Almost like a human

In cruise control, the E300 keeps a steady speed and a constant distance from the vehicle in front.
In cruise control, the E300 keeps a steady speed and a constant distance from the vehicle in front.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
In cruise control, the E300 keeps a steady speed and a constant distance from the vehicle in front.
In cruise control, the E300 keeps a steady speed and a constant distance from the vehicle in front.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Mercedes' E300 has a semi-autonomous system that behaves almost like a human with decent driving skills

You are in the middle lane on Lornie Road, doing 70kmh on your way to the office in Bishan on a Monday morning.

Your phone buzzes. One of your friends has just posted a new selfie on Facebook. You are dying to hit the Like button, but your other hand is already busy slicing fruit on the iPad.

Well, with the new Mercedes- Benz E300, that won't be a problem anymore.

When you activate its cruise control, the car goes into a convoying mode - keeping a steady speed and a constant distance from the vehicle in front.

Not only that, its steering also keeps the car in lane.

  • SPECS / MERCEDES-BENZ E300

  • Price: $312,888 with COE

    Engine: 1,991cc 16-valve inline-4 turbocharged

    Transmission: Nine-speed automatic with manual select

    Power: 245bhp at 5,500rpm

    Torque: 370Nm at 1,300-4,000rpm

    0-100kmh: 6.2 seconds

    Top speed: 250kmh (electronically limited)

    Fuel consumption: 6.9 litres/100km

    Agent: Cycle & Carriage

So, you can take your hands off the wheel, whip out your phone and click away.

I am kidding, of course. No, not about the E300's semi-autonomous system, but about tinkering with mobile devices when you are driving.

That is unsafe and against the law, as it should be.

But it will be a matter of time before driverless technology reaches a level where driver intervention is deemed unsafe.

Until then, keep both hands firmly on the wheel, even if you are in a car like the sophisticated E300.

The E300 is the most powerful and well-equipped non-AMG E-class sedan available here.

Its 2-litre turbocharged engine, mated to a nine-speed autobox, sends 245bhp and 370Nm to the rear wheels in an urgent, yet silky, manner.

The car dispatches the benchmark century sprint in 6.2 seconds and should attain at least 250kmh, road and regulation permitting. Rather uncharacteristic of a Merc sedan.

Progress is smooth, with a ride quality that is clearly comfortbiased and yet is not at all prone to unnecessary movements. In short, what you expect of a Merc sedan.

The car comes with a drive mode selection, with an individualisation option that allows you to tick the level of sportiness or comfort in systems such as steering, drivetrain and chassis.

It makes the E300 a real pleasure at the wheel, whatever driving mood you happen to be in.

But what is the use of its semiautonomous system?

Well, it could technically be of help under low-visibility conditions. Also, it can possibly be of some assistance if you are one of the 50,000 private-hire drivers plying here.

Systems that help you keep in lane are not uncommon. But they are also mostly irritating and, occasionally, unnerving.

But the one in the E300 is different.

The Merc's system is easily the most mature one available today. It is not abrupt in the least and behaves almost like a human with decent driving skills.

This feature is an option, though, along with Air Body Control, an adaptive suspension system fitted in the test car. Together, they add another $16,000 to the car's price tag.

But even without them, the E300 is more than adequately equipped. It offers a blend of luxury and driveability that will surprise even those who are familiar with the E-class.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Almost like a human'. Print Edition | Subscribe