The executive E-Class range is fresh from having one of the most comprehensive mid-life makeovers in the company’s history, with a refreshed interior and front-end exterior styling that brings the car in line with the company’s current design trends. We spent a week with one to find out how it stacks up.
The perennial thorn in the side of the BMW 5-Series, the E-Class has long been a strong contender in the large executive saloon market. It’s a very different proposition to the BMW, though, with more of an emphasis on old-world luxury and cruising comfort, rather that its rival’s ‘ultimate driving machine’ ethos. As such, the E-Class is available only with Merc’s wafty – though sometimes slightly ponderous – seven-speed automatic gear box, except on the entry level E220CDI where it is optionally available over a six-speed manual. The diesels are the pick of the engine line up, being offered in both fuel-sipping four cylinder guises (170bhp and 201bhp) and a 3.0-litre V6 developing 252bhp. Those who prefer petrol are catered for with a 2.0-litre unit available in 184bhp and 211bhp states of tune. And for those looking to lose their driving licence as quickly as possible, there is the blisteringly fast E63 AMG and AMG S options, which with 557bhp and 558bhp respectively, offer supercar-rivaling levels of pace.
With no buttons to alter the firmness of the suspension, the throttle response or the weight of the steering, the E-Class presents a very traditional approach to the business of driving. What immediately strikes you upon setting off is how heavy the car feels. Not the steering – which itself doesn’t appear overly assisted – but the sense of density of the entire vehicle, which imbues a feeling of substance and solidity. While it excels at the motorway cruise and pottering about town, where the suspension soaks up the bumps with aplomb, the trade-off is that the E-Class feels less agile than its main BMW rival. However, drive it with more spirit and the big Merc doesn’t embarrass itself, being more fluid and predictable than an Audi A6, which never seems in tune with a road, despite a plethora of driver options. The only real bugbears are the cars sheer size, which can make manouvring tricky, and the engine and road noise that can permeate the cabin at speed, though this is only evident largely because the E-Class is so hushed and refined in all other respects.
Mercedes’ trad vibe is most evident in the E-Class’ cabin, where you’ll find comfy armchairs and a dashboard studded with buttons, in place of the sculpted pews and one-knob controls that are currently in vogue. That isn’t to say the big Merc is lagging behind in the technology stakes. Our test car was kitted with everything from fully adaptive LED headlights, to Mercedes’ COMAND interface, which not only drives the sat-nav and on-board DVD player but also features a 10GB hard disc for music storage, and allows Internet access via a compatible smartphone. Cabin quality is also high with substantial soft-touch plastics and high quality switchgear in abundance. To up the ambience even further, the dashboard can be finished in artificial leather with exposed stitching, at extra cost.
While it has one of the largest boots in its class – which is especially suited to buggies due to its length – the E-Class loses points for practicality due to the fact that its rear seats cannot be folded flat, even as an optional extra. That said, passenger space, both front and rear is plentiful and there are generously proportioned storage cubbies in the centre console and door pockets. If extra luggage space is a requirement, consider the estate version, which at 1950 litres with the seats down is truly cavernous.
The E-Class does things its own way, not pandering to current trends, most notably the customisable driving modes seen in its German rivals. Instead, you just hop-in, turn the key and experience Mercedes’ unique take on the luxury saloon. This makes it a very appealing proposition, and means the E-Class blends in imperceptibly with your life, rather than being the focus of every journey. In terms of economy, cleanliness and performance, it matches the competition admirably, meaning the choice will largely come down to whether you want your luxury saloon to thrill you on the right road, or soothe away the stresses of the congested streets we tend to find ourselves on a daily basis. If you want the latter, you’re going to need an E-Class.
Don’t want to buy new? You can browse for a used Mercedes E-Class in our classifieds here.
Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY SE Saloon
List price: £36,590
Price as tested: £44,460
Engine: 2.1-litre, four cylinder diesel, turbocharged
Top speed: 150mph
0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
Fuel economy: 47.9mpg (urban), 65.7mpg (extra-urban) 57.7mpg (combined)
Emissions: 131g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars
October 9, 2013