Most of our lives are shaped by others telling us what to do, be they a parent, sibling, spouse, boss, teacher, police officer, condominium board or personal trainer.
You can now add the automobile to that list.
Because, while the lure of the open road may still appeal to your inner Andretti, the freedom it promises is no longer as free with semi-autonomous driving features becoming increasingly widespread.
Do you like to clip an apex while cornering? The car now steps in to make sure you don?t leave your lane. Bah humbug.
But automobile autonomy doesn?t negate the pleasure of driving a superb saloon. Exhibit A: the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan.
Long the automotive equivalent of a bespoke gray suit, the model remains a conservatively tasteful symbol of your station and success. And for 2017, it takes a large step ahead of its competition by offering the cutting edge (for the moment) in semi-autonomous driving.
Of course, any mention of cars that drive themselves conjures images of drivers kicking back and letting their cars take complete control while the motorists watch Netflix or read books. For the moment, the reality is somewhat different.
Semi-autonomous features, much like spouses, tend to constantly remind drivers of their errors.
Mercedes-Benz calls it standard suite of such features Pre-Safe, and the system includes audible warnings if you?re about to collide with something, Active Brake Assist to automatically brake if the vehicle detects an imminent crash, and Attention Assist, which warns the driver if the car senses driving has becoming erratic.
None of those features are new, but they augment the optional Driver Assistance Package Plus, which is capable of taking charge of driving?s drearier moments and is the bigger innovation here.
The first part of the package, called Drive Pilot, works through the cruise control. When driving above 50 mph on highways or country roads, and with the cruise control engaged, the car will accelerate and brake on its own. Better yet, when that daily commute slows to a crawl, the car will do the arduous task of speeding up and slowing down.
When traffic picks up, the car will not only make sure it remains in its lane but it will also change lanes on its own and will remind you to keep your hands on the wheel, even if you?re tempted not to. (And you will be; the car is that good at its job.) Once you decide to change lanes, simply activate the turn signal. The E-Class?s radar and camera scan the adjoining lane to make sure it?s clear and smoothly steer the car into position without driver intervention.
The car will also be offered with Remote Parking Pilot, which not only autonomously parallel parks the car but also perpendicularly parks it, either nose in or nose out. Watching the car accelerate on its own as the steering wheel spins back and forth takes a leap of faith, but it?s a remarkable feat, especially for those who find parking challenging.
The package also includes technology that, when a side impact is expected, moves the driver or front seat passenger away from the impact by inflating bladders in the outer edge of the seat.
Of course, you may be wondering what it?s like to drive the car when it?s not driving itself.
Now arriving in showrooms is the E300, which is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, all mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission. This propels the car to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds while delivering as much as 20 percent better fuel economy than the model it replaces. Both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive variants will be offered. For most drivers, the E300?s power will prove sufficient, although its personality is determined by whether the suspension is in luxury or sport mode and whether the car?s Dynamic Select control is set to comfort or sport mode. The latter delivers the crisp, timely shifts you expect of a Mercedes-Benz, and you?d never guess that there are a mere four cylinders under the hood. That said, before you buy it, try one with the optional air suspension. It makes a big difference in this car?s demeanor, making it feel much more luxurious and capable. Still, the ride is well-controlled either way, with excellent bump absorption and a quiet ride.
Its high-tech demeanor is enhanced by its sumptuous interior, which includes two 12.3-inch flatscreens for all of the major functions, both in front of the driver as well as the center console. It?s accented by beautiful wood trim, firm and supportive seats, and an overall air that reminds one of a larger, grown-up C-Class.
But comparisons to other Mercedes-Benz models fall flat.
The 2017 E300 is simply the most advanced car that Mercedes-Benz manufactures. It?s not only best in class; it?s clearly the car of the future, available to you right now.
But at least you now know what the ?E? in E-Class stands for: Exceptional.
Base prices: $52,150-$54,650
Engines: 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder
Torque: 273 pound-feet
Fuel type: Premium
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 20/28 mpg
Wheelbase: 115.7 inches
Length: 193.8 inches
Cargo capacity: 13.1 cubic feet
NHTSA rating: Not rated