Rise of the machine

How much driver assistance does a human really need?

RYAN LEWIS

AFTER sinking my teeth into the E43 over the last few months, I genuinely have little to complain about, but there is a question Iíve been trying to answer: how much is the E43ís far-reaching driver-assistance tech really adding to my ownership experience?

The E-Class is one of the most advanced vehicles on the road, and thatís central to its sales pitch, but on a day-to-day basis only some of it has proven useful so far.

Benz stops short of using the term Ďselfdrivingí for its Drive Pilot systems because it gives customers the wrong idea about how much of their attention is required when the car is in control, and therein lies the rub: the answer is still Ďall of ití.

As a party trick with somebody new in the passenger seat, letting the car steer itself gets eyebrows raised in amazement. Practically, itís a Ďnice to haveí on motorways where Distronic allows you to dial back your level of focus on surrounding cars and simply monitor the big sled as it follows a lane, but you must always be ready to correct it whether the system asks you to or not.

In traffic, the Stop and Go function works well, though it is slow to get going again to the point where Iíve copped horn blasts from drivers behind as the E43 sits watching the car in front pull away.

Then thereís the active lane keeping, which on a couple of occasions has forcefully tried tugging the car back into line when I have been deliberately steering away from an obstacle. Worse still were two AEB brainfarts which threw me and a carful of family members against the seatbelts on an empty bit of road.

Outside of these gripes the electronics are good. Its surround-view cameras and multibeam headlights are amazing, and multibeam headlights are amazing, and the carís knowledge of its environment has opened my mind to the future, but it wonít be until the next generation of Mercís autonomous tech (starting in the S-Class) that the systems really start to change that the systems really start to change the way we drive.

The E43 is a stepping stone to, rather than the arrival of, the truly driverless car, and Iíve been able to appreciate it more after recalibrating my expecations.

Other shortcomings are few. The gearbox can be clunky when cold and thereís a tyre scrubbing problem where the front rubber shudders across the road when at or near full lock, juddering the steering wheel. Itís known to affect other 4Matic models and doesnít cause damage or wear, but does take a little sparkle off the prestige sheen.

Next month will be our last together, and with my firstborn child due midway through, I expect that ride home from the hospital to truly cement the bond.

MIND OF ITS OWN

Mysterious AEB issue from month two has reoccurred. Any other owners out there experiencing this?

MERCEDES-AMG E43

Date acquired: April 2017 Price as tested: $159,900 This month: 577km @ 12.6L/100km Overall: 3445km @ 12.9L/100km m WEEK 16 34 44 3 0 0 4 9 6 6 3

Clean sweep? No, scratch that

Wheels is battling with a local council after the E43 was side-swiped by a rogue street sweeper. The four-wheeled aggressor left gouges across the AMGís front-right wheel and a scuff on its bumper. Fear of other peopleís carelessness is a constant pressure point with this car. Parking far from the shopping centre hordes only goes so far. When nobody but you cares, being precious is a stressful business.