Mercedes-Benz E-Class Saloon Review
The relaxed E-Class oozes class, comfort, and space and supercar performance from AMG models
- Spacious, comfortable and refined
- Low CO2 emissions and strong economy on diesel models
- Supercar performance from AMG models
- Expensive to buy outright
- Options list are pricey
- Suspension struggles in broken urban areas
The latest E-Class sports a new look that’s softer and far more contemporary than its predecessor, while promising that levels of performance and luxury have improved. There’s a new diesel engine for the most popular model, the 220 d tested here, as well as a revised four-wheel drive option and sports car worrying AMG models.
It’s also grown up, being larger and stronger than the last model, despite losing some weight in the process. The interior has been spruced up too, with a version of the uber-luxury S-Class’ dashboard shoehorned into this executive saloon.
All that comes at a price though, and that’s, well, the price. It’s steep compared to its rivals from Audi, BMW and Jaguar, while Volvo will join the fray soon with the S60. However, there’s plenty of space, loads of equipment, a soupçon of driving engagement, and a boat load of luxury, all of which might be enough to make it worth the extra.
On the Road
Our 220d has a smooth and strong 2.0-litre diesel engine under the bonnet, with a nine-speed automatic gearbox transferring all 194hp to the rear-wheels. It’s probably the best combination in the range, offering sprightly performance - the 0-62mph sprint takes just 7.3 seconds - as well as impressive economy.
It’s occasionally a little slow to react to a sharp prod of the accelerator, which can cause a moment of panic when pulling out of a side road into busy traffic. The gearbox kicks down quickly when requested, while the impressive wave of torque, all 400Nm of it, keeps pushing the car until speeds become antisocial.
The only other diesel option is in the 400d, which sees a 3.0-litre V6 turbodiesel wedged under the bonnet. There’s another 146hp on tap, totalling 340hp, and torque increases to a mammoth 700Nm. If you need to tow anything, from a trailer to a small planet, this is the engine to choose. However, it’s also quick enough to worry many a sports car, accelerating to 62mph in just 4.9 seconds.
Petrol engine choices are at extreme ends of the range. The 200 provides 184hp from its 2.0-litre engine, but the range then jumps to the AMG E53. That’s a 3.0-litre turbocharged unit with 435hp, but of that’s not enough the E63 has a V8 engine with up to 612hp. That translates to the de facto print being dispatched in just 3.4 seconds.
The lack of a mid-range option for either fuel types is likely down to a delay in getting WLTP certification, a problem affecting many manufacturers. We would expect an engine option to slot in the middle to arrive in 2019, along with a plug-in hybrid based on the new Mercedes EQ technology.
Each of the models at the more sensible side of the range come with adjustable suspension, that Mercedes calls Agility Control. There’s a selective damping system, allowing you to choose between soft, squishy suspension that promotes comfort, or stiffen things up for a sportier edge.
By and large, it works quite well. On the motorway it’s supremely refined, smoothing over every undulation and leaving you feeling relaxed after a long journey. It also copes well in town, but can be confused a little by our badly potholed and patched surfaces.
Handling is impressive for a car of such size, the tyres gripping hard ad the body staying nicely under control. That’s improved when the car is switched to Sport mode, which also improves throttle response and adds a bit of weight to the steering but, at 1.7 tonnes, the regular E-Class models won’t trouble a dedicated sports car.
Air suspension is available as an option on SE and AMG Line cars, and adds £3,295 to the price of this test car. It’s part of a Comfort package that adds Nappa leather trim, and it works well, noticeably improving the ride when cruising. It also reacts well to sudden manouvers, stiffening instantly, but there’s ultimately no extra stability and control, and really no benefit in urban areas. It’s an expensive option for a small gain.
Full-blown AMG models don’t get the choice of upgrading - the air suspension comes as standard.
There are only four cylinders in the engine of the 220 d, which leads to a slightly coarse feeling at idle, and a raucous din when under significant provocation. However, it’s almost silent once at cruising speeds.
Despite the traditional design, the body of the E-Class is quite slippery, so it cuts through the air cleanly and creates little in the way of wind noise. The AMG Line’s 19-inch wheels and low profile tyres do create a fair chunk of road noise at speed, although perhaps that simply stands out more as the rest of the car is so quiet.
