A Golf Drive with the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 Sedan
The idea of improving fuel economy in modern automobiles by pairing down the engine and adding a turbocharger is not a new concept in the car building business. While tricky in practice, it’s simple enough in theory:
- Strip out weight from the car’s frame, its bodywork, its engine components, etc. Just make the car lighter by at least a couple hundred pounds.
- Trim your traditional eight cylinder engine down to a six, or your six down to a four.
- Add a turbocharger to the engine design to make up for the lost power.
Some automakers build in a high compression engine design literally to squeeze more power out of an engine bloc. All of that should add up to a car that manages better MPG without sacrificing horsepower or torque.
Of course, there might be an engineer out there reading that and grumbling, “Sure. Go knock one out over there. It’s that easy.” And our imaginary engineer would be right. It’s not easy to pull those concepts together in a car that retains a lot of sensory appeal for the driver. Sometimes that lonely turbocharger can’t make up for the sensation of tinnier build quality, less acceleration, and meeker exhaust note.
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 is a German monument to the art of reducing engine size without sacrificing performance or driving pleasure. During our recent coverage of the 2016 PGA Championship, I had a chance to run an E300 through its Tri-State Area paces. From tollway to suburban street, 90-degree heat to pouring rain, this Mercedes-Benz refused to admit its surging ahead with a four cylinder engine.
The 2017 E300 employs Mercedes’ popular and widely used 2.0 liter, inline four cylinder engine. Mercedes-Benz sells this power plant to other mid-range luxury automakers to power their rides, but the E300 can make the argument that the engine does its best work right here.
The in-line four manages miles per gallon numbers of 22 city/30 highway, putting out 241 horsepower. Mercedes-Benz puts all of the toys in the box to use, employing a high-pressure, direct fuel injection system — computer controlled for efficiency. The car also uses a rapid-multispark ignition and ECO start/stop system to squeeze out extra MPG.
The “9G-TRONIC” transmission puts the engine’s power down on the pavement. That’s a fancy German way of saying the E300 uses a new nine-speed automatic with sport shifters. The performance of the engine, transmission and suspension are all adjustable via the Mercedes-Benz Dynamic Select system. If you’re cross country touring, you go Eco and save fuel. If you’re outmaneuvering lesser cars, you can enjoy yourself with Sport mode. And, if you want to misbehave to a greater degree, there’s Sports+.
Of course, inside the cockpit, there are all of the expected Mercedes-Benz touches, from leather everywhere to power everything, lit and digital gauges to the signature analog clock in the dashboard. However, the 2017 E300 adds “Active Multicounter Front Seats with Massage.” It takes some time for a mere mortal to get used to it, but the seat senses the car’s momentum and maneuvering angle, countering camber and centrifugal force by folding in and pushing back against the body — working to keep the driver in the best control position.
And it’s the driver who passes final judgment on this inline four-cylinder luxury sport sedan. Even if the engine got a little smaller than previous generations of E-Class, the E300 is every bit a Mercedes-Benz. In sport mode, it’s indistinguishable from a V6 car. It has that signature Mercedes weight and grounded feel.
In short, the car proves what good design and modern technology can do with proper build quality. Now, that quality comes with a surprisingly heavy price at $52,150, but strong engineering comes art a cost in Germany and everywhere else.