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The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is arguably Stuttgart’s most important model. Despite the brand’s massive lineup expansion – which includes a recent downward trend with the A-Class, B-Class, CLA and GLA compact cars – this mainstay of the executive segment remains its traditional centre. It is perhaps the car Mercedes is most identified by, along with the flagship S-Class.

Now, there’s a new one, and to illustrate how far the W213 model moves the game on, we’ve pitted it against the previous-generation W212 in facelifted guise. And yes, in case you were wondering, this Cavansite Blue W212 E 250 Avantgarde belongs to none other than our very own Harvinder Singh.

Despite carrying an E 200 badge, this particular fully-imported (CBU) W213 looks nothing like the E 200 Avantgarde that we officially get here. That’s because this is one of the few advance units of the E 200, specified with all the equipment and goodies of the E 300 AMG Line, which we’ll get to later. It’s priced at RM415,888 on-the-road without insurance, RM20,000 more expensive than the E 200 Avantgarde.

Want one? You’d better hurry, as only very limited units are available. After those are sold out, you’ll have to wait for the actual E 300 – the range-topping model should arrive on our shores in November, with pricing to be revealed closer to the market launch.

So, how do the past and present compare? Let’s start with the looks – the W212 is unique in that it was caught in two very different design eras for Mercedes. When the car debuted in 2009 it was one of the most polarising examples of the brand’s then ultra-boxy styling language, with squared-off quad headlights and very defined rear fender flares that recalled the “Ponton” W120 and W121 models of the ’50s.

By the time the facelifted model arrived in 2013, however, the company had already switched to a much more rounded aesthetic shown on the W222 S-Class, and the E-Class was given a significant facelift in an attempt to fall in line. It was so significant, in fact, that at the time Mercedes dubbed the exercise the “most significant model revision” it had ever undertaken.

As a result, the front end is significantly sleeker than before, with single piece headlights (adaptive LED Intelligent Light System units here), a sports grille with a centrally-mounted star on the Avantgarde model and a more organic bumper design.

By contrast, the rear has seen far fewer changes, limited to revised tail light graphics and a sportier rear valence with integrated exhaust exits. Put them all together and the end result appears a little disjointed, even after the characteristic fender flares have been smoothened out. Still, it’s a relatively handsome machine, especially in that fetching blue hue and sitting on two-tone 18-inch alloy wheels.

Being a clean-sheet design, the W213 suffers from none of those issues. The whole car bears more than a passing resemblance to the W205 C-Class, although the stretched proportions grant it a much more stately presence than is immediately apparent in photos.

Equipped with the full AMG exterior package and sitting on massive 19-inch AMG alloy wheels, the W213 looks a hell of a lot meaner than the W212 in Avantgarde trim, although it should be noted that the W212 E 400, E 300 BlueTEC Hybrid and runout “Edition E” E 250 models did come with the AMG kit as well.

The details on the W213 are more interesting too, with this particular car coming with second-generation Multibeam LED headlights. These feature 84 diodes that can be turned off individually, sectioning off parts of the high beam to avoid dazzling other motorists, allowing for full-time high-beam operation. The high-tech headlights are paired to the cool “stardust effect” LED tail lights, which use crystal optics and a special reflector surface structure to produce an impressive glittery look.

The gulf between the two cars gets even wider when you step inside. The W212’s boxy exterior styling carries over to the cabin, and the arrangement of buttons and displays are as traditional as they come. Ahead of the driver sit analogue gauges and a round three-spoke steering wheel, while a modest (by Mercedes’ current standards) seven-inch screen sits in the centre. The facelift introduced a three-tube instrument cluster, relocating the analogue clock to sit between the revised centre air vents.

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W212 Mercedes-Benz E 250 Avantgarde

After that, the W213 feels like a breath of fresh air, even if much of the interior has been seen in other Mercedes models. The upper environment is reminiscent of the W222 S-Class, with a wide, flat display panel – covering both the instrument cluster and the centre infotainment screen – as well as four circular centre air vents. Moving down, the entire centre console and transmission tunnel appears to have been lifted straight off the W205 C-Class, incorporating the new COMAND controller and touchpad.

