Simple, thanks to one word, Ergonomically! Ergonomically was, to be honest, a word I was unfamiliar with, until the launch brochures were thrust upon my desk and I had a chance to update myself with the specifications of the new E Class and her many, many gadgets. Ergonomically is a hard word to describe in a simple way, but to coin it all into a nutshell, I guess science of the person may well sum it up. The car has been designed around the human shortfalls to enable minimum effort to achieve maximum results. Hopefully it will become clearer as I go on, and I do go on! DESIGN/STYLE/APPEARANCE. The E240 has an appearance that is both powerful yet sublime. Without sacrificing the traditions of the solid appearance MB has become renowned for, she manages to upgrade her appearance to that of a modern classis car. Previously, two round headlights per side gave a graceful, sporty look, but this design was soon copied by her wannabe rivals and became commonplace through out the top marquee range. Rather than lose her predominant face, designers decided to elongate the lights into a more oval shape and offset them almost 45 degrees, giving a more 22nd century appearance without sacrificing her bold appearance. A slight rising of the bonnet allows for a feeling of domination, similar to the appearance you have of a Rolls Royce, solid, ambitious and anything but mediocre. The Avantgarde, of which I mainly drive, has a chrome finish to enhance the colour coded front grill and bumper trim. Also to be found hugging the bodies streamline and rear bumper. Tinted glass has a blue hue rather than the darkened shade allowed by the black tints, and this I feel helps endure a more surreal vision when long distance driving. Alloy wheels are now standard throughout the range allowing a more elegant view of which I felt the wheel trims cheapened in previous models. How could I fail to mention the predominant three-pronged Mercedes Star, which proudly takes her place, perched highly upon the mid bonnet, like the Angel of the North, guarding her occupancy! INTERIOR/COMFORT/STYLE This is where the main difference can be found, a change so drastic one has to look twice before entering. The seats have been redesigned into and almost armchair feel but with some Ergonomically features to be found. The lumber support helps my back no end, and the partial electric adjustment makes finding that elusive just right feel more easy and less of a hassle. Headrests are both adjustable for height and angle. Very comfortable and very plush. The Avantgarde has half leather seats as standard, but the cloth seats are as comfortable as the leather. The dashboard layout again has been designed in that ergonomically way to enable you to operate all you functioning programmes with the flick of your thumb. Interactive steering wheel, hands free mobile phone kit, (Optional, with Nokia 6310i phone software), Optional 6 stack CD built into the dashboard and hidden by a wooden compartment, fuel efficiency, the works! A traditional clock replaces the now dowdy digital display, and speedometer in the centre gives an easy glance at speed check. LCD bar checks give accurate fuel and temperature readings, and a twist of the tripometer reset changes the illumination strength to allow your eyes a little less strain at night. An all round vision is as expected, however the stanchion running down the windscreen/door divide has me ducking and diving frequently to get a better view at junctions and corners. Reversing can be a task as the raised boot can deceive and until use to the vehicle, I found myself 4 ft away from where I should have been. This can be rectified by the addition of Parktronic, a £590 option, but a bargain when considering the cost of a replacement bumper. Storage space has been a major improvement here, with under seat storage, 4 different push button storage spaces, including a sunglasses storage space. The handbook for the car fits into the rear armrest, allowing a magnitude of uses for the glove box, which traditionally housed the Encyclopaedia size reference book. Legroom in the back is more than ample for us 6 footers, headroom again the same. With two adults in the back, the armrest can be lowered and a much more comfortable journey can be had. Three passengers make it bearable but as with any car, you would prefer to be sitting in the front. Automatic lights and rain sensing wipers take the guesswork out of both decisions, yet a simple push of a lever or twist of a knob regains the control back to your manual needs. And finally, the one-touch indicators make a welcome alternative to pushing wipers off after you have turned a small gradient. DRIVE/SAFETY This is where I feel the largest improvement has taken place. The V6 engine in the 240 allows you the kick to pull away from any situation that may endanger you. Petrol consumption is not the major issue here, as an average consumption of 30 is something to be proud of. Having the tiptronic 5 speed auto gearbox with built in sports mode is also an advantage, as full acceleration is given when your foot merely pushes the