Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — The newest, greenest, punchiest version of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class mid-size sedan comes in a clever, if not deceptive, presentation. I got fooled the first time around, which underscores this vehicle’s potential.
After driving it shortly after delivery, the engine power and performance made me conclude this sedan “must be a V-6,” as I told a colleague riding with me. I decided to check the monroney [price and spec sheet] given to me by the fleet delivery service. It stated the vehicle as a 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet, 3.5-liter V-6 direct fuel injection.
Mercedes-Benz had delivered the wrong vehicle! I e-mailed them asking for the E250, 4-cyclinder, BlueTEC diesel that caught my attention while displayed at a Greater California Livery Association meeting in San Diego in April. A few hours later, I checked the rear of the vehicle, and oops, it really was an E250. Mercedes-Benz had e-mailed back stating I did indeed have the right car, but had been given the wrong monroney. They attached the correct one. I sheepishly replied that the ride, power and comfort tricked me into thinking it was a V-6.
Engine Eggs You On
And that episode reaffirms this vehicle’s premium asset: A 2.1-liter, I-4, bi-turbo diesel engine that delivers 195 hp. and 369 lb.-ft. of torque with a 7-speed transmission and all-wheel drive. That all adds up to a continuous encouraging mechanical smack on the rear end when you push the accelerator for power. The car obeys gracefully with added pep — smack, smack — as it surges forward. The power is especially noticeable going up hills, making you curious, how can four little wiggly cylinders do this?
Mercedes-Benz actually has a mechanical explanation: Bi-turbo, or twin turbos. A bi-turbo engine combines performance with efficiency to a previously unknown extent. It is made possible by a unique combination of innovative high-tech systems such as direct injection, twin turbochargers, air/water inter-cooling and the Controlled Efficiency ECO Start-Stop function. In plain English, this is not an old-school diesel clunker from the 1970s, which to this day makes many drivers, like me, think that diesel vehicles should function like the government: Noisy, dirty and slow.
Saves On Fuel Costs
Lest you think all this power hits you in the pocket, the E250 BlueTEC gets a combined 32 mpg city/highway, and a stratospheric 42 mpg on the highway. This matters a lot once again now that fuel prices are climbing well north of $4 per gallon. The E250’s “eco mode” lets the motor turn off and restart when at a stoplight, thereby avoiding the snarly idle syndrome. It’s also a benefit when the chauffeur waits patiently in the driveway or curbside for a late client. The eco-mode works in sport mode, too, which gives the E250 extra kick for freeway onramp merges.
Chauffeured operators seeking lower fuel costs will appreciate the quiet, clean diesel advantage. Our advisory board member who calculates costs of business estimates that a fully-loaded E250 like the one tested, which costs $64,295, would need to get $9,600 in monthly revenue to yield a 10% profit margin. That would require 58 airport runs and 13 charter runs averaging three hours each per month based on average airport rates of $115 per transfer and a charter rate of $75 per hour. [See accompanying chart]. Of course, those variables go down if you get an E250 at its suggested retail price of $53,900 minus some of the luxury, sport and safety assistance packages.
Of course, the make-or-break factors for a chauffeured vehicle are tucked in the right rear seat and trunk. That’s where the top client sits and enjoys the chauffeured experience. By that measure, the E250 once again surprises for a mid-size sedan. Remember, the E-Class Mercedes-Benz is the workhorse chauffeured car in Europe, as the Town Car is here. The E250’s steady, smooth ride stays strong and nimble on turns and up hills. With the right front seat all the way forward, the client has plenty of legroom. Even with the right front seat halfway scooted back, a 6-foot 2-inch man (me) can still sit comfortably straight without grazing the roof, and not have to choose between full headroom and lumbar support [neck pain or lower back pain] as is often the case for tall people slouching in mid-size sedan back seats.
Meanwhile, the 15.9 cubic-foot trunk will handle a complete luggage set for one client, which is fine for a mid-size sedan. Two luggage sets might require creative packaging and cramming. The E250 also has split fold-down rear seats and a central porthole behind the armrest for golf clubs.
For the chauffeur, the E250 provides European-level flexibility on the road. A masterful triple view-mode live rear camera, above camera, and forward camera mean a chauffeur NEVER has an excuse for a reverse-gear fender-bender. I admit I don’t understand why the dashboard video display records the car moving forward — shouldn’t you be looking at the road? A tight turning radius helps on narrow alleyways, jammed beachside streets with vistas, and the boutiquey curbsides of tony Manhattan Beach, where we tested the vehicle. It was a relief to avoid panicked three-point turn-arounds in front of impatient hipster-shoppers. The steering is sharp and responsive, like the taut athletic people along the beach who look pristine no matter what their workout levels.
All facts and metrics aside, chauffeured vehicles must be considered in a cultural context: Is there appeal, resonance and chemistry? Vehicles ultimately are emotional creatures. They can be sensitive when responding to stimuli, they require maintenance, they can break down, they can spin out of control, etc. But mostly they appeal to the emotions of the buyer and the chauffeured client. A luxury car is defined by how the brand and the experience make the client feel. Another colleague commented that the E250 would be perfect for the younger executive who skeptically views the former Town Car like an old, comfy living room.
From an emotional standpoint, this vehicle knows how to make all the right friendly moves with an operator or client. The E250 has evolved from an enduring German luxury brand that appeals to the young, rich and beautiful — and that means all of us because who doesn’t want to be that way? It also packages maximum chauffeured value: a practical application of onboard and engine technology; clean green advances that save on fuel costs and consumption; V-6 performance on a V-4 engine; versatile, flexible back seats; and full comfort amenities in a suave, elegant design inside and out.
Now, just don’t let that sneaky E250 trick you into anything.
2014 Mercedes-Benz E250
Here are some sights and scenes from one wicked cool tradeshow.
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