Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler AG has announced that it will offer a carbon-neutral model lineup by 2039, only 20 years from today.
The German automaker already provides environmentally-focused buyers plenty of green offerings, including 48-volt hybrid EQ-Boost models such as the CLS, E-Class Coupe, E-Class Cabriolet and upcoming GLE 580 4MATIC, as well as plug-in hybrid entries such as the GLC 350e 4MATIC, S560e, etcetera, and will follow these up soon with the mid-sized all-electric EQC crossover SUV, plus a smaller compact battery-electric car based on 2018’s Concept EQA, so they’re well on the way.
Still, Mercedes’ new plan is amongst the most ambitious in the auto industry, and therefore is appropriately called Ambition2039. The company plans to electrify 50 percent of its new vehicles by 2030, with its fleet comprised of hybrids, plug-in hybrids and fully electric models.
“Let’s be clear what this means for us: a fundamental transformation of our company within less than three product cycles,” stated Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, and head of Mercedes-Benz Cars since the baton was passed over to him by his predecessor, Dieter Zetsche on May 22nd, 2019. “That’s not much time when you consider that fossil fuels have dominated our business since the invention of the car by Carl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler some 130 years ago. But as a company founded by engineers, we believe technology can also help to engineer a better future.”
Daimler made a major commitment to electrify its new vehicle range with an investment of $15.8 billion CAD ($11.7 billion USD) last year, promising to develop more than ten all-electric vehicles ahead of electrifying its entire Mercedes-Benz new car range.
In preparation to achieving this aspiring goal, Källenius committed Mercedes to working with all partners in an effort to minimize EV production costs as well as make improvements in range and performance, while the three-pointed star brand also projects diversifying its lineup of EVs to vans, trucks, and buses. Additionally, Daimler also plans to continue its investments into alternative technologies, including fuel cells, which it uses now in its GLC F-CELL, the world’s first electric vehicle to combine a fuel-cell and a plug-in battery, and expects to use in larger commercial applications like city buses.
Making its new vehicle lineup carbon-neutral only satisfies part of its agenda, mind you, because Daimler has targets on greening its production facilities too. In fact, it currently uses renewable energy for at its Factory 56 in Sindelfingen, with the result already being CO2 neutrality.
“In ‘Factory 56’, we are consistently implementing innovative technologies and processes across the board according to the key terms ‘digital, flexible, green’,” stated Markus Schäfer, Member of the Divisional Board Mercedes-Benz Cars, Production and Supply Chain. “We create a modern workspace with more attention to individual requirements of our employees. All in all, in ‘Factory 56’ we are significantly increasing flexibility and efficiency in comparison to our current vehicle assembly halls – and of course without sacrificing our top quality. In this way we are setting a new benchmark in the global automotive industry.”
The automaker added that each of its European factories would follow suit by 2022, pointing to its engine factory in Jawor, Poland as an example of more environmentally and economically efficient already, due to its use of renewable energies.
Also notable, the automaker is transitioning from a value chain to a value cycle, being that Mercedes models now incorporate an 85-percent potential-recycling ratio. Also, Daimler will assist its suppliers in reducing their carbon footprints.
“We prefer doing what our founders have done: They became system architects of a new mobility without horses. Today, our task is individual mobility without emissions,” said Källenius. “As a company founded by engineers, we believe technology can also help to engineer a better future.”
Mercedes’ CLA has been a strong seller in its subcompact luxury segment since being introduced to Canadians in 2013, dueling it out with Audi’s A3 for top spot while up against its own B-Class, Acura’s…
Mercedes’ CLA has been a strong seller in its subcompact luxury segment since being introduced to Canadians in 2013, dueling it out with Audi’s A3 for top spot while up against its own B-Class, Acura’s ILX, BMW’s 2 Series, and others in a traditional car category that’s now under threat by an ever-burgeoning class of subcompact luxury SUVs.
Still, while Mercedes-Benz has always offered a bevy of industry segment stalwarts, it’s also become the brand of micro-niches, having invented the four-door coupe body style, so it would be highly unusual behaviour for its leadership to say so long to its plentiful car lineup just because its utilities are currently experiencing more growth. After all, Mercedes has been around longer than most of its competitors, and therefore has endured all the trends the automotive industry has ever weathered.
Speaking of endurance, or lack therefore, Lexus said goodbye to the entry-level luxury car market by cancelling its CT, Acura hasn’t bothered to update its ILX in too long to remember, everyone’s still wondering if BMW will ever offer North Americans anything in this class with four doors, and all other premium brands haven’t even bothered showing up at all, but take note that Mercedes has been selling its brand new A-Class Hatchback for two months already, and plans to add the completely new A-Class Sedan that more specifically targets the most popular four-door version of the segment-leading A3 (and will become the most affordable Mercedes model) later this year, while the fall of 2019 will also see the arrival of a fully redesigned CLA-Class four-door coupe that promises a serious move up the desirability ladder, not that the current model is particularly lacking.
