Mercedes-Benz Car Reviews
Mercedes-Benz E 240 Avantgarde
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!
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!
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.
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.
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)
Remote central locking
Partial electric seats
Electrically collapsing head rests
One touch interior central locking
Child locks (Doors and windows)
And I could go on.
Options, there are lots, but here?s a few.
Metallic paint £600
Auto gearbox (Standard on 240) £1450
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.
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!
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Mercedes-Benz C 180 Classic
Today is a day of great sadness. Today a family friend passed on. A good and faithful friend, a reliable friend. But, when you've got to go, you've got to go! We had been together two years, one month, twenty days, not a long time you might say but long enough for us to get to know each other's foibles. Long ... enough for me to be able to say without a shadow of a doubt that our time together had been a time of great enjoyment although not entirely free of problems.
The Mercedes-Benz C180 Classic 4 door Saloon is a fine car. Mine had come to me for the first year of our relationship as a company car. On a three year lease, I had it as a hand-me-down for the final year when my VW Passat 1.8 20V Sports had itself also reached the end of its lease and was reclaimed by the leasing company.
At the time our company had just completed an acquisition of a competitor and so a number of their company cars were without drivers but still with time to go, therefore, no new cars for anyone.
This was the first Merc I had driven let alone "owned". Aware of the reputation for solid Germanic engineering (a reputation soundly destroyed by the Passat - see my review) I had expectations of the Merc and hoped that they would be realised. Fortunately I was able to get some background from its former user (who had been given an upgrade along with a new job) and was assured that I wouldn't be disappointed.
And so it proved. This is the previous model, somewhat "squarer" in design than the latest model. More in keeping with the appearance that one expects of a Merc, though by no mean one of the slab-sided monsters of years past. All in all, a good looking car.
The 1.8 litre 4 cylinder OHC engine is normally aspirated and, in view of the weight of the car (over 1 ¾ tons) I had expected it to be underpowered. However, this is a very good piece of engineering and the power output is more than ad equate. The power comes on progressively and smoothly, with no power ridges typical of VTEC or Turbo charged engines. The red line is at around 6250 rpm. I was never disappointed by the performance of the car but then again, be aware, this is not a sports saloon.
The weight of the car does have advantages. You can be pretty sure that in an accident the Merc is most likely going to come off best. Another advantage and maybe a less expected one is the way that it hugs the road in bad conditions.
You will probably remember a few months ago we had a dump of snow in the Home Counties. I was due to drive up to Warwick that day but, having taken 1 ½ hours to travel one mile from my home, that was never going to be a reality.
I had decided not to chance the side roads so headed for the A30 at the Jolly Farmer roundabout East of Camberley. The approach to the lights along The Maultway is a fairly steep descent. I had visions of the car sliding forward, all wheels locked up. But, no, solid as a rock and not a hint of the Merc getting away from me.
The same could not be said of a brand-new Jaguar X-type in front of me. It must be a much lighter car because it was all over the place, totally out of the control of the driver. With all the wheels locked it slowly slid this way and that. It was pure luck that it didn't slide into another vehicle.
Not that the Merc only behaves well at slow speeds. For such a heavy car you might think that it will handle poorly at speed but, anything but. There is minimal body roll in corners, which the Merc takes with ease. A rear-wheel drive car, the sort on which I cut my early driving teeth, a touch of the right foot brings the back round beautifully in tight corners at speed.
The interior is spacious, providing adequate space for 4 adults with the occasional fifth suffering only from the space taken up by the prop-shaft tunnel running down the middle of the car, inevitabl e with rear-wheel drive cars. Often I have had problems with the amount of leg-room in the back with many otherwise ideal cars. I have quite long legs.
In the past I have rejected the Audi A4, BMW 3 series and the Skoda Octavia simply because, with the driver seat in the position that I need it to be in order to drive comfortably, no one can sit behind me. Certainly the A4 and the Octavia in their latest versions have cured that problem. I haven't bothered to check out the latest 3 series.
