2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (E300) first drive review

It can steer for you, brake for you, it can even entertain you. Is the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class the smartest car on the road today?

By Mercedes’ reckoning, it is. As a rival for vehicles like the Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, Lexus GS, and Jaguar XF, the E-Class has its plate full just competing on virtues like interior comfort, fuel efficiency, and ride and handling.

It’s still a benchmark in that respect, now that’s it’s been completely revamped and restyled along the lines of the latest C-Class and S-Class sedans.

MORE: Read our 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class review

Where it goes the extra mile, is its full-on vault into the future of driving. Like the Tesla Model S, the new E-Class takes a big step toward piloted driving by knitting together sensors, cameras, and cruise control to give it an astonishing level of automation.

That’s not to say autonomous: though it’s on the spectrum of self-driving cars, the 2017 E-Class still requires a steady hand on the wheel, even if it’s only once in a while.

It is more advanced than even the range-topping S-Class, and it’s a big milestone on the road to the cars of the future.

Family drama

First things first. Before technology take the stage, it’s worth taking a look at how different the E-Class has become.

With this complete redesign, the E-Class has become more beautiful than it’s been in a few generations. It’s an echo of the smaller C-Class that remains one of our highest-rated cars, but because the same themes play out on a longer wheelbase, the long-hood, short-trunk proportions seem to work even better.

MORE: Read MotorAuthority’s 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLC300 Coupe first drive review

The E-Class just looks more substantial and more elegant. In part, that’s due to the deep shoulder line that tapers the body and dips toward the rear wheels ahead of LED-ribbed taillights. Those lights have what Mercedes calls a stardust effect: a handsome, glittery finish that scatters and diffuses the light into a soft glow.

There are a few differences among the many versions of the new E-Class. Luxury versions come with an upright star on the hood. Sport versions like this one get that big logo embedded in the grille.

The cockpit is flat-out stunning. Like the other new Mercedes sedans, it wraps the passengers in sweeping touches of wood and metallic trim, studs that with cool round vents, and flaunts big, high-resolution screens for gauges and infotainment.

Among the highlights are a stitched leather cap to the dash, and warm ambient lighting on some models. It looks best when it’s set to soft white, warm gold, or cool blue; the ambiance goes a little more prom-night limo when it’s set to purple.

Technology makes a huge advance just in cockpit placement. The E-Class has a wide 12.3-inch screen as its standard infotainment display; most models can be ordered with a second identical display that replaces the gauge cluster. They’re both controlled by either a set of tap-and-swipe pads on the steering wheel, or by the touchpad and roller controller on the center console.

All that aside, the E-Class cabin is also a great place to be a passenger. Compared with the outgoing car, the new E-Class is 1.7 inches longer, at 193.8 inches long, and has a wheelbase 2.6 inches longer, at 115.7 inches long.

With grippy front sport seats and a back seat with almost 2 inches more space, the E-Class is a big sedan that doesn’t scrimp on interior space. The front buckets can be fitted with variable lumbar and massaging controls as well as ventilation, and a new package of fittings for driver and passenger warms the armrests and center console, as well as the steering wheel.

The rear seats have a middle-section split that offers a storage armrest with its own cupholders, and can be fitted with a tablet holder; there’s almost enough room for adults to cross a leg over a knee.

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