“With the first CLA we celebrated a huge success by selling some 750,000 vehicles and created a totally new segment with a four-door coupe in the compact class,” says Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Daimler AG, responsible for Mercedes-Benz Cars Marketing & Sales.
Of those new CLA buyers in Canada, more than two thirds were new to Mercedes-Benz at the height of the model’s popularity, while also important, these new Mercedes owners averaged seven years younger than the brand’s typical customer at the time. Starting this fall, Mercedes will offer Canadian entry-level luxury consumers the choice of three recently redesigned or all-new subcompact car and SUV models (four if you split the A-Class into its hatchback and sedan body styles, and five if you count any potentially remaining stock of B-Class models still around when Mercedes wraps up its tenure at the close of this model year), the CLA being the sportiest, most expressive of the bunch, and many of these customers will likely move up to pricier more profitable models within the automaker’s lineup as their careers and personal finances progress.
“The new CLA is even more emotional and sportier than its predecessor,” added Seeger. “Coupled with new operating systems, it sets a new benchmark for the entire class.”
First shown at Las Vegas’ Consumer Electronics Show (CES) earlier this year, an apropos venue considering the ultra-advanced MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment interface that together with the integrated digital instrument cluster covers more than half the dash top, the new CLA looks a bit more grown up thanks to a more serious, almost frowning and forward-slanting M-B sport grille which, in its release, Mercedes claims is “reminiscent of a shark’s nose.”
The new grille, found ahead of a longer hood topped with classic Mercedes “powerdomes”, is flanked by sharper, narrower and more complex LED Multibeam headlamps featuring 18 individually-controllable LEDs, all of which is underscored by additional complexity in the lower front fascia, while the updated model sees more muscular lower haunches and its greenhouse moved rearward for a more traditional GT profile. It continues this grand touring tradition with squarer more conventional trunk cutout as part of a revised rear end design featuring narrower, more horizontal LED taillights that sit higher up above the back bumper and therefore add more visual width to the design, its slipperier sheet metal registering a wind-cheating 0.23 coefficient of drag.
“As a four-door coupe, the new CLA intrigues with its puristic, seductive design and sets new standards in the design DNA of ‘sensual purity’. It impresses with its perfect proportions reflecting the first design sketch: a long, stretched hood, a compact greenhouse, a wide track with exposed wheel arches and our typical GT rear with a strong distinctive ‘Coke-bottle shoulder’,” said Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer of Daimler AG. “In short, the CLA Coupe has the potential to become a modern design icon.”
Inside, it’s easy to see that Mercedes is targeting the younger market mentioned earlier, thanks to an edgy, sporty look including bright colours, plus those all-in-one digital displays that are large enough to cause screen envy amongst owners of the latest Apple, Microsoft and Samsung tablets. That fixed freestanding gauge cluster and central widescreen display unit eliminates the need for a cowl to shield instruments, with the rest of the completely dash panel including a sporty paddle-shifter-infused leather-wrapped flat-bottom steering wheel ahead of the driver, a very narrow, near retro HVAC interface at centre, and an uncluttered floating-style lower console featuring Mercedes’ exclusive palm rest and new infotainment touchpad controller within easy reach. Only the circular dash-mounted air vents appear carryover, but of course their “avant-garde” turbine-like jet-engine design is entirely new and particularly striking.
That MBUX infotainment system, which debuted in the new A-Class a year ago, after a similar system was first integrated into the E-Class, is more than just a very large pretty interface with impressive high-resolution graphics capable of Augmented Reality navigation and fully customizable displays, it also provides serious computing power with integrated software that can even “learn and respond to natural speech,” says Mercedes.
This will be good news to anyone who has ever been frustrated by the majority of voice recognition systems past and current, which need very precise and often not intuitively thought out commands. Instead, Mercedes’ voice assistant reportedly communicates similarly to Amazon’s Alexa system, only needing an occupant to say “Hey Mercedes” in order to prompt any number of functions via less direct questions, plus it’s smart enough to recognize the person asking the question, rather than others in the car that might be having a separate conversation.
“The latest version of voice control for MBUX – the Mercedes-Benz User Experience – can be experienced in the new CLA. For example, the voice assistant ‘Hey Mercedes’ is able to recognize and answer considerably more complex queries,” said Sajjad Khan, Member of the Divisional Board of Mercedes-Benz Cars for CASE and Head of Digital Vehicle & Mobility. “What’s more, the voice assistance no longer gets confused by other passenger’s conversations. Instead it only responds to the commands of the person who last said ‘Hey Mercedes’ to activate the system.”
According to Mercedes, the updated voice assistant is now capable of recognizing and responding to more complicated questions than previous voice recognition systems offered, citing the example, “Find Italian restaurants with at least four stars that are open for lunch but exclude pizza shops.”
