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The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is arguably the benchmark of “making it” in life. It’s the car that your mother (or mother-in-law) hopes you’ll drive back to the kampung one day. For the longest time the E-Class in Malaysia consisted of the E200K and E280, but with the recently introduced E230 to fill in the large gap between the E200K and E280, Mercedes-Benz Malaysia found themselves some room to fiddle around with the E280 specs abit. The result is this new model – the Mercedes-Benz E280 AMG Sports Package.

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The facelifted W211 E-Class sports over 2,000 improvements over the pre-facelift. In Malaysia, the E280 is the most powerful and most expensive non-AMG E-Class you can buy. The AMG Sports Package also gives it an aesthetics premium over the rest of the E-Class range, featuring AMG front and rear bumpers, large 18 inch 5-spoke AMG alloy wheels, an AMG exhaust system and various AMG goodies on the interior including stainless steel pedals and footrest, an AMG Sports steering wheel with paddle shifts and a fully black interior.

I didn’t really like how the facelifted W211 looked as compared to the perfect pre-facelift version as it looked like it carried design cues from two different eras and thus looked a little confused and messy, but with the AMG styling kit everything just kinda gels together perfectly. Behind the front two AMG wheels hide some nice-looking cross-drilled brakes that do rather well in stopping the car with minimal body dive.

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Despite there being AMG parts all over the car the AMG badge is missing from the rear as it is reserved for real AMG cars. After all, the official name for this car is the Mercedes-Benz E280 AMG Sports Package. That means E280 with “AMG Sports Package”, not “E280 AMG” with Sports Package.

The highlight of the car is the silky smooth M272 3.0 litre V6 engine paired with the in-house 7G-Tronic transmission. It produces 231hp at 6,000rpm and 300Nm of torque between 2,500rpm to 5,000rpm, with a high compression ratio of 11.3:0 despite not having direct injection. This drivetrain combo was made for the E-Class and the E-Class for it.

The engine starts off from idle quietly and smoothly, then builds up a noticable amount of torque for a normally aspirated engine accompanied by a slight addictive rumble as it passes the 2,000 RPM mark. By the time the rev needle passes about 3,800 RPM the engine tone changes slightly but noticably in pitch and loudness. Progress is much more urgent at this point.

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Most of the time the car feels like it has all the power you could ever need, but there are times during the engine’s “lazy” rev ranges where you’re waiting a wee bit too long for the revs to rise enough to make decent progress. Despite the engine having 300Nm from 2,500rpm onwards it certainly does not have the massive shove of a force inducted engine.

I find that this feeling occurs the most when you want the car to move along with slight urgency but still want to keep the drive relatively relaxed. You’re pressing the throttle down by quite some margin but you’re not gunning the throttle down enough for a downshift so the engine isn’t in quite the right gear. But past the 5,000rpm mark the engine becomes very urgent, losing the slight lazy feeling the smooth engine has at any point below that mark.

Then comes the shift. The 7G-Tronic gearbox has three shift modes – C for Comfort, S for Sport and M for Manual. I recommend leaving this in S most of the time. Even at full throttle and full torque from first to second gear the gearbox manages to keep the shift very smooth. In Comfort mode the shifts take just too long and you get a slightly floaty sensation as the automatic transmission’s internal clutches are kept slipping most of the time between gears.

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M mode is something else altogether. Shifts in this mode are really quick, not very smooth (in a good way… feels sporty) and the car lurches forwards with every gear. In this driving mode you almost forget that you’re driving a large D-segment luxury sedan. You can shift either via the paddles on the AMG Sports steering wheel or the gear lever, although I wouldn’t recommend the gear lever as upshift and downshifts are done by pushing the lever left and right rather than the usual front and back… it’s abit unnatural.

The suspension system is not from AMG but is instead the sports suspension setup that comes with the Avantgarde equipment level, as opposed to the more comfort oriented setup in the Classic and Elegance lines. Nevertheless it provides impressive balanced poise through the bends, although sudden maneuvers during a bend can cause the rear to bounce around and cause some pull on the steering wheel, you still feel very much in control of the car.