The W213 E 200 AMG Line blows the W212 E 250 Avantgarde away in terms of kit and toys on offer. Both get Keyless Go, Artico faux leather dashboard wrapping, power-adjustable front seats with memory, triple-zone Thermotronic automatic climate control, the upgraded COMAND Online navigation system, rear sun blinds and a panoramic sliding sunroof, but there’s where the similarities end.

Sitting front and centre is the widescreen cockpit that features twin 12.3-inch 1,920×720 pixel displays. The centre screen displays the new COMAND interface, while the one ahead of the driver shows the virtual instrument cluster with three themes – Sport with twin yellow-on-black gauges, Classic with conventional white-on-black meters and Progressive with a centre rev counter, flanked by twin customisable displays.

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W213 Mercedes-Benz E 200 AMG Line

Other features include twin touchpads on the steering wheel that can control both the COMAND interface and the instrument display, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, a 590 W, 13-speaker Burmester surround sound system, a 360-degree camera system, a Qi wireless smartphone charger with NFC connectivity and handsfree bootlid opening, operable using a kick action under the rear bumper.

And while both the W212 and W213 get ambient lighting, the latter dispenses with the former’s paltry three colour choices for a whopping 64 hues, enabling you to bathe the interior in virtually any colour you choose. What a welcoming interior that is too, with sumptuous Nappa leather upholstery, classy carbon fibre-esque metal structure trim and an AMG interior styling pack that adds a flat-bottomed steering wheel, sports seats, metal sports pedals and AMG floor mats.

Safety-wise, the W213 adds a driver’s knee airbag to bring the total amount to seven airbags, and bumps up the W212’s Collision Prevention Assist system to Active Brake Assist, bringing forth autonomous emergency braking (AEB) in addition to collision warning. Attention Assist and Crosswind Assist are included as before, but while Parktronic parking assist is fitted as well, the W213 also gains rear cross-traffic alert. No Remote Parking Pilot, Drive Pilot or the Digital Car Key to be found on local cars, which is a shame.

W213 Mercedes-Benz E 200 AMG Line (left), W212 E 250 Avantgarde (right)

Amazingly, the same 2.0 litre M274 DE 20 AL turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder petrol engine powers both these cars, despite the differing generations and badging. Predictably, the W212 E 250 is the more powerful of the two, developing 211 hp at 5,500 rpm and 350 Nm of torque between 1,200 and 4,000 rpm. All that power is sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed 7G-Tronic Plus automatic transmission.

The W213 E 200 makes do with 184 hp and 300 Nm, but utilises the newer nine-speed 9G-Tronic gearbox. As such, the 0-100 km/h sprint is done in 7.7 seconds in the new car, just 0.3 seconds slower than the more powerful older model, while the top speed is only 3 km/h slower at 240 km/h. Weirdly, it does consume more fuel at 5.9 to 6.3 litres per 100 km combined, versus 5.8 to 6.1 on the old E 250.

Based on the same Modular Rear Architecture (MRA) as the W222 S-Class and W205 C-Class, the W213 measures 43 mm longer than the W212 at 4,923 mm, 2 mm narrower at 1,852 mm and 6 mm lower at 1,468 mm; the wheelbase is also 65 mm longer at 2,939 mm. As with the W212 E 250 Avantgarde, the W213 E 200 AMG Line sits on lower (by 15 mm) suspension – an Agility Control setup with passive selective damping.

What do you think – do you prefer the more traditional executive sedan that is the W212 E-Class, or would you rather drive the tech fest on wheels that is the W213? Sound off in the comments section after the jump.


GALLERY: W213 Mercedes-Benz E 200 AMG Line
GALLERY: W212 Mercedes-Benz E 250 Avantgarde