Highly sophisticated hybrid offers flawless driving

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I  test drove the new Mercedes Benz E300 BlueTEC Hybrid recently.

Here we have one of the most traditional executive saloons on Irish roads, a model that accounts for about 50% of all Mercedes-Benz sold in Ireland, and under the bonnet lies one of the most technically advanced motors in any car on sale in Europe.

When you think about three-litre diesel executive saloons, you do not immediately think of fuel-efficiency, hybrid technology or enhanced aerodynamics – but these are the key features in the new E300.

For starters, this car comes with a 2143cc diesel engine, considerably smaller than the traditional three litres.

But it is the combination of this with the compact and lightweight electric motor that produces such high levels of efficiency.

Both motors work in tandem and independently to produce the most fuel efficient drive possible.

Coupled with this, Mercedes have developed optimised aerodynamics, braking energy recuperation and an ECO start/stop function to further enhance its efficiency.

But it’s not just about efficiency, at the touch of a button, the car will happily use all the power at its disposal to accelerate at a thrilling pace.

Once you reach that cruising speed and are ready to eat up some motorway miles in comfort – you can sail.

Yes, sail.

It’s what Mercedes call it when the lithium-in battery is charged and the internal combustion engine is switched off when coasting at speeds lower than 160km/h. This substantially cuts both fuel consumption and emissions. Also known as, sailing.

So, the internals are a complete revolution – what about the outside?

In a bold move, designers have restyled the E-Class to achieve the twin objectives of producing a car that will appeal to its loyal customer base while, at the same time, win over that younger generation of motorists that every manufacturer seeks to attract.

For the first time, Mercedes has done this by creating two distinctly different cars with front-end designs that bear little resemblance to one another.

In Classic and Elegance models, the tastes of traditional E-Class owners are catered for with a design that features the classic triple-louvre grille with the familiar Mercedes-Benz star mounted on the bonnet where owners can keep it within view. In wooing younger, sportier buyers – those seeking something that doesn’t quite look like daddy’s car – the trendy Avantgarde version has been given a completely different look with a CLS-like fascia on which a sports style grille with inset Mercedes star are the distinctive features.

In overall appearance, the new E-Class looks even more elongated and elegant. Changes include a completely redesigned bonnet and bumper with three large air vents common to both versions. New side feature lines create a visually more exciting profile. New intelligent LED headlamps provide additional safety features whilst continuing to reveal the typical E-Class look. At the rear, lights and bumper have been revised to create a more broad and distinctive appearance. Interior changes include a redesigned centre console, new instrument cluster, a multifunction steering wheel as well as new wood and aluminium dashboard trim and new high-quality materials throughout.

There is an awful lot of car here to enjoy, and I was more than a little surprised to see that the model I drove featured almost entirely standard features and cost only about €400 more than the entry-level price.

The only criticisms I would have are that the interior was just a little too modernised for me – the E-Class should still be more luxurious than sporty, and the steering was a little on the small size.

Apart from that – I would also suggest that if seats are heated and have electric controls for adjustment, you shouldn’t have to pull a handle underneath to move them forward and back!

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