MBUX can also cover a broader range of topics than previous hands-free voice systems, with an example of a sports query being, “Hey Mercedes, How did the Toronto Raptors play?” The question, “How has the Apple share price performed compared to Microsoft?” may be more concerning to Mercedes drivers these days however, stock market information being one of the subjects MBUX is well versed in. Alternatively, maybe you need a simple calculation performed while driving. Mercedes’ example might be a bit rudimentary for anyone old enough to be behind the wheel of the CLA, but possibly a child in the back seat might ask, “What is the square roof of 9?” or for that matter “How big is Texas?” when it comes to a general knowledge question, but it’s fair to expect that plenty of health-conscious Mercedes owners may want to ask, “What is the fat content of avocados?”
Also designed make life with a new CLA easier and more accommodating, the upcoming model grows by 48 millimetres (1.9 inches) to 4,688 mm (184.5 in) from nose to tail, and rides on a 30-mm (1.2-in) longer wheelbase that now measures 2,729 mm (107.4 in), while it’s also 53 mm (2.1 in) wider at 1,830 mm (72.0 in), not including the side mirrors, and fractionally (2 mm/0.1 in) lower overall at 1,439 mm (56.6 in).
According to yet more measurements provided, the result of its mostly increased exterior dimensions is a roomier and therefore more comfortable cabin, with front occupants getting 17 mm (0.6 in) more headroom, rear occupants benefiting from a hair’s-width (+3 mm/0.1 in) of additional head space, and width measurements experiencing the greatest improvement thanks to shoulder room up 9 and 22 mm (0.3 and 0.8 in) respectively front to back, and front to rear elbow room increasing by 35 and 44 mm (1.4 and 1.7 in) apiece.
Despite the new CLA’s longer wheelbase and greater overall length, front legroom is actually down by a millimetre while rear legroom grows by the same nominal measurement, plus the trunk is also surprisingly smaller, albeit by just 10 litres (0.3 cubic feet) to a nevertheless still commodious 460 litres (16.2 cu ft), but this said the load compartment opening’s width expands by a considerable 262 mm (10.3 in), while the load floor is now 113 mm (4.4 in) wider and 24 mm (0.9 in) deeper.
Under the opposing deck lid, the updated CLA will once again come standard with Mercedes’ 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, currently featuring 208 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque yet making the same twist and 13 horsepower of additional thrust in the new A-Class, which will more than likely be the go-to powerplant for this future CLA. It will come mated to the premium brand’s in-house developed and produced 7G-DCT twin-clutch automated transmission, while both front- and 4MATIC all-wheel drivetrains will be available. An AMG-powered version is expected after the base CLA 250 debuts, with performance that will likely match or exceed the current model’s 375 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque.
The new CLA’s increased width makes a difference to the chassis’ track too, widening it by a substantive 63-mm (2.5-in) up front and 55-mm (2.1-in) in back, while it also receives a reduced centre of gravity for what should be especially sporty driving dynamics. Suspension specifications include Mercedes’ Direct-Steer system and front hydromounts, plus a decoupled multi-link rear axle that minimizes noise, vibration and harshness levels, while larger stabilizer bars help reduce body lean when pushed hard. The standard tires should measure 225/45R18, with 225/40R19s being optional.
As with all new Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicles, plus most luxury competitors, advanced driver assistance systems play a big part in enhancing ease-of-use and safety, so the CLA will include standard Active Brake Assist automatic braking, and included in the optional Intelligent Drive Package is Active Lane Keep Assist that helps drivers remain centered in their chosen lane while also keeping them from wandering off the road, plus additionally it will include Pre-Safe Plus with rear traffic warning and automatic reverse braking.
The Intelligent Drive Package, pulled from the ultra-advanced Mercedes S-Class, does more than that, mind you, thanks to its ability to drive the CLA autonomously for short distances. This is a semi-autonomous system requiring “cooperative driver support,” says Mercedes, but in certain situations it can drive itself.
The redesigned 2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA, which will be built at the Kecskemét assembly plant in Hungary, will arrive this coming fall, at which time it just might reclaim top spot in the subcompact luxury car hierarchy, although Mercedes’ more traditionally sedan-style A-Class will more than likely assume that position. After all, the more upright four-door will start at just $34,990 (see all new A-Class Hatchback and Sedan prices and features on CarCostCanada), about $4k less than the current CLA, so it has a significant advantage in the sales department. Still, with all the big upgrades made to the new CLA it should easily reclaim its loyal following while attracting a fresh set of adventurous newcomers to the Mercedes-Benz brand.
