The new E-Class has a body that is extremely stable and protects occupants well. But impact forces fed through to front occupants’ chests were on the high side despite dual-stage load limiters fitted to the seat belts. The E-class also has intelligent belt reminders for front occupants. Protection for children was good and the restraints met almost every Euro NCAP performance standard. But the E-class did not protect pedestrians properly.
The frontal airbags inflate in two stages to increase protection in severe accidents. Information from a special weight sensor fitted to the passenger seat is also used to tune the aggressiveness of the passenger airbag. These systems, the stable body and the lack of movement from the steering column provide a safe environment for the driver. There has been much design effort to increase protection for the driver’s knees and upper legs. So it is unfortunate that contact with the fascia in front of the driver’s left knee and glove box area for the passenger’s knees increased the risk of injury. The footwell suffered little intrusion from the impact. Finally, the centre rear seat has a three-point belt that is much safer than a lap-only type.
Protection system fitted as standard includes a thorax side airbag and a head curtain airbag for front and rear occupants. It is impressive. However, in the initial pole test, trim came adrift from the door pillar and interfered with the correct deployment of the curtain. The trim fixing arrangement was modified and was fine when re-tested.
A label in German and English explained the risk of serious injury or death if a child is in a rear-facing restraint opposite an airbag, but the label was not permanent. Both restraints used were forward facing and were secured using the car’s belts. Two-point ISOFIX mountings on the rear seats are available as optional equipment but were not fitted to the test car. The restraints protected well throughout and only the chest load on the older child fell outside the best performance limit. Mercedes child seats have transponders which sense if a restraint is placed on the front passenger seat and turns off the airbag.
The front of the car was very stiff but a few points on the bonnet gave protection; a dismal performance.