The newest Mercedes-Benz mid-sized luxury sedan E-class, which boldly goes its own way by placing comfort before sportiness.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of luxury is “a condition or situation of great comfort, ease, and wealth.” Everything about the primary controls feels numbed to minimize driver effort or fuss. In any drive mode—a range that includes Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+, and Individual settings—the steering wheel spins with a positive, albeit liquid, damped movement. As cornering forces build, so does the steering’s sense of weightiness, but the delta in effort isn’t huge and there’s no pesky road feel to jiggle your fingers. The sportier drive modes raise the baseline steering heft somewhat, but the E never requires that the driver throw a shoulder into it. Similarly, the brake pedal moves through a squishy, pudding-like resistance after an initial zone of free play yet responds to the first tap of pressure.
The well-isolated and quite attractive interior filled with soft-touch plastics, real wood, and slivers of metal. We sampled only the incredibly comfortable Active Multicontour front seats, a lovely pair of chairs filled with electronically controlled air bladders that offer a wide range of positions and back-massage functions. There are even six bladders in each lower cushion that support a butt-massage setting wherein air bladders gently juggle your cheeks like a grocery shopper determining the heavier of two cantaloupes.
The cabin’s centerpiece is a standard high-resolution 12.3-inch central display running Benz’s COMAND infotainment interface and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration, along with a 7.0-inch driver-information display between a pair of analog gauges, all of which is fitted to a large rectangular pod mounted high on the dashboard. In addition to hard-button shortcuts to key menus—radio, media, phone, navigation, and settings—the E300 also responds to voice-control inputs; clicks and spins of the COMAND knob on the center console; smartphone-style taps, clicks, and swipes on the touchpad mounted above the COMAND knob; and up/down, left/right swipes and clicks on a pair of thumb-operable touchpads on the steering wheel (intuitively, the left pad works the driver display, the right manipulates the central display). I prefer using the steering-wheel controls, but the knob and the touchpad work well, too, so long as you don’t delve too deeply into the system.