The adjustable suspension makes quite a difference too, with the Comfort mode soothing away most imperfections and contributing to the isolation of the outside world.
In the car
There are few cars that manage to project a sensation of luxury better than the E-Class. There’s an interesting combination of old-school luxury - so leather trim (or Artico man-made ‘leather’) and chrome highlights appear throughout the cabin, but that’s balanced with a vast digital panel that spreads from the driver's eyeline across the width of the car, almost as far as the passenger.
There’s a digital display instead of physical instruments for the driver, which is, of course, fully customisable. That can be useful, but experience suggests you’ll eventually switch it to replicating traditional dials.
A second 12.4-inch screen dominates the centre console, sitting atop the four chrome air vents. It’s controlled by a touch sensitive panel that your left hand falls to easily, or there’s a rotary dial underneath it. If that’s not enough, you can switch through settings using a touchpad on the steering wheel. The one thing you can’t do is tap the screen itself as, inexplicably, it’s not a touchscreen.
Mercedes has left a series of physical buttons in place for the heating and ventilation controls, as well as a volume control for the sound system, which is handy as the system on screen isn’t entirely intuitive. You could switch to Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, but the lack of touchscreen controls makes them surprisingly difficult to use.
The cabin is a glorious place to be, mixing the modern and traditional in a visually delightful manner. It’s maybe not quite built as solidly as an Audi’s dashboard, but there’s more style in this than Audi’s entire range.
The seating position in the E-Class is oddly high, but the roofline is also high, leaving you plenty of headroom and good visibility at the same time. Even the panoramic glass roof fitted to the test model didn’t interfere with space available, although it did eat a little into the room in the rear. Those rear seats have acres of legroom, although the gap below the seats is a tad narrow.
The middle seat, like so many other cars, is best for short hops as it’s narrow, has a transmission tunnel robbing space for the feet, and leaves you sitting higher up resulting in even less headroom.
There’s 540 litres of boot space, which is almost identical to what you’ll find at the back of a BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 or Jaguar XF. The rear seats of the saloon don’t fold down unless you pay an extra £345 or splash out on the expensive AMG models.
Despite a few shortcomings, it’s coped well with a jaunt across Europe, loaded with four burly men and their road-trip detritus, holding four bags and perhaps just a small supply of French wine without a problem.
For those needing a little more space, the E-Class is available in estate form for an extra £2,000 or so.
Despite uncertainty on the future of diesel, it’s definitely the right option for the E-Class - unless you want fire-breathing performance! With enough power and plenty of torque, it makes the task of moving the big Mercedes easy, and that translates into an economy figure of 61.4mpg. That road trip mentioned above saw a return north of 50mpg, despite some enthusiastic moments.
That’s good for private buyers, while the CO2 emissions of 127g/km will keep company drivers reasonably happy as well, giving the E 220 d a BIK burden of just 30%.
However, that’s balanced by a rather steep list price that, on this test car, climbs to nearly £44,000, and that’s before options. Company car tax sits at around £440 a month for a 40% taxpayer.
Depreciation is low though, leading to PCP and leasing rates that are particularly competitive. Mercedes will provide buyers with an E-Class for less than £400 a month, going someway to reducing the impact of that high list price. The range starts at £37,565 for the 220 d SE, rising to £94,275 for the AMG E 63 S.
A three-year unlimited mileage warranty offers security, with Mercedes service being well regarded. The warranty can also be extended, while fixed price service plans are available for added reassurance and peace of mind.
It’s possible to load the E-Class with enough high-tech wizardry that it might be impossible to have an accident - there’s active braking assist, lane keeping assist, blind spot assist, steering assist, speed limit assist, lane change assist and evasive steering assist, but they’re all relegated to the options list.
There’s no shortage of standard equipment though,including automatic emergency braking, a pedestrian saving active bonnet, adaptive brake lights and a system that monitors for driver drowsiness.
That said, should the worst happen then the E-Class is likely to be a safe place to be, scoring a full five stars when EuroNCAP recently tested the car.