The Executive saloon car market is largely dominated by German manufacturers, and the Mercedes E-Class has certainly been one of the most popular, with over 13 million sold globally. This is the latest generation model, and it looks to build on its success and correct the issues of the previous model.
Already its got a more modern look, gone is the conservative styling of its predecessor and in comes a more sleek design that falls in line with the rest of the Mercedes line up.
Inside, it feels more appropriate to compare the layout and cabin materials with the larger, more opulent Mercedes S-Class limousine. The large display that stretches from in front of the driver right across the dashboard is an optional extra, but it’s we’d definitely recommend it.
There’s a mix of high quality materials, gloss black detailing, and switchgear that has a solid, well built feel. The multimedia system isn't as logical to use as the BMW 5 Series or Audi A6, but it is user friendly, and all the features like sat nav, radio, Bluetooth and car settings are accessible via this rotary dial a bit like the BMW iDrive system.
Finding the perfect driving position is a doddle, thanks to a fully adjustable, electrically adjustable seat. The driver sits quite high, but the tall roofline means there’s ample headroom, even on versions that have the optional panoramic glass roof. The front seats also slide back a long way, so anyone up front won’t be disappointed with a lack of legroom.
In the back and taller passengers will find headroom limited, although legroom is pretty impressive. And while there’s shoulder room for three, anyone sat in the middle seat will have to straddle the central transmission tunnel, which may make things uncomfortable on longer journeys.
The boot is slightly bigger than the 5 Series and A6, and there’s enough space for a couple of sets of golf clubs or large suitcases. While the boot is a useable shape, the opening is fairly narrow, which can make loading heavier items a little more restricted. Split folding rear seats are an optional extra, and the seats drop easily thanks to these handles. Once the seats are lowered though, there is an awkward hump in the floor though.
On The Road
With the E-Class being so popular with company car users, there’s a lot of emphasis on diesels, with a choice of two 2.2 litre diesels with either 168 or 201bhp or a 3.0-litre v6 diesel with 249bhp. A diesel hybrid is also available with the 2.2 for those with an eco conscience. If you’re looking for petrol though, there’s a 2.0-litre petrol with 181 or 208bhp or two performance-based versions of the AMG which get a twin turbo 5.5 litre V8 with either 549bhp or 577bhp in S trim.
This E-Class is equipped with a four-cylinder diesel badged 220 d, and it is more powerful than 2.0-litre units in the BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF, and you can really feel that extra power from well behind the wheel. It pulls strongly from around 1500rpm and the standard nine-speed automatic gearbox kicks down promptly when you stomp the accelerator. It’s smooth and quiet, even when worked hard, and it’s better mannered than the engine in rival Jaguar and BMW’s.
A more powerful V6 E350 d is more powerful and effortlessly strong, but it’s the low down pull that really makes it stand out. It’s also smoother than the E220d, and that’s noticeable when the cars idling, it sounds more like a muted hum rather than an obvious chug.
The standard suspension is soft and spongy suspension wafts over imperfections in the road with ease. It may lean and pitch around country roads, but on motorways its smooth. The steering is light and accurate, but there isn’t much in the way of feedback. The optional Air Body Control suspension is expensive and in all honesty nor really worth it. It improves the high-speed ride, but it does tend to send hard vibrations into the cabin over uneven surfaces.
Refinement is excellent though, with only a little wind noise at motorway speeds and only a little background hum from the tyres. Just be aware though that if you opt for the optional larger alloy wheels, road noise is noticeably worsened.
The E-Class remains a class act, and its styling and interior build quality makes it a more tempting proposition. It is more expensive than some of its competition, but then you are paying for a premium product. The interior is smart and classy, the ride is comfortable, especially if you avoid the larger alloy wheels and there is lots of standard equipment. However, the 220d isn’t as refined as rival diesels, and while its not as engaging as some of the competition, its not bad.