This Mercedes E-Class Facelift Is More Important Than You Think

Ten years ago – or even five years ago – the Mercedes-Benz E-Class facelift would have been a bit of a yawn. After all, the powertrain has not changed a bit. It still packs the turbocharged 2.0-litre inline-four, mated to the same nine-speed automatic transmission. Sure, the styling’s been tweaked a bit, and the taillights are now two-piece, but it’s not exactly a compelling reason to rush out and stand in line for one.

But it’s not 2013 anymore. We live in a time where automotive platforms are expected to last close to a decade while flagship smartphones come out every other year. The mid-life technological refresh can be incredibly impactful. This is proven by the refreshed E-Class, which has as the centrepiece of its facelift the latest in the brand’s own MBUX operating system.

MBUX primarily makes itself felt through its twin 12.3-inch widescreens: one for the centre console, and one for the instrument cluster. The façade that joins the two is seamless, making for a prominent black glass expanse that suits the car’s high-tech luxury aesthetic.

It is not so much the functions of MBUX that impresses – navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and various bits and bobs like seat positioning, climate control and ambient lighting are all par for the course. Rather, it is in how it feels. It could be its snappy response, quicker than we’re used to for the automotive industry. It could be its swipe-accommodating nature, or its intuitive menu structure. It feels – well, a little bit like a smartphone.

It also gives you options. There are no fewer than three ways to manipulate the centre screen: via its touch-sensitive screen (which is noticeably more alert to the fingertips than some other setups), the haptic-feedback touchpad in the centre divider, or the small thumb touchpad on the left side of the steering wheel. This is not overkill, as everyone has their preferences, or even uses for all three. You may, for example, be okay with peering at the touchscreen and reaching out to type while parked, while preferring the centre divider’s touchpad to check on the map while stopped briefly at a traffic light, and for changing radio stations while highway cruising – that’s what the thumb pad on the steering wheel is for. There’s four ways if you count the buttons – real buttons – on the centre console for the most important menus and traditional climate controls, and five if you count voice control – but let’s not count that for now, because MBUX still has a way to go where that’s concerned.

The displays give options, too. It isn’t quite fully customisable, but it’s certainly more customisable than we’re used to. It’s especially evident in the instrument cluster, which can be controlled by the thumb touchpad on the right side of the steering wheel. The display, encompassing and legible enough to make you forget about the lack of head-up display, is divided into three. Want a large, digital indicator for speed, an analogue-emulating rev counter and a supplementary map? You can have that. Want to hide the revs away, and instead have the radio stations and trip meter in view? You can have that too.

The responsiveness, intuitiveness, and customisability of the MBUX operating system really make the E-Class feel like a true 21st century machine – and this is before you take into account features such as the phone app, which now includes security monitoring, the various safety and driver assistance features – the higher-end E 300 AMG variant (about RM375,000 with sales tax exemption) has the full suite including dynamic cruise control, and active blind spot and lane-keeping assistance.

The facelift comes at a very opportune time for the E-Class. It is now in its fifth generation as the W213 platform, which debuted in 2016. The E-Class name has been around for much longer than that – decades, even, since the early 1990s – but Mercedes-Benz has apparently no issue with keeping it relevant to today’s high-tech world. With this refresh, it may even be the most technologically complete vehicle in its class, for now at least.


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