AFTER sinking my teeth into the Mercedes-Benz E43 over the last few months, I genuinely have little to complain about, but there is a question I’ve been trying to answer: how much is the E43’s far-reaching driver-assistance tech really adding to my ownership experience?
The E-Class is one of the most advanced vehicles on the road, and that’s central to its sales pitch, but on a day-to-day basis only some of it has proven useful so far.
Benz stops short of using the term ‘self-driving’ for its Drive Pilot systems because it gives customers the wrong idea about how much of their attention is required when the car is in control, and therein lies the rub: the answer is still ‘all of it’.
As a party trick with somebody new in the passenger seat, letting the car steer itself gets eyebrows raised in amazement. Practically, it’s a ‘nice to have’ on motorways where Distronic allows you to dial back your level of focus on surrounding cars and simply monitor the big sled as it follows a lane, but you must always be ready to correct it whether the system asks you to or not.
In traffic, the Stop and Go function works well, though it is slow to get going again to the point where I’ve copped horn blasts from drivers behind as the E43 sits watching the car in front pull away.
Then there’s the active lane keeping, which on a couple of occasions has forcefully tried tugging the car back into line when I have been deliberately steering away from an obstacle. Worse still were two AEB brainfarts which threw me and a car full of family members against the seatbelts on an empty bit of road.
Outside of these gripes the electronics are good. Its surround-view cameras and multibeam headlights are amazing, and the car’s knowledge of its environment has opened my mind to the future, but it won’t be until the next generation of Merc’s autonomous tech (starting in the S-Class) that the systems really start to change the way we drive.
The E43 is a stepping stone to, rather than the arrival of, the truly driverless car, and I’ve been able to appreciate it more after recalibrating my expectations.
Other shortcomings are few. The gearbox can be clunky when cold and there’s a tyre scrubbing problem where the front rubber shudders across the road when at or near full lock, juddering the steering wheel. It’s known to affect other 4Matic models and doesn’t cause damage or wear, but does take a little sparkle off the prestige sheen.
Next month will be our last together, and with my firstborn child due midway through, I expect that ride home from the hospital to truly cement the bond.
Clean sweep? No, scratch that
Wheels is battling with a local council after the E43 was side-swiped by a rogue street sweeper.
The four-wheeled aggressor left gouges across the AMG’s front-right wheel and a scuff on its bumper. Fear of other people’s carelessness is a constant pressure point with this
car. Parking far from the shopping centre hordes only goes so far.
When nobody but you cares, being precious is a stressful business.
Read part three of our 2017 Mercedes-AMG E43 long-term review here!
First published in the September 2017 issue of Wheels Magazine, Australia’s most experienced and most trusted car magazine since 1953.