Mercedes-Benz E-Class Saloon (2016 - ) review
The Mercedes E-Class looks like a scaled-down version of the S-Class limousine, but can it provide a similar amount of comfort, luxury and technology?
Interested in buying Mercedes-Benz E Class?
To look at, you’ll find the E very hard to distinguish from Merc’s other saloons – the C-Class and the S-Class – other than on size. The styling is virtually identical to that of its sister cars, but that’s no bad thing as they’re all pretty handsome-looking beasts. LED lighting at both ends comes as standard, as do alloy wheels. Die-hard Merc fans might be disappointed to hear, though, that you won’t be able to have the gunsight-style three-pointed star on your E-Class; the company emblem is mounted on the grille rather than the bonnet on all versions of the car.
Interior quality is an area in which most of Merc’s recent offerings have impressed, and the E-Class doesn't disappoint, with impressive materials on show and build quality to match. Ergonomically, the interior is standard Mercedes fare, albeit with one or two quirks in how some of the switches and controls work, and an infotainment system that’s reasonably easy to work out, if not as intuitive as equivalent systems from Audi and BMW. That’s provided you use the wheel controller on the centre console, mind you. You can also control the system via a couple of touchpads on the steering wheel that respond to the horizontal and vertical swiping movements of your thumbs. It’s pretty much unique, but it’s not the most precise way of doing things.
Inside the E-Class, you get lots of space for gangly passengers - as much as you get in any of the car’s best rivals. There’s also an impressively sized boot that’s nice and square in shape; but, as in most cars in this class, you’ll have to pay extra if you want split-folding rear seats. And if you do, the E’s practicality is less-than ideal. You have to load items over a fair-sized lip, you don’t get a flat floor and the aperture between the luggage compartment and the passenger compartment is an awkward shape.
Ride and handling
Most of the cars we’ve tried so far have been fitted with air suspension. This is standard on the more expensive E350d model, but on the E220d model that the vast majority of people will actually go for, it’s a very expensive extra. With it, the E-Class is very, very good, delivering a smooth, cosseting ride and tidy, controlled handling. However, on the car’s standard steel springs, things aren't quite as good; and, although it's by no means bad, we recommend that anyone looking at buying an E which doesn't have the option fitted seriously considers specifying it.
For now at least, the E-Class is available with two diesel engines. We’ve yet to try the E350d with its 255bhp 3.0-litre V6, but we have tried what will be the best-seller, the E220d. This has a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that develops 192bhp. With this prodigious power and a generous slice of torque delivered from low down in the rev range, your progress is always easy, and a fair turn of pace is available when you need it. Importantly, the new engine also stays impressively quiet and smooth most of the time, an area in which Merc’s four-cylinder diesels have really struggled in recent years. Even when you work it to its limits, it doesn’t get unreasonably loud. The engine also works really well with the nine-speed automatic gearbox you get as standard. The smoothness of the shifts really contributes to the car’s easy-going nature, and when you put your foot down, it always finds the right cog to kick down to at the first time of asking. It could react a fraction faster when you give it a proper bootful of accelerator pedal, but that’s really splitting hairs.
This is an area in which executive saloons have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, and the E-Class is clean enough to cut it with any competitor. Even the dirtiest version easily beats 50mpg, and the cleanest (the E220d SE on standard 17-inch wheels) achieves an official figure upwards of 72mpg. The correspondingly low CO2 output makes this the version of choice for company car drivers thanks to low monthly bills, but whichever you go for, you won’t be getting clobbered financially. Granted, the E-Class isn’t the most affordable car of its type to buy, but its resale values are very competitive, as are the finance deals available.
This is something of a grey area for the E-Class, because the latest car is too new for there to be any meaningful reliability data available. Look at the scores for the previous version on Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index, and the car gives a decent account of itself. However, Merc’s lowly position in the manufacturer standings might be of concern to some people. The owner reviews on our own website report very few horror stories, and the car comes with a reasonably generous three-year/unlimited mileage warranty.
The E-Class scored a full five stars in tests by Euro NCAP, but with the colossal amount of safety kit you get as standard, that's no surprise. It includes seven airbags, tyre pressure monitoring, autonomous city braking, an active pop-up bonnet, self-drying brakes, a self-parking function and a system that detects driver fatigue and tells you to take a break every once in a while. That really is impressive. The E-Class’ real party piece, though, comes in the form of an optional system called Drive Pilot, which allows the E-Class to pretty much drive itself for large portions of time. It reads road signs to determine the prevailing speed limit and sets the radar cruise control accordingly. It then follows the car in front, taking care of all your acceleration and braking, and even helps you out with the steering. It’s pretty effective on the motorway, but it’s not a system you’ll want to employ on the open road.
The E-Class range begins with SE trim, but even in this version, you’ll be wanting for very little in the way of luxury kit. Included in the list of standard equipment are climate and cruise controls, keyless entry and go, heated front seats with part-electric adjustment, leather upholstery, four electric windows, ambient cabin lighting and an infotainment system that brings together Bluetooth, DAB radio, sat-nav and a reversing camera. Stepping up to AMG Line trim isn’t really worth the cash in our opinion; it earns you a raft of aesthetic upgrades inside and out, plus more adjustment for your front seats, but that’s about it.
Because you value comfort and refinement over driver involvement in your executive saloon, and because you like your car to provide lots of equipment and cutting-edge technology. The E-Class delivers on all that; we just hope that it drives well enough without all the optional gubbins fitted.