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You are very much aware of the huge mass you are commandeering – unlike the 5-Series the car does not feel smaller than it is when it comes to handling. You also lose a little of that amazing way the Elegance/Classic spec suspension tackles bumps and road irregularities but it still manages to strike a good balance between handling and straight-line comfort in a way that the E60 5-Series without the M-Sport suspension option should have achieved. Comparing the BMW E60 and the W211 with Avantgarde sports suspension I’d pick the BMW E60 if driving experience was the most important to me but the Avantgarde suspension strikes a better balance.

There is surprisingly a noticable amount of wind and road noise at speeds above 140km/h. I had expected more sound proofing from a Mercedes-Benz, but the car is quite serene below that. The audio system is above average and I don’t think anyone would find fault with it or ever want to change it. Treble, bass and clarity is good up to high volumes. It sounds better as it gets louder. The way the CD changer pops out still amuses me after so long – press a button near the hazard light button and the whole panel lifts up, and the CD changer slides out.

E280 AMGMercedes-Benz recommends a temperature setting of 22 degrees Celcius for the climate control system but you’re going to be tempted to turn it down to the coldest setting thanks to the ineffectiveness of the car’s windows and windscreen to block out heat. Tinting is a must with this car. The panoramic sunroof doesn’t help either, but at least you can close them up with a canvas cover. The panoramic glass works wonderfully on a bright night combined with the interior ambient lighting.

The interior looks very welcoming with a mesh of shades of orange (from the interior ambient lights) and blue (from the bright night sky shining through the roof) painted on the interior’s black leather and dash canvas. Rear legroom is more than enough to be a chauffeur-driven car, and there are air cond vents both in the middle of the two front seats and on the B-pillars.

E280 AMGThe car’s xenon headlamps can swivel left and right according to your car steering position and they rise from a fully dipped position when you turn the car on – it’s nice touches like this that make you feel like you’re in a car packed full of technology. The LCD panel you see on the dash and the buttons flanking it allows you to control various options of the in-car navigation system and entertainment system. There is also a DVD player that uses the LCD panel but it doesn’t work when the car is on the go so forget about keeping the kids entertained while you focus on getting to your destination. However apparently there is a third party device that allows you to bypass this safety feature. A service center equipped with a star Diagnostics computer can also turn the feature on for certain models, but I am not sure whether its possible with the W211.

I found that the COMAND APS navigation system’s maps aren’t really up to date. It thinks my entire housing area in Cheras is a field of grass. No problems with my housing area with BMW’s iDrive Navigation, Garmin Malsingmaps or my Nokia E90’s Nokia Maps. Your mileage may vary – you may be lucky enough to be only wanting to go to places that are registered in the COMAND APS maps.

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The good news is you can key in your addresses easily using the LINGUATRONIC system, which allows you to control certain functions of the car with your voice. Simply pull the LINGUATRONIC stalk on the top right of the steering column and speak out the command and spell out your addresses. I was able to use the LINGUATRONIC system immediately without requiring any retraining to suit my voice. You can also use LINGUATRONIC to control all the functions of the COMAND APS system including selecting radio frequencies, storing radio stations and so on.

E280 AMGThe COMAND APS system’s navigation module can also show your current location without being in route guidance mode. I like how you can set it to show the road you are current on in text form as well as the direction you are going (North, South, South-West etc) on the multi-info display in the middle of the speedometer.

The car also has some customisation options. You can set whether the wing mirrors fold in and out automatically on ignition off and on, whether the headlamps are on permanently regardless of setting, whether the swivel function is turned on or not, the brightness of the interior ambient lighting, you can also set whether the multi-info display shows external temperature or a digital speedometer among other various displays. Headlamps are automatic and so is the windscreen wipers.

E280 AMGThere are way too many W211 E-Class on the road now to the point that perhaps it is getting a bit boring, but there are solid reasons for this as the car truly feels and behaves like a luxury car should, apart from this particular model getting abit noisy at high speeds. From the smoothness of the drive to the interior ambiance… it’s just the way the car feels as a whole. The AMG Sports pack, black roof and black interior lends the E-Class a bad boy (or bad uncle?) image and allows it to stand out from the rest of its standard silver E-Class siblings.

Mercedes-Benz E-Class W211 Facelift Prices:

W211 E200K – RM 353,888.00
W211 E230 – RM 398,888.00
W211 E280 – RM 423,888.00
W211 E280 AMG – RM 438,888.00

Story by Paul Tan, photos by Leong Tik Tsin