Until the new model arrives, be sure to check out our comprehensive photo gallery above and these six Mercedes-Benz-supplied videos below:
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): World Premiere | Trailer (1:21):
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) World Premiere at CES in Las Vegas | Re-Live (18:40):
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) World Premiere at CES | Highlights (1:50):
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): The Design (1:06):
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019) and Jan Frodeno: In the Wind Tunnel (1:41):
Mercedes-Benz CLA Coupé (2019): Mercedes-Benz User Experience (MBUX) (1:03):
With Tesla hemorrhaging from its inability to hit Model 3 build targets (have you noticed the 53,239-unit third quarter number TSLA bulls are currently celebrating is less than the 5,000 units per week…
With Tesla hemorrhaging from its inability to hit Model 3 build targets (have you noticed the 53,239-unit third quarter number TSLA bulls are currently celebrating is less than the 5,000 units per week we were all told was the key must-do target in Q2? It was actually about 4,100 per week); the latter numbers partially impacted by Tesla’s operations having “gone from production hell to delivery logistics hell”, as per a tweet by Musk, followed up by another tweet citing “an extreme shortage of car carrier trailers. Started building our own car carriers this weekend to alleviate load.”, which was refuted by Guy Young, general manager of the Auto Haulers Association of America, who would know, as well as Antti Lindstrom, a trucking analyst for IHS Markit, saying, “I have never heard of a situation like that…”; the fallout from CEO Elon Musk’s inane “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” tweet that opened up a second Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into the irresponsible way the public company conducts business and caused Musk to personally dole out a $20 million USD fine, resign as chairman, and ordered the board to add two unrelated (to Musk) impartial members (who knows what “best practices” issues they’ll uncover?).
More Tesla executives (just two of many who have recently left) leaving after a video of Musk smoking marijuana and drinking whisky on a popular podcast went viral on social media; the even more insane “pedo guy” tweetstorm initiated by this obviously unhinged social media (and who knows what else) addict, which has resulted in an ongoing defamation suit; plus let’s not forget about the initial SEC/Justice Department investigation into reported production numbers compared to actual numbers, which may also end up implicating the company, the board, as well as Musk; and the list goes on and on about the mismanaged, unprofitable, overvalued California company, and all the while luxury auto industry stalwarts have been quietly reinventing themselves with enticing electric vehicles of their own.
Certainly Tesla enjoys a fervent cult following, many of which would never consider switching to a more established, stable luxury brand, even if that carmaker offered better built cars with greater EV range, more features, greater practicality, and arguably more prestige (cults are like that), but then again others have been waiting for something competitive from more mainstream premium marques before taking the plunge into electrification. Many of these buyers smartly want to know their carmaker of choice will still be in business in order to allow for a strong resale valuation, fulfill their warranty, provide parts and software upgrades, support dealerships for service requirements, etcetera.
The first of these heritage rich legacy luxury brands to arrive on the EV scene was BMW with its i sub-brand, particularly the compact i3 that showed up in May of 2014, but that, and the i8 plug-in hybrid that followed in August of that year, was merely dipping a toe into the water for the Bavarian powerhouse, there’s much more to come. Porsche has long been teasing us with its Mission E four-door coupe that arrived earlier this year in production trim along with a new Taycan nameplate, while more recently we’ve seen Jaguar raise eyebrows with its ultra-quick and very stylish full-production I-Pace crossover. Likewise, Audi just pulled the cover off its new E-Tron electric SUV, and not to be outdone by its European peers Mercedes-Benz recently unveiled its new EQC 400 crossover SUV.
Those keen on things green have been patiently waiting to learn more about Mercedes-Benz’ new EQ sub-brand, and now with the introduction of this EQC 400, such anticipatory angst can be released. The new plug-in electric SUV appears similar in shape to the current Mercedes GLC, but don’t let its looks fool you into believing it’s merely a rebadged version of that compact luxury SUV, as the EQC 400 rides on a completely unique chassis architecture designed from the ground up to be an electric vehicle, while it also receives frontal styling that’s unlike anything ever offered by the Stuttgart-based brand.
Before delving into design, the EQC 400’s new underpinnings support an all-new powertrain that’s can only be called a radical departure from previous Mercedes-Benz models, or at least anything offered here. South of the border our American friends have benefited from the B-Class Electric Drive for the past four years, an EV that actually sourced its Lithium-ion battery pack from Tesla after using the same company’s electric motor for prototype development (TSLA’s technology is respected even if its business acumen may be suspect), but the new EQC 400 is a wholly modernized Mercedes-powered EV with an in-house developed and produced battery and drivetrain to boot.
While we’re on the subject of past Mercedes plug-ins, the German automaker has long been electrifying versions of its C-Class, E-Class and S-Class sedans, plus two of its more popular sport utilities. The GLC 350e 4MATIC compact luxury SUV and the GLE 550e 4MATIC mid-size luxury SUV are still available in Canada, but the new EQ sub-brand will soon be the sole face of EVs for Mercedes-Benz, an automaker that actually claims its first hybrid hit the road back in 1906 (they should seriously consider bringing back that car’s “Mixte” nameplate for future M-B EQ hybrids as it’s a great moniker).
As it stands, the new EQC 400 continues to wear a big, bold, chromed Mercedes-Benz three-pointed star on its front grille and rear liftgate, not to mention each wheel cap, while making a large semicircle below its grille is a big black moustache shaped panel, formalizing the look so to speak.
