“Impressive comfort and quality help make the Mercedes E-Class one of the world's best-selling executive cars.”
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a brilliant executive saloon. Sharp to look at yet discreetly styled, the car has a quality interior and impressive handling. There's an extensive engine range and three trim levels, plus even the cheapest E200 CDI turbodiesels offer good performance. Economy impresses, especially with the introduction of the E300 Bluetec Hybrid diesel. It's not as precise to drive as a BMW 5 Series or Jaguar XF, but the E-Class is more comfortable and safer. The top-spec E500 and E63 AMG serve up impressive pace, with the E63's 6.2-litre V8 offering 525bhp.
There are huge variations in the E-Class driving experience as the engines offer such a wide range of power outputs. The E200 CDI is the entry point to the diesel range, and although it delivers only 136bhp, it feels surprisingly lively. But the best all-rounder is the E250 CDI: it has 204bhp and plenty of power low down in the rev range. Economy suffers on smaller petrol engines as they need to be worked hard. The diesels best suit the E-Class's demeanour, which is more about easy cruising than pushing on.
Comfort is the E-Class's real strength – particularly on long motorway journeys. The smallest diesel engines can sound a bit noisy when starting up, but they’re quiet once up and running. The front seats offer plentiful adjustment and provide excellent support and comfort. Rear seat passengers have loads of head and legroom, although the middle chair isn’t that comfortable. SE models offer the softest suspension, while Avantgarde versions are slightly firmer, for the best balance of steering control and comfort. The E300 Bluetec Hybrid suffers a little from its lowered suspension and Sport models can feel a bit firm thanks to their stiffer suspension settings. The E63 AMG rides very firmly and can be a bit noisy, but it's the right kind of sporting sound that its buyers will appreciate.
The previous E-Class wasn’t 100 per cent reliable, but recent revisions have banished these worries. The interior feels solidly built from fine-quality materials, although the dashboard doesn’t have the visual appeal of rivals from Jaguar and BMW. The list of safety equipment is impressive. All cars get at least seven airbags, electronic stability control and driver drowsiness detection. Plus, a pop-up bonnet helps protect pedestrians in the event of a collision.
The large boot will swallow two sets of golf clubs or enough suitcases for a two-week break, while the cabin offers a good- sized glovebox and door pockets. Folding rear seats are an option, but for ultimate E-Class practicality you should consider the estate.
Value for money
The E-Class costs a little more than its rivals to buy, but all versions come well equipped as standard. Bluetooth telephone connection, climate control, alloy wheels, rain-sensing wipers, heated front seats and electric adjustment on the driver's seat are all included. The Avantgarde trim level adds bi-xenon headlamps and LED daytime running lights, as well as full leather upholstery, while Sport models gain AMG styling and a more sporting interior.
Mercedes-Benz developed fuel-saving BlueEFFICIENCY technology to maximise economy and reduce emissions across the range. This already efficient range of diesels has now been joined by the E300 Bluetec diesel hybrid, which can deliver emissions as low as 109g/km and fuel economy of 67.3mpg, but it's a costly model compared to the E200, E220 and E250 CDI, which already deliver 53mpg and 140g/km. The entry-level petrol engines cost more to run day-to-day. More expensive V6 turbodiesel and petrol engines and the top-spec V8s in the E500 and E63 come with increased running costs to match the increased performance. The E63 AMG model in particular is hugely expensive to own and run.