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Autonomous cars soon won't be a dream, but not everyone is convinced they will lead to safer roads and a lower road toll.Look, no hands! Richard Berry road tests and reviews the 2016 Mercedes-Benz E200 and E220d with specs, fuel consumption and verdict at their Australian launch.Even if you don’t drive a Mercedes-Benz, you kind of do. Sometimes it's nice to spend time in a car that has a cult following such that the company that sells them doesn't seem especially bothered by the expense of a relatively low-volume proposition.
The new A6 allroad quattro does what the previous models did – quiet, refined cruising with a smattering of off-road capability without the me-tooness of an SUV. BMW's 4 Gran Coupe has an excellent balance between practicality and sportiness, all with a nice dash of style. At almost $84,000 on the road ($85,000 if you want one with a tow bar), the Everest is comfortably at the summit of the Blue Oval price range.Ford argues that the big off-roader is good value when compared with a Toyota Prado but fails to mention that it is roughly $25,000 more than the competing Holden and Mitsubishi. You see Mercedes-Benz has pioneered so many innovations that are now found in every new car.
It’s the first few less-than-perfect steps towards what we’ll take for granted in the future.
The Audi A6 allroad quattro is one of those cars and Audi freely admits that its customers are rusted on (which might explain the allroad-exclusive brown hue available as an option). The allroad quattro won't ever threaten the Q7 for sales but is here for a hard-core fan-base that buys them at a rate of a few hundred per year.It's not the cheapest option for your mild off-roading needs, but it's a road-crushing cruiser, with tons of space for the family and their things.
BMW's Gran Coupe is an exception as it provides good interior space and makes an excellent long distance cruiser. In the Bavarian marque's range the all-new 4 Series Gran Coupe joins the three-door 4 Series Coupe (without the Gran) to further extend the choice of midsize BMW models STYLINGThe 4 Series Gran Coupe uses the current BMW full-width theme of joining the headlights to the grille to visually maximise the width.
Which brings us to the $85,000 question — is it worth the outlay?DesignFord has done an excellent job of distancing the Everest from the Ranger working ute it's based on. There’s anti-locking brakes, independent suspension, the multivalve engine, traction and stability control. As for the cars themselves, while we haven’t driven the E350d, the E200 and E220d with their extensive list of standard features including the self-driving tech along with the high level of refinement and safety make them excellent value for money at this price.We're now on the road to autonomous driving, but this raises many questions about safety, regulations and even ethics. So, if you're even slightly interested, it might be an idea to make an appointment with your BMW dealer quickly because global demand is very high. Some of its rivals look like utes with a roof tacked on but the Everest looks as if it was built from the beginning as a wagon.Inside, there's evidence that the Everest starts life as a considerably cheaper workhorse. All these milestones came after Mercedes-Benz invented the first diesel car, the first electric car, and that’s right it patented the first car, too.As for the new cars we’ll all be driving in the future they will start to become partially automated, they’ll see the road not as the long black bit with white lines, but how you do – recognising trees, buildings, other cars and people and where it fits safely in there. There are plenty of hard plastic surfaces on the door trims and centre console, although the fake stitched leather finish on the dash lifts the tone a little, as does the soft blue ambient lighting that fills the cabin at night.The centre screen and instrument panel have a hi-tech feel and are refreshingly easy to navigate. Individual options include Bose-branded surround sound ($1950), matrix LED headlights ($2300), panoramic sunroof ($2980), full body paint (ie painted plastic on the wheelarches for $1450) and load-securing kit for $380.DESIGNThe new allroad quattro brings the sheetmetal into line with the recently updated A6 with a bit of TT thrown in. There is a full order book for the 447kW W12 until 2017 so there's no rush to bring the others online just yet.The 12-cylinder engine is 90 per cent new and 30kg lighter than the predecessor. If you're looking for drama, you've come to the wrong place – it's a study in restraint and keeping it cool. Its revised internal lubrication prevents surge and collects oil from the turbos when it's on extreme angles. There is a digital readout on either side of the central speedo and these can be configured for myriad displays.Ford is good at making cabins family-friendly and this is no exceptionOne side shows satnav, music library and phonebook and the other trip information plus special off-road aids.
The main external changes are limited to tweaked headlights and other easily-changed bits and pieces.