The EQC 400’s frontal appearance gets slightly augmented depending on trim, the classier Electric Art version modified with a thinner moustache and a more aggressive lower apron in the sportier AMG Line, and despite being a zero-emissions vehicle with environmental stewardship high on its agenda, sporty is the predominant theme. Keep in mind this is a five-person luxury crossover SUV, yet it can sprint from standstill to 100km/h in 5.0 seconds, or alternatively if attempting to go farther on a single charge can manage up to 450 kilometres (279 miles) of EV range on the NEDC test cycle (although we shouldn’t expect such optimistic Transport Canada or EPA numbers).
You’ll be able to monitor range, performance and other parameters via two massive tablet-style 10.25-inch media displays, which are uniquely placed ahead of louvred panels that look like high-end stereo amplifier heatsinks. It’s not uncommon for an automaker to pull styling cues from audio design, like Porsche’s previous ultra-techy button-overload Nakamichi Dragon-like centre console design, but in alignment with modern tastes and sentiments the EQC maintains a minimalist approach to switchgear, with a centre stack made up of a long horizontal line of aluminized rockers that’s complemented by another row of glossy black buttons below.
That’s not to say it’s understated to the point of boredom, the EQC’s big centre vents stylishly eye-catching for their unique shape as well as some oh-so trendy rose gold accenting, and while the colourful metal decorates other key points through the cabin take heed that it’s specific to the aforementioned Electric Art trim, with the AMG Line getting a decidedly sportier motif in its place. Motive power source aside, the “Electric” part of the equation gets its name from plentiful blue accent lighting, which looks like an appealing combination.
Speaking of colourful, the Stuttgart brand’s MBUX (Mercedes-Benz User Experience) infotainment system features some EQ-specific functions such as range, charge status and energy flow information, plus a navigation system that optimizes route guidance to maximum that range via an Eco Assist feature, directs you to a charging facility when required, while the MBUX system manages charging current and departure time and more.
Additionally, the EQC gets its own Alexa-inspired personality that only needs a “Hey Mercedes” prompt to call up most any request your heart desires. For instance, if you say, “Hey Mercedes, I’m cold” it will increase the automatic climate control system’s temperature by one degree, but this capability raises the question of data mining and who might be listening in on all of your personal conversations. After all, the “Hey Mercedes” system utilizes a remote server via internet connection for most requests, and only relies solely on its onboard computer if outside help can’t be found.
While performance and range was mentioned earlier, exactly how Mercedes makes all the electrics keep pace is mostly straightforward as far as modern-day EVs go. It’s a two-motor drivetrain, with the unspecified frontal unit providing the EQC’s most economical operation, meaning that it takes over motive force when cruising and/or under lighter loads. The motor in back, also unspecified, is primarily for performance, supposedly allowing for traditional Mercedes rear-biased get-up-and-go. Combined, the two make a substantial 402 horsepower and a staggering 564 lb-ft of immediate torque.
A lithium-ion battery pack is separated into two modules that contain 48 cells apiece, with the other four packs consisting of 72 cells each, resulting in a total of 384 cells and an 80-kWh capacity. This places the EQC about middle of the road amongst key rivals, with Audi’s new e-tron SUV good for 95 kWh, Jaguar’s i-Pace already offering 90 kWh, and the upcoming BMW iX3 slated for more than 70 kWh when it debuts in production form.
In order to move away from stoplights quickest you’ll need to set the EQC’s Dynamic Select driving mode selector from Max Range, Eco or Comfort to Sport, or Individual if you’ve got this setting optimized for performance.
Stopping power won’t be an issue thanks to sizeable discs at each corner and a bevy of advanced driver assistance systems such as Active Brake Assist, while a Driver Assistance Package improves the brake assist and adds Evasive Steering Assist, Pre-Safe Plus, and Exit Warning Assist to a suite of convenience and safety features like Active Distance Assist Distronic and traffic jam following.
We can expect the new EQC to arrive in Canada by 2020, but we’ll have to wait until that time draws near before we’ll get an idea about pricing, trims and market-specific features.
Until then, enjoy the videos Mercedes has provided below…
Electric now has a Mercedes: The all-new EQC (0:48):
Electric now has a Mercedes: The all-new EQC | Trailer (1:56):
Mercedes-Benz EQC world premiere in Stockholm | Highlights (2:48):
Mercedes-Benz EQC world premiere in Stockholm | Re-Live (19:20):
Sport utilities might be all the rage these days, but there’s a select group of discerning consumers that prefer family vehicles more closely rooted to the ground, keeping the station wagon alive and…
Sport utilities might be all the rage these days, but there’s a select group of discerning consumers that prefer family vehicles more closely rooted to the ground, keeping the station wagon alive and well all over the world.
