I have always been a little suspicious of modified cars – you never really know if the modifications have been carried out to a high standard. But what if the vehicle is a new Mercedes and the tuner is Brabus? Now that conjures up a very different image.
The opportunity to drive a new Mercedes with an enviable list of Brabus tuning extras sounded too good to be true. For any self-confessed petrol head, the Brabus name is and always has been associated with high-quality well-engineered tuning products.
Founded in 1977 by Bodo Buschman, Brabus has grown into one of the worldâ€™s largest tuning companies. Recognised as an official supplier to Mercedes Benz, it manufactures a bespoke range of tuning and styling products for the complete Mercedes range.
What better way to brighten a wet Tuesday than to collect the keys of a new automatic E320 CDI, my transport for the afternoon. Without the modifications, the E Class boasted an impressive specification: sports pack; leather; electric heated seats with memory; Parctronic; Command Sat Nav; and mobile phone connection. With a price tag of Â£44,095, the question in my mind – as it probably is in yours – is how do you improve a Mercedes?
The Brabus extras list looked equally impressive: full body styling kit, including illuminated side skirts; 20-inch Monoblock alloy wheels; illuminated stainless steel entry panels; four-port stainless steel exhaust system; engine performance upgrade (48bhp); and velour floor mats.
The upgrade adds Â£13,860 to the bottom line and, aesthetically at least, I would say that the extra expenditure translates into a genuine improvement on the manufacturerâ€™s original concept. Cloaked in metallic black, the body modifications gives the E Class a distinctive look – sleeker and perhaps a little menacing compared to its standard counterpart. The wheels are detailed, sculptured and look fantastic, but, at Â£4,795, I felt a little too racey for the E Class body style.
The Mercedes coped admirably with the wet wintry Bedfordshire roads. My first impressions were of the engine performance – lots of low down torque from the V6 turbo-charged diesel but seamless in its delivery and not a hint of turbo lag.
The intervention of the traction control from a standing start helped to curb my enthusiasm on the wet roads, a micro processed reminder of the vehicleâ€™s capabilities. In comparison, I felt the 50mph to 70mph acceleration could have been a little sharper. Itâ€™s a subjective view but worth mentioning because, without the standard vehicle as a bench mark, it is difficult to gauge the true worth of the engine mapping and performance exhaust. That said, the engine tune does not increase emissions or reduce fuel efficiency and offers impressive performance for a large vehicle.
The brakes are very reassuring, stopping the vehicle promptly without fuss from 70mph. With such large low-profile tyres I expected the car to feel every bump and stone in the road but that was not the case. Although the steering felt a little vague around the straight-ahead position, on the motorway the E Class tracked arrow straight – none of those small subliminal adjustments to keep you in the centre of your lane, adding to fatigue on a long journey.
Once the door is closed the Avant Garde trim specification offers an isolated comfortable driving environment, functional and high-quality with lots of soft touch materials and nice chrome detailing. The leather trim with white stitching gave the seats a sporty look. I enjoyed the visibility, particularly that offered by the A pillars. The current generation of vehicles, whoever the manufacturer, often have very wide windscreen pillars. These can hide unsuspecting motorcyclists and smaller vehicles, especially when negotiating junctions. The E Class scores well in this area.
For the price I can think of several competitors against which to pitch the Brabus E Class and, for me, the value is in the choice of a list of enviable modifications all backed by a dealer warranty. An opportunity to stylise my car over and above the normal dealer offerings, to my taste and budget, sounds good to me.
Car supplied by Mercedes-Benz of Milton Keynes
For more information, visit www.catdrivertraining.co.uk