Mercedes E-Class 350d AMG review: ‘The car makers really cared’ | Technology | Amazing Articles

Mercedes E-Class 350d AMG review: ‘The car makers really cared’ | Technology

Price: £49,355
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
MPG: 54.3
CO2: 144g/km

In my last Tour de France on day-to-day reporting duty for the Observer and Guardian, after 27 years on the job, I acquired a new interest in statistics. It is probably a good job that the Mercedes E-Class 350d AMG, which was this year’s Tour car, was the first I’d had with an onboard computer to deliver the brutal truth about the hours spent at the wheel, or I might have called time sooner.

At the end of this year’s 28 days on the road I’d clocked up 4,800 miles and 112 hours’ driving. In other words, 28 hours per week. More than an entire day in every seven sitting in the same place: the driver’s seat of the car. It’s a rude awakening for many when I explain that covering the Tour comes down to a handy, if unromantic French rhyme: auto, boulot, dodo – car, work, sleep – and that disturbing stat confirmed what my instinct, and sore posterior, has told me in the past.

Last year, I described how modern car-seat technology had made the Tour less of a pain in the rear end. Mercédès – I like to give Tour cars a name and figured if that was good enough for Alexandre Dumas it was fine for me and the voiture – had enough electronic ways of manipulating the seat to ensure a different position on each of the 28 days, though I never quite figured out how to make it provide a massage as the car manual seemed to promise it might (too busy putting in the hours at the wheel to do the reading).

Maillot jaune: Chris Froome, eventual winner, in the 22 July individual time trial.  - 3209 - Mercedes E-Class 350d AMG review: ‘The car makers really cared’ | Technology



Maillot jaune: Chris Froome, eventual winner, in the 22 July individual time trial. Photograph: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

There were other stats to scroll through in the many hours spent watching the autoroute whizz towards me (€200 in tolls along the way). For those 4,800 miles, we managed 48 miles per gallon, not unreasonable given the amount of mountain driving using the Sport setting. On one stage out of the mountains (Salon de Provence), on the Eco setting which tells the car to coast on any downhill, it hit 52mpg. Not surprisingly though, Mercédès felt most at home on the autobahn of her native Germany, where the Tour began.

There was much technology: my favourite was the delightfully gentle reading light, which was bright enough but far from dazzling, making you feel like the car makers really cared; my least-loved was the slightly bewildering five levers on the steering column. In Provence (fortunately in an entirely private parking lot) I discovered the flipside of the key-less ignition, however: if totally knackered and work-absorbed, you can leave the extremely quiet (and happily very economical) engine running for four hours, while typing obliviously 150 yards away.

On Tour, the more thought processes are taken away from you, the more grateful you feel. I was thankful indeed. This year’s revelation was Active Distance Assist, basically the car slowing automatically in cruise control when it thinks something might be getting in the way. Much of the Tour day boiled down to: turn on the autoroute, engage cruise, point and trust, in which you feel like a pilot trying fly by wire for the first time. Plus, a tie-in with the satnav told it to slow down when the speed limit changed.

The main lesson of 26 Tours in 26 very different cars? Few objects absorb as much solar energy as a vehicle parked outside a Tour press centre. That brain melting heat should be harnessed in ways other than merely baking the contents before you put the aircon on. Not even Mercédès had an answer to this one, although given the ingenuity on display throughout the 350 I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.


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He tried sooo hard..

He tried sooo hard..