Then again, the phrase “alive and well” is subjective, as the wagon sector has hardly been without casualties. Amongst mainstream volume-branded players only three wagons survive where there were once multitudes, Volkswagen’s compact Golf SportWagen/Alltrack, Subaru’s compact Impreza Sport/Crosstrek and the mid-size Subaru Outback (although the Alltrack, Crosstrek and Outback are really classified as crossover SUVs).
That said, amongst premium-badged players the state of the wagon is looking up, with newcomers including Porsche’s Panamera Sport Turismo, available in most global markets, Jaguar’s XF Sportbrake, found in most markets except Canada, and Buick’s intriguing new Regal TourX, a U.S.-only affair as far as we can ascertain—a shame. These join long-timers like BMW’s 3 Series Wagon, the recently renewed Mercedes-Benz C-Class Wagon, Audi’s A4 Allroad, plus Volvo’s V60/V60 Cross Country and larger V90/V90 Cross Country (once again, the Audi and two Cross Countrys crossovers), and of course the subject of this review, Mercedes’ E-Class Wagon.
If it weren’t for the new V90 the E-Class Wagon would be alone in the mid-size five-door E-segment, but Mercedes shouldn’t be too worried about this newfound competition from a sales perspective, at least not for the time being. Mercedes doesn’t separate out its five-door sales numbers from other E-Class variants, and even includes CLS deliveries in its mid-size E-segment total, the result being 3,930 deliveries through calendar year 2017, which means it was number one in its segment. The most direct competitor is BMW that managed 3,033 combined 5 and 6 Series sales, but as you’re most likely aware no longer offers its 5 Series Touring to go head-to-head with this E-Class Wagon.
Despite such a sorry lack of competition, Mercedes not only offers the impressively equipped E 400 4Matic Wagon as a base model, but surprisingly an AMG E 63 S 4Matic+ Wagon as well. That’s right, not the regular 577 horsepower AMG-tuned E-Class, but a 603 horsepower twin-turbo 4.0-litre V8-powered beast of a family hauler that can scoot from standstill to 100km/h in a mere 3.5 seconds ahead of a 300 km/h (186 mph) terminal velocity, all the while carrying three passengers plus 640 litres (22.6 cubic feet) of gear in back or up to 1,820 litres (64.3 cubic feet) of cargo when the ultra-convenient 40/20/40-split rear seatbacks are folded flat.
The rear roominess and cargo capacity was identical in my E 400 4Matic Wagon tester, although its forward mobility was more conservatively kept in check. This said 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque from a twin-turbocharged direct-injection 3.0-litre V6 (this a less formidably tuned variation on the 396 horsepower AMG E43 engine) is nothing to scoff at, nor its 5.3-second sprint to 100 km/h and top speed of 210 km/h (130 mph). Interestingly, these numbers are identical to the E 400 4Matic four-door Sedan and two-door Coupe versions of the same car (the Cabriolet takes 0.2 seconds longer to 100km/h), while all six-cylinder models utilize a highly advanced nine-speed 9G-Tronic longitudinal automatic gearbox that’s lighter than the outgoing seven-speed unit, plus wonderfully smooth and brilliantly quick through the cogs.
Such a “have your cake and eat it too” philosophy typifies Mercedes-Benz, with only the Wagon’s 12.4 L/100km city, 9.5 highway and 11.1 combined fuel economy rating slightly diminished when compared to its siblings, the sedan estimated to achieve 11.8 L/100km in the city, 8.7 on the highway and 10.4 combined, the Coupe rated at 11.9, 9.0 and 10.6 respectively, and the Cabriolet coming in at 12.0, 9.2 and 10.8. Still, considering the performance available, its generous size, wonderfully opulent interior, and wealth of standard features, these numbers are impressive.
This is actually a seven-passenger wagon, although the rear facing seats, a la 1986 American neo-noir road action horror film “The Hitcher” starring Netherlander Rutger Hauer smiling from the rear window while seated next to an unsuspecting teddy bear, are probably best left for kids. The front two rows are spacious to say the least, with the second-row outboard positions some of the most accommodating in the business, especially due to my tester’s optional seat warmers. I can think of few more comfortable standard driver’s seats, but take note a $3,100 optional air bladder-enhanced Multi-Contour driver’s seat offers even more adjustability along with massage, etcetera.
I should mention the enhanced heated front seats in my tester were part of a $4,600 Premium package that also includes heatable front armrests, the most amazing digital instrument cluster in the industry thanks to two 12.3-inch tablet-style displays being fused together at centre, a sensational Burmester surround sound audio system upgrade, proximity-sensing keyless access, a foot activated rear liftgate, rear side sunshades, and a panoramic sunroof.
The standard power release buttons for folding the second-row seats down, which can be found right next to the seats on each side door sidewall, or from the cargo area sidewalls, make easy work of opening up the luggage area, while they flip down to an almost completely flat load floor. The only heavy lifting is caused by the incredibly beefy, over-engineered retractable cargo cover cross-member, which took a little more muscle to extract than expected. Still, it’s nice to know it was designed to last through the apocalypse, let alone double as a rear strut tower brace.
