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What’s this then?

A face-lifted Mercedes E-Class, but with more than the usual nod-to-surgery that makes up most facelifts. In fact, this is the most comprehensive mid-life update that Merc has ever done on any car, and the styling alterations are just a tiny part. The E also gets loads of the latest safety kit, such as a new Stereo Multi-Purpose camera for scanning the road ahead, and improved radar detectors. There have also been engine and chassis tweaks.

Aha - engine alterations. Now you’re talking. More power and less emissions, right?

Er…correct. Is it that predictable? We drove the 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, but don’t get too excited. This is no AMG-lite.

Merc has concentrated on making the petrol more economical, so it now does 47.9mpg and emits just 138g/km. The old car managed 42.8mpg and 154g/km. These are significant gains and impressive figures for a large, four-door saloon like the E-Class.

Power is up from 201bhp to 208bhp while torque goes from 228lb ft to 258lb ft. The latter also comes in lower down the rev range, and because of all this, 0-62mph drops to 7.4 seconds.

But don’t expect fireworks - it’s a refined and smooth drive. Nothing more, nothing less.

The chassis alterations are even less mind-bending. The E-Class was always more about comfort than handling, and that’s still the case. Merc’s engineers claim to have tightened the steering feel up, but they haven’t junked the electrical power assist system so it remains difficult to tell what the front wheels are up to.

But we shouldn’t complain. The E-Class was always better at wafting and it should stay that way. 1,000-mile journeys are effortless in this car.

You mentioned safety kit?

Ah yes. The E-Class certainly gets more than its fair share of this. There are so many cameras and sensors on board that the E will even warn you if you’re about to drive the wrong way up a one-way street. Or it’ll apply the brakes when it senses someone about to rear-end you.

So here goes for the other highlights, and apologies in advance for multiple uses of the word ‘assist’.

Collision Prevention Assist - standard. Warns of impending shunt.

Attention Assist - standard. Warns you if you’re about to fall asleep.

Distronic Plus - optional. Part of the cruise control, and maintains the gap to the car in front. Also now helps steer the car, keeping it in your lane.

BAS Plus - optional. A brake assist system, which can now also identify pedestrians and slam the brakes on even harder if you’re about to hit one.

Adaptive Highbeam Assist Plus - optional. Means you can stay on main beam all the time, because it masks out areas of your lights so other cars don’t get dazzled.

Active Parking Assist - optional. Can identify parking spaces, back into them and now also applies the brakes. The driver needn’t do anything - no steering, throttle or braking.

But does all this make it a better car?

Sort of, because it does enhance the E. It’s better looking, and it’s greener.

But despite all the alterations, none of them really change the fundamental essence of the car, or alter the exec class landscape. If you were going to buy an E-Class beforehand, you’ll still want to now. And if you were going to get a BMW 5-Series beforehand, you’ll still want to now. Gradual evolution is the name of the game here.

Piers Ward

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