There are a number of reasons that justify the P4.39-million price tag of the Mercedes-Benz E200, and I will start by saying that it feels like you are driving a P4.39-million car. That’s a pretty steep sticker by pedestrian standards, but if, like me, you have a deep appreciation of the automobile, you will understand what I mean.
Though the fact is often disputed, it is still widely accepted that the first automobile—the Benz Patent Motor Car—was made by Carl Benz, and that it ran for the first time in 1879. That was 137 years ago. In the grand scheme of human history, this super-short window of time saw the dramatic evolution of the car from a one-cylinder, three-wheeled, chain-driven contraption into the technological marvel it is today. And if you are the company that pretty much invented the darn thing, every car you make had better be close to perfect.
The E200 is by no means the fire-breather in the massive Mercedes-Benz stable—the test drive of the AMG version will have to wait for another time. But even if the vehicle you see here is just a ‘normal’ midsize sedan, it is executed so well. Even its most basic iteration is already a showcase in how to do cars right.
The cockpit is sublime and doesn’t scream that you are riding in a luxury car. You know, however, that you are enveloped in something special because the fit, finish, and build quality are noticeable right away. No cheap plastic can be found here, and every switch and control surface feels expensive. The doors close like a bank vault, and the outside world is shut out. One word describes the experience: classy.
Finding the proper driving position is a breeze with the power-adjustable everything, and all major vehicle functions can be accessed through the Comand (short for ‘cockpit management and data’) Controller on the center console. There’s the kick-ass Burmester audio system, too, that magically makes the low-bitrate songs—downloaded with a YouTube file converter—from my outdated iPod Touch sound exceptional. Must be the 3D surround sound from the ceiling-mounted speakers. You can also choose the color of the ambient lighting from the entire prism. Damn cool.
But that’s not even the half of it, because when you get moving is another story altogether.
I love how the automatic shift lever is mounted on the steering column—a throwback that takes me to the ’60s and into my old 200D ‘fintail’ restoration project. Behind the steering wheel are paddles as well, for when you want to be a bit more adventurous. And you will want to be because the E200 is quite the performer.
The 2.0-liter engine develops 184hp that peaks at 5,500rpm. The 300Nm comes in from down low at 1,200rpm right up to 4,000rpm. Putting the pedal to the floor brings the turbocharged motor into its own, without any perceptible lag. It’s a super-smooth climb through the rev range, which fits right in with the E200’s stately character.
Choose the drive mode using the Dynamic Select switch on the center console and this car can transform from eco warrior to canyon carver in an instant. Another trick that the E200 has is the nine-speed automatic transmission that results in faster gear changes and exceptional fuel-economy figures. It’s quite frugal.
My favorite thing about this Benz, though, is how it rides and handles. You are isolated from road imperfections, but you still get very good feedback and input. Everything feels solid and planted, but the engineers have gotten the feel just right. While I acknowledge that a BMW offers a stiffer and sportier ride, the Benz has a posh feel without sacrificing any athleticism. You have to experience this to understand what I’m talking about, but take my word for it: There is something special about the Mercedes-Benz formula.
And then there’s the look of it all. In its silver hue. the E200 is gorgeous. Again, there is a very understated style to it, and it will age well indeed. It also emits an aura that automatically makes other motorists give it wide berth. This is a boon in the kind of bumper-to-bumper traffic we’ve been experiencing as of late. Trust me, the effect is real. Even tricycles avoid getting too close to the swooping sheetmetal.
Seriously, folks: When you are wealthy enough to purchase your first brand-new Mercedes-Benz, please don’t pass the keys over to your newly hired chauffeur right away. The experience will be wasted on them. Even if the backseat is a great place to contemplate your next hostile corporate takeover, I urge you to get behind the wheel instead. There’s a reason a Benz is a Benz is a Benz. It takes all things that make an automobile great to an even higher level. Every moment behind the wheel, whether in traffic or in motion, is a pleasure. That’s the result of 137 years of car-making experience.
SPECS: MERCEDES-BENZ E200 AVANTGARDE
Engine: 2.0-liter turbopetrol I4
Power: 184hp @ 5,500rpm
Torque: 300Nm @ 1,200-4,000rpm
Transmission: 9-speed automatic