In case you were wondering, the E-Class Wagon’s cargo capacity is only slightly reduced from the mid-size GLE-Class SUV’s maximum hauling capability, so as long as you’re okay with 50 fewer litres (1.8 fewer cubic feet) behind the rear seatbacks and 190 litres (6.7 cubic feet) less when all seats are folded you’ll be fine. For me it’s a reasonable tradeoff when factoring in the performance benefits that come from a vehicle that hugs the ground more closely, not to mention the fabulous improvements that came with this latest E-Class redesign.
Yes, this Wagon variant was completely overhauled alongside the E-Class Sedan for the 2017 model year, resulting in a larger, roomier car that nevertheless weighs less. Both get some minor updates for 2018, not including my tester’s stunning no-charge Selenite Grey Metallic paint and its $1,000 optional 19-inch Twin 5-Spoke alloys. The five-door model and all E 400 four-doors get a 14-litre larger 80-litre fuel tank mind you, plus upgraded premium ambient interior lighting as standard, new Dark Ash hardwood along with carryover Brown Ash and Piano Black lacquer as no-cost options on the centre console (my tester had the latter), and a standard Parking package that includes a backup monitor, front and rear sensors, plus more.
Along with the aforementioned Premium package my tester was upfitted with the $1,000 Lighting package, which is money well spent as it adds active cornering Multibeam LED headlamps featuring 84 individual elements apiece, plus auto high beam assist that makes driving at night a lot easier.
These add some dazzle to the E 400 4Matic Wagon’s frontal styling, a car that combines everything I already like about the new E Sedan and Coupe/Cabriolet with a lot more functionality and a certain counterculture five-door coolness. This is especially true with the standard Sport front grille and its more assertive lower fascia, although those who prefer the upscale presence of Mercedes’ more traditional upright grille and less aggressive fascia can opt for a $3,000 Luxury package that also adds a more discrete set of 18-inch rims, a more comfort-tuned suspension setup, and rejigs the interior for more elegance.
The standard Sport frontal design is much like the rest of the E-Class lineup, but of course this being a wagon its rear styling treatment is completely unique. It comes across more like a two-door shooting brake than a traditional wagon, although its five-door layout doesn’t allow for that designation. Still, the elegantly simple taillights are lovely and filled with complex LEDs, their bright metal-topped edges blending smoothly into a chromed strip that stretches all the way across the midpoint of the rear hatch. A nicely sculpted bumper cap finishes off the car’s backside with some stylish satin silver detailing and two ovoid tailpipes.
The mostly blackened rooftop is the aforementioned optional dual-pane panoramic sunroof that sheds light on the awe-inspiring interior also noted earlier, its high quality finishings combining with gorgeous $250 optional Metal Weave inlays across the instrument panel and doors, which look a lot like carbon-fibre. Plenty of tastefully applied satin silver aluminized metal brightens up key trim, including a gorgeous row of centre stack toggle switches, knurled detailing for the lower console’s scrolling volume controller, rotating infotainment wheel, and performance mode selector, while the metal-trimmed steering wheel gets the same treatment for its paddle shifters.
Anyone raised on American iron will feel right at home with the E’s column-mounted gear selector, but that’s about it for classic station wagon comparisons. The E 400 4Matic Wagon’s drive is unparalleled in this segment, its ride sublime yet its performance surprising, even for the initiated. Turn-in is sharp yet smooth, a tad artificial feeling due to an overboosted rack, albeit brilliantly reactive. Simultaneously it tracks effortlessly at high speed, holding its lane no matter how quickly you’re traveling, and always feeling rock solid and steady, not to mention ideally agile as soon as the freeway starts to bend. In fact, it feels more like an E-Class sport sedan than a five-door family hauler, even reminding me of the wonderful E 400 4Matic Coupe I tested last year. Its sizeable 245/40 Pirelli Cinturato P7 rubber certainly aided at-the-limit grip, and as noted they weren’t overly firm. Just the same, the standard 18s found on the base model, or the 18s and softer suspension setup from the Luxury version would no doubt improve ride quality, but at a slight performance cost.
Finding my way was made easier and safer via a standalone $1,500 head-up display that projected key info onto the windshield, while additional options added to my tester that I haven’t yet mentioned include a $590 360-degree surround monitor that provided a bird’s eye overhead view to ease parking, a fragrance-infused $500 Air Balance package (just don’t use lavender, cedarwood, vetiver, marjoram, Roman chamomile, bergamot, orange, frankincense, patchouli, or sandalwood or you might fall asleep, although Mercedes’ standard Attention Assist will wake you back up), a $150 wireless device charger that’s more advanced than my phone, and those rear seat heaters were a $650 option.