Yet it’s not the fastest Mercedes or the most luxurious and in terms of its price it lives in the more affordable mid-point of the Benz line-up.The range is arriving in Australia in a couple of waves.
The allroad is distinguished by vertical grille slats, unique bumper, unpainted wheel-arch and sill extensions and unique tailpipes.The new A6 allroad quattro does what the previous models did – quiet, refined cruising with a smattering of off-road capability without the me-tooness of an SUV.
Peak torque of 900Nm from just 1350rpm and a range of driving modes — now becoming the norm for all-terrain vehicles — will churn through the soft or tough stuff.The Bentayga's eight modes of drive dynamics fit within what's known as "Charisma", with the ability to tackle snow, wet grass, sand, mud, gravel, comfort, sport.
An adult or taller teen could ride in the third row on a short journey, although headroom is a bit tight.The iPhone and laptop generation is well catered for with four 12-volt outlets, two USB ports and a household power point. The E200, E220d and E350d sedans have touched down first and later this year the E300 and E400 sedans will arrive along with the hard-core Mercedes-AMG E43.DesignThe E-Class has now taken on Benz’s new family saloon shape and despite it looking sleeker and slipperier than a soapy eel it also looks just like a bigger C-Class or a smaller S-Class.
Ford is good at making cabins family-friendly — note the Territory — and this is no exception.About townIf the cabin is lacking a little in finesse, the Everest makes up for it in driver aids for negotiating the rush-hour traffic.
It can automatically guide you into a parallel park, watch your blind spot, warn you if you're drifting out of your lane and slam on the brakes at low speed to avoid that rear-ender in the traffic.The reversing camera readout is clear and there are guidelines for the dummies. See, you don’t have to be ugly to be green.Stretching 4923mm snout to tail the new E-Class is 43mm longer than the previous generation and a hair’s width lower and narrower.
The satnav warns of school zones and has real-time traffic alerts, although they can be a little too frequent and unnecessary — do you really need telling every 30 seconds that there's traffic up ahead?The suspension soaks up bumps and road imperfections with little fussThe Everest is a comfortable way of negotiating the urban sprawl.
The big change is to the wheel base – at 2939mm there’s an extra 65 mm in it now.The E-Class’s body shell is made from aluminium and ultra-high strength steel – Benz says this makes the car’s structure more rigid which will help it handle better and improve NVH.
As is Audi's wont, the materials are first rate and there isn't a mismatched bit of plastic front to rear.
The suspension soaks up bumps and road imperfections with little fuss while the steering is light enough for negotiating tight U-turns and carparks.As with all big off-road wagons it can feel somewhat large and clumsy around town and the telltale diesel rattle is a constant at low speeds.
Aluminium front guards, bonnet and boot lid reduce weight which should equal better fuel efficiency, too.The cabin is frankly beautiful, from the ‘digital cockpit screens’ and the way the driver and front passenger are cocooned separately away in their plush seats to how the interior trim flows around the occupants complete with ambient LED lighting. The aluminium look trim is good, the wood slightly less successful, but as always, that's a matter of taste.The new car's dash now features a full colour display between the dials which can be switched according to taste. Rear legroom is fine so four adults of average size can cruise long distances in comfort. The 428i engine has plenty of torque from low revs and is silky smooth all the way through the range. There's no fuel-saving stop-start technology so fuel consumption will head for the mid-teens in heavy traffic.On the roadThe Everest is surprisingly capable and composed on the open road. It’s like an immersion tank on wheels.PracticalityThat increase in wheelbase base has made a real impact on cabin space with an extra 6mm of knee room. It will lean in corners, the steering is a little vague but it is the least truck-like of all the vehicles in this class.It doesn't want to skip sideways when it hits a mid-corner bump, nor will it jiggle around on corrugated surfaces.
As far as comfort and cornering ability go, it's up with the best of this breed.The diesel has lots of grunt for towing and freeway overtaking and the diesel clatter is less noticeable on the freeway where it purrs along at low revs. You’ll find bottle holders in all doors, two cup holders in the fold-down rear centre armrest and another two up front in the centre console.Connecting an iPhone was easy through Bluetooth, Apple Carplay worked perfectly, too. Power and torque are both up in the new model, with 160 kW and 500 Nm to drive all four wheels. Feedback through the steering wheel and the driver's backside is excellent.Noise and vibration are generally well insulated from the interior, though some of the coarse-chip surfaces we encountered did challenge the BMW's suspension at times. It's well equipped for the great outback trek, too, with 3000kg towing capacity, 800mm wading depth and good clearance for offroading. There’s Qi charging which works with many Android phones but not iPhones.The swipe controls on the steering wheel are excellent for flicking through the media menus, but I’m not a massive fan of the controller dial on the centre console.

