2024 Mercedes-Benz E-Class First Drive Review: Driven to distraction

2024 Mercedes-Benz E-Class First Drive Review: Driven to distraction

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AGOURA HILLS, Calif – The list of advanced driver assist systems available in the all-new 2024 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is roughly longer than the entire list of every feature in a 190E from 1990. Don’t worry, I’m not going to list them (snooze), but it’s definitely a good thing they’re present to prevent you from drifting into the path of 18-wheelers because the rest of this state-of-the-art Benz seems intent on distracting the hell out of you.

There’s the new “Superscreen,” the slightly less screeny sibling of the EQS “Hyperscreen.” In its Superest form, it boasts multiple layouts for Mercedes’ new 3D instrument panel, a well-sorted landscape-oriented main touchscreen and a passenger-side screen that doubles as dash art when no passenger is present to futz about with it (and possibly barf upon it should they pay too much attention on a winding road, just a warning). There’s 64-color “active” ambient lighting arcing around the dash with multi-color presets that subtly change as you drive along, or a new innovation, pulse with the beat of the music playing. This "Sound Visualization" function also responds to people talking on apodcast, which is amusing. That music can be played through a magnificent Burmester 4D surround sound system, complete with Dolby Atmos. The “4D” bit refers to subwoofers in the front seats (that can massage you, by the way) with bass intensity that can be adjusted on a scale of 1 to 10. If you dislike shaky vision, I’d steer clear of 10, but after five days on level 4, I have a sneaking suspicion every other car’s system will be a bit underwhelming. Oh, and the entire car is a shrine of silence, removing you further from the world around its ADAS-protected confines.

No doubt, some of you reading this are rolling your eyes, thinking Mercedes has lost the plot, and wondering why I’m not talking about the sweet mild-hybrid inline-six that returned 34 mpg on a highway journey despite pumping out 375 horsepower. Or the new rear-axle steering system that improves the big E’s agility around tight corners, or the height-adjustable, adaptive air suspension that does a bang-up job of providing classic Benz waft when you want it and modern Benz precision when you want that. There’s definitely no shortage of things to talk about in regards to how this next-generation E-Class drives.


And yet, when we’re talking about luxury cars these days, it’s quite obvious that the quality of show the car puts on is of paramount importance to the people who buy them. As much as we romanticize grand tours of stunning vistas while enjoying the sensations provided by a great automobile (which the 2024 Mercedes E-Class is, by the way), the reality is gridlock on a Thursday or driving two miles to dinner with the Goldbergs on Saturday. The “show” does matter. The distraction does matter. And yes, the vast safety net matters, too, even if you’re inclined to uncheck a few nanny boxes.

Whether you consider the above features “show” or “distraction,” some have admittedly been seen before, especially in the EQS. However, there are genuine innovations, making this E-Class seem a bit more relevant than the last generation that seemed to adopt more from the S above and C below in terms of features and design. This one is more of its own thing, not unlike past generations. Many of those innovations were mentioned above, but there are more. The new “Routines” function lets you create programs like a “Date Night,” for instance, that plays a certain playlist and changes the interior lighting to pink, or that automatically performs a series of actions if certain conditions are met: “Turn on the heated seats and set ambient lighting to red if the temperature is below 50 degrees.” In the future, Mercedes intends for AI to come up with such routines for you.

Don’t worry, it gets even more HAL 9000. Perhaps the most 2024 innovation of them all is a camera sprouting from the dash, not unlike a Porsche’s SportChrono clock, intended for in-car WebEx meetings or shooting TikToks. You mercifully cannot use it while driving and users must grant the car permission to turn it on. Mercedes says it will not activate without driver knowledge or consent, but that doesn’t mean having a digital eyeball constantly staring back at you isn’t a bit unnerving.

From a traditional luxury car standpoint, the new E-Class cabin boasts beautiful materials and a cleaner design than before that creates the sensation of a lower dashboard. The airvents in particular are lovely in appearance and execution, with little direction knobs that pleasingly click at center. You can keep your silly touchscreen-controlled vents, thank you. The Superscreen is shown in the attached pictures, but without that option checked and therefore without the dubiously useful passenger screen, all that piano black screen surround is replaced by one of several beautiful trim choices, including a snazzy wood trim with backlit Mercedes stars. You can also get the full-O-stars grille fully illuminated, too. Seriously, Mercedes-Benz sure loves themselves the wonders of LED lighting. So do 3-year-old boys. Ask me how I know.