The tenth generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a stronger proposition, especially in this volume E220d diesel guise, offered with or without 4WD. Jonathan Crouch drives it.
Ten Second Review
Cars are rarely as crucial to their makers or buyers as this E-Class model is to Mercedes. This full-sized Executive segment contender is the backbone of the German company's range and a perennial favourite of the corporate car park. In lighter, larger tenth generation guise, it retains a sensible side but dials up the desirability, aiming to offer a smarter, more prestigious approach to Executive class motoring than its closest competitors. It does so with more efficient engines, particularly the 2.0-litre diesel unit you'll find in this volume E220d variant. Plus, there's astonishing technology and comfort that makes you question the need for a larger luxury saloon. Rivals from Audi, BMW and Jaguar should be worried.
No car epitomises what Mercedes-Benz stands for better than this one - the E-Class. This version is the most advanced yet, which is essential of course. When your rivals include cars as good as the Audi A6, the BMW 5 Series and the Jaguar XF, you can't afford to not to try and set the standard. With is why this MK10 model E-Class claims the classiest cabin, the most efficient running costs and the most advanced technology in the segment. Advanced driver assistance features even allow it to take a step closer to fully autonomous driving.
Many potential E-Class owners will be funding their car with company money, so they and their Fleet Managers will be totting up the figures very carefully. As Mercedes has in creating the class-leading fuel and CO2 stats on offer in the case of the volume E220d variant we're trying here.
Mercedes has achieved a superb balance between comfort, quiet and agility with the E-Class. It's as happy swanning through town or covering great distances along the motorway. More surprising is how at home it feels on more wiggly roads, where its excellent suspension makes light work of corners. There's also the option of 4MATIC 4WD. To get the best from the car, you'll want the 'AIR BODY CONTROL' pneumatic suspension that can be fine-tuned with the 'DYNAMIC SELECT' controller. This is standard on the E350d and an option on this E220d, but it's money well spent to give the car such a breadth of talent.
Backing up this broad array of skills, the 2.0-litre turbodiesel in the E220d is right up there with the best in class for refinement. Even when pressed hard, it refuses to be noisy or harsh, which all adds to the feeling of assured quality in the E-Class. For those who need the extra power for their own desires or perhaps to tow a horsebox, the E350d's V6 turbodiesel is equally smooth and comes with a massive slug of torque at little more than tickover. Strong acceleration for both diesel models and add to the appeal.
Design and Build
Any notion that an executive car from Mercedes has to be sober is blown away by this E-Class. With much of its style borrowed from the sleek S-Class luxury model, it brings an immense grace to the car and makes you feel good about it long before you've even opened the door. Of course, the looks and appearance of any car are subjective, but it's hard to argue this is not a very handsome machine. As a result, it's no surprise to find out the E-Class makes up one in every five cars sold by the Stuttgart-based company. That also accounts for how important this model is to the three-pointed star. As usual, the brand has developed both saloon and estate bodystyles, launching with the saloon we tried.
Inside, the dash has a clear instrument cluster directly ahead of the driver and an 8.4-inch thin film transistor screen mounted high in the centre of the dash. You can use the display to work all of the usual functions, such as DAB digital radio and the standard Garmin sat-nav, and it all works very well. As an option, Mercedes supplies its 'COMAND Online' system and a larger 12.3-inch screen for the infotainment. This results in the main dash instruments and the second screen merging into one large sweep across the binnacle for a high-tech and very modern style. Out back, the saloon model's 540-litre luggage compartment is one of the largest in its class.
Market and Model
This E220d with its 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine is the volume E-Class variant. With 194hp, it has all off the performance most drivers will ever need and it also provides company car tax-friendly emissions. Prices for this diesel start at £36,000 and head on up to £39,000 before you add any extras. While that might be a little more than some of the Mercedes' key rivals, it's still less than if you make the jump into the V6 turbodiesel model. That will cost you from £45,000 to £47,000 depending on which trim level takes your fancy. However, all E-Class models come with the 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox as standard, so the overall cost balances out compared to direct competitors from Audi, BMW and Jaguar.
The SE trim level is the starting point in the E-Class range. If you pick the E220d with this spec, you get 17-inch alloy wheels as standard. Every car in the line-up has LED front and rear lights, as well as electrically folding door mirrors. 'SPEEDTRONIC cruise control' keeps the car a pre-set distance from the vehicle in front and adjusts the speed to maintain that gap. When you come to a halt, Mercedes' 'Parking Pilot' will guide the car into a space and it works for both parallel and perpendicular bays. More help with parking is offered by a reversing camera.
Cost of Ownership
For most E-Class customers, diesel engines will be at the top of their priority list. The best seller in the range is this E220d and, for this tenth generation E-Class, Mercedes has fitted a 2.0-litre turbodiesel in place of the previous 2.1-litre unit. It makes a big difference to this most popular version of its large executive saloon as the E220d now delivers 72.4mpg combined consumption on the New European Drive Cycle compared to the last one's 53.3mpg. On top of that, carbon dioxide emissions are down to 102g/km from the old car's 139g/km if you stick with the smaller 17-inch wheels. Those are massive improvements and all the more impressive when you consider this E-Class is now also much quicker and way more refined. Just as importantly for Mercedes, the E-Class betters its rivals from Audi, BMW and Jaguar by using less fuel and creating fewer harmful tailpipe gasses.
Making the E-Class able to travel further for every gallon of fuel it uses obviously cuts down on emissions. To take that even further, Mercedes has fitted an 'AdBlue' reservoir. This 23-litre tank contains a urea additive that mixes with the hot exhaust gases from the engine. As the urea combines with these fumes, it turns many of the harmful chemicals into nothing more noxious than water and nitrogen - and that's what makes up most of the Earth's atmosphere. This tank should last the distance between routine services, but it can also be topped up if necessary.
Without any hesitation, we can say the E-Class remains a bastion of Mercedes design principles. That makes it a very serious contender for your attention in the full-sized Executive sector. Nothing new there, perhaps, but what it does offer that's been missing a little in the past is the extraordinary levels of refinement as you drive. The result is a car that appeals to Mercedes' core buyers but also has the ability to attract new customers looking for something to cover huge miles in comfort.
There's no doubt the E-Class will rack up those distances without raiding the bank, either. This E220d variant's 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine is a very significant motor for the E-Class, and not just because it powers the best seller in the range. It's among the most frugal in its class and has lower emissions than most rivals, which means it makes sense for the large number of business drivers who make up the bulk of buyers. In short, it's a very complete proposition.