The boot is large with the spare wheel located under the matting covering the boot floor. The rear seats do not fold down. This is really the only major drawback to the Merc. It means that you cannot carry long loads, which would have to go on a roof rack. This has caused us problems over the years, carrying our ski-bag to the airport.
The view from the driver's seat is good; the classic Merc bonnet decoration gives clear indication of the position of the front of the car. The driver's seat is extensively adjustable for height, distance from pedals, rake of the seat back and tilt of the bit you sit on. For me, this last is essential for comfortable driving. I have to have the front edge of the seat higher than the rear. The only missing control is a variable lumbar support.
The dash layout is simple and uncluttered. The usual speedo, rev counter and other normal dials are set right in front of the driver, together with a central LCD panel for odometer and other problem indication symbols.
Set between the driver seat and passenger, the central console contains the climate control panel and the radio/cassette, in this case a Sony model. The climate control is very effective and performed well even in the hottest conditions, such as when we were on holiday in the South of France a couple of years ago. There is also an "Economy" button that switches off the climate control in order to save otherwise was ted engine power, such as in winter, when it's heat you need not cooling.
I dislike intensely Sony car radios. The design and operation is illogical. I'll give you an example. You can set up pre-selector buttons for your favourite stations. These display the name of the station so you know which is which. I have the London station, Heart, set up on one of the buttons, 106.2mhz.
I travel all over the UK and around Birmingham, Heart has a sister station, Heart FM, 102.7mhz. Now, it seems that Sony seem to think that HEART is the same as HEART FM because as soon as I switch from one to the other, both buttons are automatically reprogrammed to the same station! So, I can never have both stations set up on their own buttons. They are either both one or the other!
One feature of the Merc totally baffled me the first time I sat in the car. I was going to take it out for a drive to become familiar with it. I started the engine and than sat there looking round! No handbrake! I switched off the engine.
After some minutes scratching my head I noticed that there were four pedals not the usual three! So, perhaps the left-most pedal is a foot-hand-brake? But how to release it? A bit more head-scratching. Then I noticed a little lever on the right of the dash, marked with a brake symbol. I pulled it and "Voila", the brake came off.
This has taken some getting used-to. Trying to synchronise releasing the brake with pulling away, especially on an incline takes some practice. The brake doesn't come off progressively, it's either on or off.
Fortunately I don't often need to use the "hand" brake much when driving. Over thirty years ago I taught myself the heel-toe technique and have used it ever since, automatically. I rarely if ever need to hold a car on a hand-brake even on the steepest hills.
I don't know if you use this technique but it is relatively e asy to learn. I'm surprised more people don't learn it. It can be extremely useful, especially when driving in town and also for rapid country driving where a lot of gear-changing is required.
Actually, the term heel-toe is a misnomer. You don't actually use your heel at all. Most cars have about a one inch gap between the brake and accelerator pedals. Any more can make this difficult for people with small feet.
You rest the left-hand side of your right foot on the brake pedal. In fact, you actually use only the joint below the big toe to operate the brake. Resting you foot in this position the right-hand hand side of your foot now rests on the accelerator pedal so bridging the gap between the two.
By rocking the right of your foot up and down, simultaneously maintaining a constant pressure on the brake, you can rev the engine. With practice you can quickly learn to apply greater or lesser pressure on the brake pedal so as to slow down quicker or slower whilst at the same time controlling the engine speed.
So, starting off on a hill requires you to accelerate the engine whilst finding the bite-point of the clutch and at that point easing off the pressure on the brake. The same technique enables you to brake and change down at the same time whilst entering a corner.
We have become somewhat lazy in recent years. Synchromesh gearboxes have enabled us to change gears without even trying to match the engine speed to the road speed. We just let the clutch drag the engine speed up to match. This does cause greater wear on the clutch and, when driving at speed, it is a slower driving method than heel-toeing.
It does take practice. I recommend that you find somewhere quiet to do it before trying it on the road. It took me about a week to become competent.