Owners would become used to it, but I didn’t take to it as naturally as those offered on other makes.Price and FeaturesThe E-Class range kicks off with the petrol-powered E200 for $89,900, a $2000 hike on the entry fee into the line-up.
Its diesel brother is the $92,900 E220d and that’s a $10,000 leap up from its previous price. Our quick-fire trip to the Northern Territory saw a bit of lowly-trafficked Darwin roads before blasting out onto the Stuart Highway to the south. Up to and including that speed, the allroad quattro was quiet and impeccably composed.On the red dirt and gravel, the underbody appears to be well insulated as there was none of the expected pinging and ponging of stones.
Part of the A6's quietness is down to a refined engine and transmission while acoustic glass dampens the sound of large and unfortunate insects meeting their end on the windscreen as well as general wind and ambient noise.There are five driving modes – dynamic, automatic, comfort and lift. Lift uses the air suspension to bring the A6 up to 185mm off the deck, allroad mode reduces that to 175mm.
Comfort and dynamic drop further, to 140mm and 125mm respectively.The allroad quattro's drivetrain does have a bit of fun built in. I’m not going to lie to you and say that I didn’t try to put the E220d into self-driving mode immediately.
I did.The last E-Class could steer itself by looking at the lines painted on the road, but the hugely improved new system now knows a road is more than just lines and has been taught to recognise people, other cars, trees and signs. The quattro sport differential also adds to the potential mischief with torque vectoring across the rear axle to help quell the inevitable understeer.We didn't do a lot of cornering, but long fast sweeping bends were no problem at all and the few corners we did tackle confirmed our suspicions – heavy car, mild understeer, no drama. To do it, you just put the indicator on while the car is in self-driving mode – if the coast is clear it’ll coast across and continue in the next lane.If the cars ahead come to a halt the E-class will too, and move away when the traffic starts flowing again. And if the drongo in the cab beside you starts to wander out of his lane and into yours the E-Class will see it and move away from him as it did later in the day coming back to the airport.It can perform these amazing feats thanks to the two cameras on the windscreen which can see 250m ahead and the radars positioned at the front and rear of the car which can ‘feel’ up to 500m ahead, 80m behind and 40m out to the sides. There are no blind spots, it doesn’t miss a thing.It means that if as you approach a green light at an intersection somebody flies through their red light the E-Class, which will have already been tracking them, will hit the brakes to avoid the collision. If there is a collision another new feature is the cushion which will push the driver or front passenger away from the door in the split second before the impact.Mercedes-Benz is keen to point out that the E-Class is not an autonomous vehicle, ‘partially automated’ is the preferred term and it’s true because while the car can steer itself and make decisions it needs supervision.
Tight corners for example are too difficult for it to handle and it’ll tell you that it needs your help to get through them.So what’s the E220d like to actually drive?
The ride even without the air suspension that comes standard on higher variants is excellent and so is the handling –there’s a tautness in the body and which gives the E-Class a flingable feel.That four-cylinder diesel can be a bit noisy and even though I missed its torque when I left it for the petrol E200 I didn’t miss the noise. The E200 does have the same shove as the E220, but it’s serenely quiet with identical ride and handling.
Steering does feel a little artificial and disconnected, but its weighted well and accurate.
The larger wheels and lower profile tyres do make the ride firmer that’s for sure, but it’s not uncomfortable more like you’re wearing running shoes and not Ugg boots any more.
The only other noticeable difference is the seats which grip you fairly tightly.SafetyWhile it’s yet to be given an ANCAP rating, it’s hard to think of a safer car. The entire vehicle is a safety feature, not just for the occupants but for everybody around it. Apart from the AEB and automated functions including crosswind assistance, there’s also nine airbags.OwnershipThe E-Class is covered by Mercedes-Benz’s three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.

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