accelerator to the floor. When driven at slower speeds, she does not cry out for more power, but purrs in contentment and waits for those open roads to reappear. Cornering in the Avantgarde is quick and agile, the hardene d suspension dealing with any unwanted bump or groove with her traditional clump style cushioning. If necessary, the safety features take over and control any miss timed manoeuvre or emergency situation. ESP, (Electronic Stability Programme) aids the car to steer out of a spin in a way similar to traction control. Brake Assist recognises an emergency stop and uses electronic braking to stop you near enough on the spot. Having used this on an occasion or two, I will guarantee you I have never felt safer than in this cab. THE REST Luggage space in the rear is more than ample and can hold two sets of golf clubs with ease. Although the gap between the boot top and lip restricts access for larger boxes. An option of through loading and split rear seats allows you to carry longer items such as skis and wooden planks. Standard equipment includes Air conditioning (Climate) Power steering Remote central locking Electric windows Electric mirrors ABS Brake Assist ESP Partial electric seats Lumber support Electrically collapsing head rests One touch interior central locking Child locks (Doors and windows) Seatbelt pre-tensioners And I could go on. Options, there are lots, but here?s a few. Metallic paint £600 Auto gearbox (Standard on 240) £1450 Parktronic £590 Multi 6 CD £350 There is an approximate increase of 2% in October Servicing is counted down by a clock on the computerised dash, but is usually 12,000 miles. This can run onto two years. Approx £200 for A service and £300 for B Parts are as priced individually, but expect little change from £200 for brakes to be changed. OVERALL The E240 drives, handles, looks fantastic and makes you feel lucky to be able to drive her. She has her faults, such as fuel consumption, vision, and sturdy feel, but also has a feel that can only be d escribed by those who have driven her, and that is sheer driving pleasure. At a cost of £30,000 plus options, I find this car has to belong to those who not only enjoy their driving, but also have the kind of budgets that can afford a £12,000 depreciation (estimated) in 3 years. Would I buy one? Yes, yes I would! Angus Reid
The Avantgard model comes with one or two nice additions to the Classic equipment spec. Sports suspension and sporty 5-hole alloys, plus blue tinted glass and darkened rear lights along with the revised front grille all give it more presence on the road. The problem is - it isn't a sports car and doesn't handle anything like one. This is a comfy armchair with go-faster stripes and despite a good performance from the 2.6 V6 engine (Why is it called an E240 and not an E260 then?) it won't break any speed records. True enough it is very comforable at speed and for autobahn cruising. I found everything about it tends to encourage a more relaxed sytle of driving - you tend to feel "magnaminious" on the road and let more cars out of side roads and wave pedestrians across the road more. Also Radio 1 just doesn't work with it - you fnd yourself having to listen to Classic FM or Radio 3. In short this car is "well-to-do middle aged" personified. Inside the car looks "classy", although despite the upgraded avantgard spec many of the nice toys are still options. However nice touches like auto sensing windscreen wipers, folding door mirrors (why these aren't one-touch is beyond me - you have to hold the button down for the duration - like you're going to want them half-folded!), Pneumatic rear headrest release (but no pop back up option!). The speed limiter initially strikes you as a bit daft, but actually is pretty easy to use (preset road limit settings would be quicker to use) and proves very useful as because of the quietness and smoothness of the car it's easy for the speed to creep up unintentionally. A traction warning flashes when your wheels lose traction which is a bit OTT as you should be able to tell yourself, and on a snowy day it just gets annoying as the weight of the car and two-wheel drive tends to cause some wheel slip and this yellow triangle flashing away m errily when you are trying to concentrate on getting the car where you want it is a bit distracting. Seats are good and comfortable for distances, although I wouldn't say the absolute best, and leather definately needs heated seats in winter. There's plenty of room in front, rear and boot and visibility and ventilation is good with few demisting problems. Automatic transmission is almost de-rigeur, especially with the daft american style parking brake - sure it keeps the central console clear but is it worth it for the hassle? So overall, it's solid, well-built, comfortable, well appointed and has the image, but the only thing for me is that it doesn't inspire or stir the soul. It is a very "sensible" car, one an accountant would buy (no disrespect to accountants at all - it shows a prudent choice), the depreciation is good, it's reliable. It's just *too* damn sensible for me!