Must confess that I like the look of the new Mercedes-Benz E-class, wheeled out for the first time at the Detroit motor show this week.
It doesn’t jump out at you the way the svelte Jaguar XF does, but the taut-looking exterior and new detailing does have something else going for it – the visual solidity that used to typify all Mercedes-Benz models a couple of decades ago.
Granted, this factor alone won’t be enough to see the new E-class claw its way back to the top of the executive ladder, ahead of such accomplished rivals as the Jaguar XF, BMW 5-series and Audi A6. But you can bet on it being a good deal more competitive than the car it replaces.
And for the sake of potential customers in the UK (as well as Australia, Japan and all the other right-hand drive countries) I do hope Mercedes manages to cure the awful pedal placement of the outgoing E-class.
I’ve just spent a couple of weeks driving a right-hand-drive E280 CDI saloon around Sydney during a visit back home to see the relatives. The reaction when I first stepped in it was one of utter surprise. The offset of the brake and throttle pedals is dire and, coming from a company that prides itself on engineering, downright embarrassing.
While I soon got used to the throttle being mounted way over near the driver’s door, I never felt at ease with the brake pedal being placed a couple inches to the right of the centre of the steering wheel hub. You end up twisting your torso in knots simply to drive it. It’s enough to put you off the car completely.
Indeed, when the family proposed a trip down the east Australian coast, I left the E280 CDI sitting in the driveway and chose something else.
It’s all a long way from the left-hand drive E280 CDI, which I’ve previously described as one of the best long-distance cruisers you’re likely to ever come across.
With sales hard to come by right now, Mercedes can’t afford to get it so wrong again.