What is it?
The Mercedes E-class as you know it – but with an extra 140mm of wheelbase, in an effort to seize market share in the only country where it will be sold, China.
Long wheelbase cars are big business in China, and Mercedes is entering the market to battle with BMW (extended 5-series) and Audi (extended A6) to capture buyers seeking the exclusivity of a stretched car built by a European prestige manufacturer.
Underlining just how seriously Mercedes is taking this car is the fact that it began working on it 47 months before its launch – and just 15 months into the development cycle of the standard E-class. It is the first time Mercedes has developed a model for a single country – although there is a possibility it will be sold in other Eastern Asian countries at a later date.
The car will be built at Mercedes’s Chinese JV plant in Beijing and goes on sale this month. It will sell alongside the standard E-class, which is imported into China and has sold well itself in the first quarter of 2010.
What’s it like?
The extended wheelbase is 3014mm – taking it extremely close to the to S-Class’s 3165mm. The extra space is focused on the rear, and it makes the back extremely spacious.
The body is also 15mm higher than normal version, 10mm of which comes from bigger wheels and tires, another 5mm comes from stiffer suspension. A higher ground clearance is a must for the road condition in the Chinese countryside. Despite this, the turning circle is the same as the standard car’s.
Two powertrains are available, a supercharged 203bhp 1.8 linked to a five-speed auto or a 244bhp 3.0-litre V6 with a seven-speed automatic ’box .
Both produce similar levels of performance, sweeping the car along with good pace (the 1.8 accelerates to 62mph from a standstill in 8.6sec, the 3.0 in 8.6sec) and refinement. Elsewhere, the car retains all the standard E-class attributes.
The Mercedes E300L is only available in the range-topping Avant Garde trim level. This means it is well kitted out as standard, with the focus on enhancing the rear seat experience – for instance, the rear seats are electrically powered, and there is a full DVD entertainment system.
Should I buy one?
If you live in China and are in the market for such a car, then you certainly should consider it alongside the obvious rivals. This is a luxurious car in standard form, and the extra rear space only enhances the experience of travelling in it.