We Britons have very different tastes from our German brothers in so
many ways. In Germany, for example, the most popular prestige executive
car also doubles as the nation’s favourite taxi. It would be a bit like
senior British businessmen driving LTI TX4s — aka classic London cabs —
as their personal transport. In Britain, you buy a car partly to
advertise your status, wealth or — in the case of a Toyota Prius or
G-Wiz — eco credentials. Captains of industry and cabbies just do not
move in the same circles, sorry.
In Germany, cab drivers
choosing the Mercedes E-class prove to the nation’s executive elite
that Mercedes-Benz builds reliable cars. After all, if a car can
survive as a taxi, it must be good. The Germans, as with most
Europeans, buy cars for more commonsensical reasons than
So, not surprisingly, when Mercedes began
testing the new E-class, it turned to cabbies for help. Specifically,
it wanted to test the durability of the back seat. New prototype rear
seats were inserted in existing Mercedes cabs to assess the sliding,
shifting motion of 200,000 posteriors scudding across rear benches.
result, we are assured, is that the rear seat of the new Mercedes
E-class saloon is guaranteed to keep its shape long after lesser models
have been reduced to the firmness of a blancmange. Equally, the Benz’s
upholstery will keep its texture in old age while lesser upholsteries
will look like the cover of the dog’s basket.
was a priority. Older Mercedes-Benzes were renowned for their
hewn-from-the-solid cabins; recent Benzes, though, have been criticised
for their fragile cabins and the cheapness of their interior plastics.
They have been criticised for their unreliability too, especially early
versions of the last-generation E-class. It had so many electrical
gremlins that Germany’s taxi drivers staged a protest and the country’s
top businessmen started to buy the rival BMW 5-series and Audi A6
The latest E-class saloon — also available as an
estate and a coupé — is very much a return to form by Mercedes-Benz. It
is beautifully wrought, big, tough, comfy, roomy and refined. In a
sector where more and more rivals try to mimic premium market leader
BMW — by making their cars faster, sportier, firmer riding and more
aggressively styled — Mercedes has gone back to its core competencies.
new technology includes main beam headlamps that automatically sense
approaching cars and built-up areas, reducing the intensity of their
beam when appropriate. The choice isn’t just between low and high-beam,
as the computer determines the headlamp intensity, depending on
conditions. Another clever piece of tech is a hidden camera that reads
speed limit signs and instantly conveys the information to the driver
by a digital dash display. In these days of Gatsos and average speed
cameras and confusing speed limits, it could be a licence saver. Sadly,
the only European market where it doesn’t work is the UK. According to
Mercedes engineers, our speed limit signs are non-EU compliant. A fix
is due within a year.
Gavin Green is a motoring journalist and consultant
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