So, an enjoyable few year but, as I said, not entirely trouble-free. The lock on the glove compartment broke and wouldn't stay shut. I had to wedge it with a piece of card whilst Hughes (of Beaconsfield) ordered a replacement. In the end I never did get it fixed as I traded it in today for my new car.
The cable that connects the internal door handle to the actual lock on the driver's door, snapped. This was an expensive repair, £120! Also, the programming of the automatic window operation was affected and had to be fixed with a complicated series of button pushing and holding sequences.
The most expensive problem was infamous Mercedes rusty bonnet. I am seriously annoyed that Mercedes don't spray their cars with an adequate layer of paint. I began to notice that stone chips on the front wings and especially on the bonnet, were showing signs of rust. The chips had gone right through to the metal. Eventually it started to look as though it was suffering from measles.
Now, I have never experienced this problem with other cars. My old Passat, for all its faults, never chipped through to deeper that the undercoat. Mercedes, this simply isn't good enough! I expect more from what you would want everyone to believe is a quality car. That cost me over £600 for a part respray. Still, at least the repairers (Rob Taylor Autos of Dorking) did a proper job and I didn't have any more problems.
So, what is the verdict? Well, apart from the rust problem the car has been a very good companion. I would certainly recommend it to anyone as a second-hand car. My old one had 85,000 miles on the clock and was over four years old. I would expect you to be able to pick up a model in good condition for around £6,500.
Even at this mileage (barely run in for a Merc) you would get years of excellent use out of it. Check especially for rust and insist that the dealer rectify the problem if you find it, before buying it.
Why have I got rid of it then? Well, I am no longer a company car driver. Gordon Brown has everything to do with that. His short-sighted view of company drivers is stupid, bordering in vindictive. I need a car for the job that I do and yet the Chancellor treats me almost as a criminal, to be penalised with draconian taxation.
I came off of the company car scheme last year, at the start of the tax year. Instead I now receive a car allowance but as a result have to make all my own arrangements for my car, purchase, tax, insurance, repairs, maintenance... The only restrictions that the company imposes is that the car must be suitable (translate as big enough for 4 adults in comfort, although I have seen some of my colleagues who appear to have been able to seriously bend that rule).
The other rule is that the car cannot be older that six years. So, my choice is to keep the car to the bitter end when it has little more than scrap value or change it whilst it still has some residual value. I chose the latter.
What have I gone for? In view of my happy experience with the Merc, another one? Well, actually, no. Since they were first introduced I have lusted after one of the new MG saloons. Now I have got one.
It's a six month old MG ZT 160+ 1.8 Turbo 4 door Saloon with 1024 miles on the clock (genuine). RED!!!! LUUUVVVEEERRRLLLEEE!!! Review in due course but after one day I can say it is definitely the DB.
Mid-life crisis? I should be so lucky!
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Mercedes-Benz E 320CDI Avantgarde
I bought mine new two and a half years ago. Its the facelift model with the common rail diesel system and the on board computer. It has had numerous faults including a total shut down by the "computer" as a sensor detected a brake failure. It turned out to be a faulty cooling fan in the fuse box or so I was told. The ... accelerator pedal sticks and squeeks,the vanity lights all failed,the central console that operates the windows failed and one of the rear light clusters was replaced.The drivers seat squeeks and the steering wheel rubs against its housing.
The fuel economy and performance is outstanding but I would be very careful about buying one second hand. Mine has done 60,000 miles and smokes like an old bus. The dealer who is now owned by Mercedes tell me that the black clouds of smoke on even mild acceleration are within acceptable limits and I may have to run on Shell diesel only which is very inconvenient. It really does smoke !
The car is very slow to warm up in the winter and the alloy wheels get filthy with brake dust that is difficult to clean.
I would not have another and with £600 for the 4th year warranty ( which you could not afford to do without) it makes for expensive motoring, I mean how much fuel can you save for £600 and the enormous costs of servicing. Many garages do not have the equipment to sevice these "electronic" cars so you are stuck with the main agents or as it is now Mercedes direct.
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