The tenth generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a stronger proposition in this improved form, especially in this volume E220d diesel guise. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
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. This improved version of the tenth generation model is more appealing than ever, retaining a sensible side but dialing up the desirability, aiming to offer a smarter, more prestigious approach to Executive class motoring than its closest competitors. It does so with a range of ever-more efficient engines, which contiue to include 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, especially in this updated form. As facelift restyles go, this is quite a significant one. The front end features softer, re-shaped headlamps with full-LED beams and the grille's been revised too, as has the front bumper. As before, this tenth generation model displays hallmark Mercedes-Benz saloon proportions, the elongated bonnet coupled with a coupe-esque roof that flows into a sensual, broad-shouldered tail. The silhouette remains characterised by short overhangs, a long wheelbase, large wheels and taut well-defined flanks displaying dynamic feature lines. At the rear end on the saloon variant, the previous rounded tail lamps have been replaced by wider, slimmer units which extend further across the back end and into a boot lid that now has a sharper upper edge. The estate body style has a rear section much as before.
Inside, there's a new split-three spoke steering wheel with more responsive touch-sensitive buttons. And the standard offering sees the front of the cabin dominated by a couple of 10.25-inch screens, one for the instruments and the other for the infotainment functions. These are upgraded to 12.3-inches in size further up the range or at extra cost. What's really different though, is the fact that these monitors now work with the brand's latest MBUX interface, which means that you get far more sophisticated "Hey Mercedes" voice control and a lower touch-sensitive pad to replace the previous click wheel controller. As before, it does of course all feel suitably premium, with leather-covered doors and subtle ambient lighting. High-quality materials include open-pore woods, wood with what Mercedes calls 'a yachting look' and a novel metal fabric. Rear seat space is generous. And the saloon model offers a 540-litre boot, with folding rear seat backs able to extend that further if need be. As before, the E-Class estate is the biggest station wagon in the full-sized Executive segment, offering up to 1,820-litres of total fresh air.
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 sit in the £40,000-£45,000 bracket before you start to add any extras. While that might be a little more than some of the Mercedes' key rivals, you'll get much of the difference back in higher residuals. All E-Class models come with the 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox as standard and the overall cost tends to balance out compared to direct competitors from Audi, BMW and Jaguar.
All models feature a centre-dash 10.25-inch display, Parktronic parking sensors with a reversing camera and a Park Pilot self-parking system. There's also leather upholstery with heated front seats, LED headlights and taillights, 64-colour selectable LED interior lighting, two-zone automatic climate control, a three-spoke multifunction steering wheel with dual touchpads, electrically folding mirrors and 17-inch wheels. The 'AMG Line' models come with AMG exterior styling including unique bumpers and side skirts, larger 19-inch alloy wheels, perforated front brake discs, a three-spoke AMG steering wheel and Artico leather and Dynamica microfiber upholstery with a seat comfort package. The E400d model comes with Air Body Control multi-chamber air suspension as standard, as well as COMAND satellite navigation with 12.3-inch display and remote online services. Safety-wise, a whole range of next-generation camera systems have now been introduced, including Active Distance Assist DISTRONIC with route-based speed adjustment, Active Stop-and-Go Assist, Active Steering Assist, Active Brake Assist and Active Blind Spot Assist - now also with an exit warning feature.
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.