Pros: Handsome lines, gorgeous cabin, quality, refinement, handling
Cons: Expensive to buy
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Design
If you’re looking for dramatic change here, you won’t find it. While the all-electric EQE saloon can head off on its own tangent and aim for space-age styling, the E-Class is a (relatively) conservative car for (relatively) conservative people and that’s not an insult. The new E-Class picks up where the old one left off, so you get what is still quite a sleek and swoopy design, but one that manages to look upright and solid. At the front, there’s a new grille, very much like that of the bigger S-Class, but with a black surround and slimmer lights, so that you don’t confuse the two models. The grille design changes depending on the model; so, the Avantgarde version gets a night-sky-like effect of scattered Mercedes-Benz stars with a large central star badge, but the Exclusive has a more traditional grille, with chrome bars and a Mercedes badge standing upright on the bonnet. The AMG-Line looks like the Avantgarde, but with more muscular, sporty-looking bumpers. It’s a subtle looking car, more so than BMW’s new i5 and 5 Series, but it’s one whose looks grow on you the more time you spend with it.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Interior
The E-Class’s cabin needs no such acclimation time — it’s an instant success. There are, as standard, two screens on the dash. There’s a driver’s digital instrument panel, which stands on its own up behind the steering wheel, while in the centre — inset into the dashboard — is a 14.4-inch touchscreen using the latest MBUX software. This is very impressive, and it’s noticeable how much easier it is to find your way around and through the menus and setup than it is in some rival machines.
The climate controls are always present and correct at the bottom of the screen, which while not as simple to use as proper physical controls, is certainly easier than having them on their own separate menu screen. The graphics on the display look exceptionally good, but beware the ‘Store’ section, in which you’ll find much wallet-sucking potential to spend extra on services and apps. Those apps include the likes of Angry Birds (yes really) and Zoom, which can be linked to the driver-facing ‘selfie camera’ (which also keeps an eye on you for drowsiness and distraction) and allows you to tackle online meetings from the car, while safely parked up of course.
That’s one of six cameras monitoring the interior of the E-Class, all of which can be connected to your mobile phone through the Mercedes Me app, allowing you to monitor the car for security. That selfie camera can also recognise a driver’s face, and pre-load all that person’s preferences for seat position, cabin temperature and infotainment settings. There’s also a form of artificial intelligence, in that the E-Class can learn your regular destinations and habits, so that it can — for instance — drop the driver’s window as you pull into the office car park, ready for you to scan your access card.
There’s also the option of an extra screen in front of the passenger, which Mercedes calls the ‘Superscreen’ layout — like the Hyperscreen of the larger S-Class and EQS, but without the continuous surface for all three screens.
In the back, there’s plenty of legroom and headroom, but the big high-backed front seats do rob some of the outward visibility for rear-seat passengers. The boot is usefully large — at 540 litres — if we’re talking about diesel and petrol models, but the plug-in hybrid variants lose space to the battery, ending up with a mere 370 litres of luggage space.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Performance & Drive
Here we test the diesel-engined E-Class. If that sounds like a bit of throwback, it shouldn’t — diesel-engined cars may have fallen in popularity in Ireland, but they still account for one-in-five sales and for the sort of long-haul journeys for which the E-Class is ideal, they still have some merit. The engine here is the familiar 2.0-litre 197hp ‘220 d’ unit, which now gets mild-hybrid assistance. That means there is a small electric motor within the nine-speed gearbox allowing for a harder-working stop-start system around town, as well as having the ability to add extra power and torque — 22hp and 205Nm — when accelerating. Performance is decent — 0-100km/h in 7.6 seconds — but the winning number here is the fuel economy. Mercedes claims you can squeeze 4.8 litres per 100km out of the E 220 d, and that feels do-able if you’re driving carefully. It means that you can easily get more than 1,000km out of a tank of fuel, and you’ll be emitting 127g/km while you do so, which means affordable tax. Indeed, it wasn’t so long ago that such figures were the preserve of full hybrids, not large, luxurious German saloons.
That the E-Class majors on refinement shouldn’t be a surprise. The diesel engine grumbles a bit on start-up but soon fades into the background, and the nine-speed automatic gearbox is smooth. Around town, the E-Class lopes along with a traditional Mercedes gait that suggests you could happily do this all day. Out on the motorway, wind noise is well controlled although tyre noise does build up a touch.
The E-Class gets selective suspension dampers, which use different paths for the hydraulic fluid inside to try to achieve a mix of tight control and soft comfort. It really works, too. At motorway speeds the E glides along effortlessly. On twisty country roads, you might just be pleasantly surprised how agile and enjoyable the E-Class is to drive. It’s far more so than any previous version and gets close to the handling benchmark set by the BMW i5 and 5 Series.
Don’t decide on diesel until you’ve had a chance to try the plug-in hybrids, though. There are three petrol versions to choose from — an E 300 e, a 4Matic four-wheel-drive version of the same, and a more powerful E 400 e — plus an E 300 de diesel plug-in hybrid. All of them will – according to official figures - go further than 100km on a charge of their batteries, and the E 300 de should provide good all-round economy on longer journeys. For those who want to do some electric driving but still want combustion power for longer hauls, they could well be a viable option. You do lose boot space, but that’s just a good excuse to look at the roomier, and very handsome, E-Class Estate.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Pricing
The E-Class is very definitely not a cheap car. In fact, the most affordable version is the €79,785 Avantgarde model. If you want the Exclusive trim, that’ll be €2,777 on top and it’s an extra €7,285 for the AMG-Line. Standard equipment includes blind-spot monitoring, a 360-degree parking camera system, illuminated door sills, electric front seats with memory and heating, the big twin digital displays, wireless phone charging, adaptive LED headlights and built-in navigation.
The Mercedes E-Class never really changes, and that’s a good thing. It gains extra technology, more advanced hybrid engines, bigger screens in the dashboard and gets a higher price tag because of all of that. It’s worth it, though and the surprising thing is just how rewarding this E-Class is when the road turns twisty. Few cars feel as deeply satisfying and reassuring to drive as this E-Class, and that is worth almost any price.