Of note, a heated windshield will set you back $650, while the only other standalone option not featured on my test car was a set of ventilated front seats at $1,200. As for alternative packages, $1,900 Exclusive package could have upgraded the upholstery with Nappa leather, covered the dash top with stitched Artico pleather, modified some of the interior design details, and added illuminated doorsill treadplates, while a $3,000 Intelligent Drive package adds Active Distance Assist Distronic, Active Blind Spot Assist, Active Steering Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Lane Changing Assist, Pre-Safe Plus, Traffic Sign Assist, and Pre-Safe Impulse Side, an industry-first technology that prepares occupants for an impending side impact and hopefully reduces the forces of impact by inflating the front-seat bolsters.
Equally impressive, Mercedes’ Pre-Safe system instantly and automatically closes all windows and the sunroof, pulls the seats upright, cinches the seatbelts and more while doing its best to stop and steer you away from the critical path as quickly as possible. What’s more, milliseconds before a crash Mercedes’ Pre-Safe Sound deploys a high-volume blast of pink noise through the audio system to limit hearing damage from the types of high-pressure noises that occur during an accident. Mercedes says it’s “not designed to protect your life, but designed to protect the quality of your life.”
A more modest set of LED headlights comes standard with the $74,000 base model, incidentally, as do power-folding side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a 12.3-inch infotainment display, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration, leather upholstery, dual-zone auto climate control, a powered liftgate, radar-based Active Brake Assist autonomous emergency braking, Blind Spot Assist, and much more.
Of course, the E 400 4Matic Wagon is much more than the sum of its parts, and to that end this grand complication of high quality components is the most impressive station wagon I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving.
A news story that may have passed under the radar this year saw Mercedes-Benz once again winning Vincentric Best Fleet Value in Canada awards for its lineup of Metris and Sprinter commercial vans. You’ve…
A news story that may have passed under the radar this year saw Mercedes-Benz once again winning Vincentric Best Fleet Value in Canada awards for its lineup of Metris and Sprinter commercial vans. You’ve seen them everywhere, although one could be forgiven for not paying attention to yet another big white delivery van or silver airport shuttle with blacked out windows.
The Vincentric award tallies up a commercial vehicle’s overall lifecycle cost in order to determine its value, and the Sprinter has earned top marks in the full-Size three-quarter-ton Cargo and Passenger Van categories for six consecutive years, while the Mercedes-Benz Metris Cargo and Passenger Vans have won their respective classes for two years running.
Specifically, the list of Mercedes-Benz winners include the Metris Cargo Van in Vincentric’s “Mid-Size Commercial Cargo Van” category, the Metris Passenger Van in the third-party analytical firm’s “Mid-Size Commercial Passenger Van” category, the Sprinter Cargo Van 2500 V6 Standard Roof 144-inch WB in the “Full-Size ¾-Ton Cargo Van” category, and the Sprinter Passenger Van 2500 V6 Standard Roof 144-inch WB in the “Full-Size ¾-Ton Passenger Van” category.
“We focus on providing the best possible fleet solutions for the Canadian commercial market, and we know that low total cost of ownership is a key differentiator for our vehicles,” said Nicolette Lambrechts, Vice President, Mercedes-Benz Vans. “That the Metris has achieved this level of recognition in both of its first two years on the market demonstrates that we are achieving our goal and fulfilling our promise to customers.”
The Metris fills a unique niche in the commercial market by providing a lot of capacity from a mid-size model, yet making it small enough to fit under the low roofs of many parking garages. Its relatively lightweight design and turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine make it fuel-efficient too, while its rear-wheel drive layout makes for lower repair costs and allows it to haul more weight than front-wheel drive competitors.
“With consecutive wins for the past six years, the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter has built on a long-established reputation for delivering exceptional value,” added Lambrechts. “These most recent awards further underscore its worth and utility for Canadian fleets from coast to coast.”
Based on typical use patterns, Vincentric analyzes cost of ownership of more than 2,000 commercial vehicle configurations monthly. The studies are comprehensive too, factoring in “all major ownership and operating costs for each vehicle, including depreciation, fees and taxes, financing, fuel, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and even opportunity cost, or the loss of potential interest income as a result of owning and operating a vehicle,” said Mercedes-Benz Vans in a press release. What’s more, evaluations are done in all 10 Canadian provinces by using 24 different lifecycle cost scenarios. Vincentric bases each winner on lowest fleet lifecycle costs in the most scenarios.
“Mercedes-Benz Vans have consistently displayed great value to Canadian fleet buyers in the Mid-Size and ¾-Ton van segments,” says Vincentric President, David Wurster. “All four of the award-winning Mercedes-Benz vehicles combined low depreciation costs with strong fuel economy to earn their awards.”
The Metris is a one-size-fits-all affair, but the Sprinter can be had in many lengths and roof heights, plus it’s one of the only full-size vans available with a four-wheel drivetrain. This variety, along with its renowned quality, plus its turbo-diesel fuel-efficiency and overall dependability make it very popular amongst fleet buyers and independent business owners alike.