“Impressive comfort and quality help make the Mercedes E-Class one of the world's best-selling executive cars.”
There's no denying that the Mercedes E-Class is a fantastic executive saloon car – its sleek dimensions are subtle yet stylish, the interior is pure quality and the handling as good as you could wish for. It comes in three main specifications – entry-level SE, mid-range AMG Sport and the top-of-the-range performance model, the E63 AMG – and has an extensive selection of engines, with even the cheapest E200 CDI turbodiesel offering good performance. Fuel economy is equally impressive, especially with the introduction of the E300 Bluetec Hybrid diesel. While it can’t match the Jaguar XF or BMW 5 Series for driving experience, the E-Class is definitely safer and much more comfortable. The E500 and top-spec E63 AMG can go seriously fast, with the E63's 5.5-litre V8 producing a mammoth 549bhp. We’d recommend going for the E220 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY for its great economy and cheaper price, but consider the E350 CDI for the best blend of performance and economy, if you don’t mind the higher price. As well as the saloon car, you can get the E-Class as an estate, a three-door coupe and a convertible cabriolet, all of which get a new front end and further improved interior from an update at the beginning of 2013.
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
Since it developed its fuel-saving BlueEFFICIENCY technology, Mercedes cars have reduced their CO2 emissions and maximised their economy across the entire range. The E-Class diesels were already fairly efficient, but are now joined by the E300 BlueTEC diesel hybrid, which can deliver emissions as low as 109g/km and fuel economy of 67.3mpg. However, it costs quite a lot more than the E200, E220 and E250 CDI, all of which already return over 53mpg and emit under 142g/km of CO2, so whatever daily costs you save are balanced out by your initial outlay. As is now standard, the base-model petrol engines cost more to run on a daily basis, while the powerful E350 CDI still manages to return 47mpg despite its excellent levels of performance. The more expensive V6 turbodiesel, petrol engines and the top-spec V8s in the E500 and E63, come with much higher running costs that match their increased performance. The E63 AMG model, in particular, is massively expensive to own and run.
Interior & comfort
This is where the E-Class is truly great, offering incredible comfort – especially during long motorway trips. The driving position is near perfect, and the front seats have plenty of adjustment while also providing excellent back support. Passengers in the back get lots of leg and headroom, but the middle passenger will be a bit less comfy. SE models have the softest suspension and most comfortable ride, while sportier versions are slightly firmer, so that they can give a better balance of steering control and comfort. The E300 BlueTEC hybrid has lowered suspension and suffers a little as a result, with Sport models feeling a little too firm thanks to their stiffer suspension set-ups. The performance-focused E63 AMG has a really hard ride, as you’d expect, and can be a bit noisy, but it's the right kind of sporting sound that many buyers will enjoy. The smallest diesels are also a bit loud on start up but do quieten down as you get up to speed.
Practicality & boot space
Given its large exterior dimensions, it’d be a crime if the E-Class didn’t have a spacious interior. Luckily, there's lots of leg and headroom for the five adults who can easily sit comfortably inside the Mercedes. The middle passenger in the back seat does get the short straw, however, thanks to the fact that the floor isn’t flat. There are plenty of storage cubbies, including decent-sized door bins and a big glove compartment. The boot, meanwhile, offers 540 litres of space, which includes some load nets and hooks, and is larger than the boots in the rival Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. Unusually, its 60:40 split-folding rear seats are only available as an optional extra, which are frankly essential if you want to have any flexibility.
Reliability & safety
Mercedes has a safety and reliability record that is the envy of the industry. It's only beaten by Mazda, Jaguar, Skoda and Lexus in the 2013 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, where it placed fifth, bettering its 2012 performance in the poll by five places. It's a reflection of the brand's class and commitment to quality, and means Mercedes ranks 10 places above their main market rival, BMW. The E-Class reinforces that reputation by ranking 10th in the top 100 cars list, with even the previous model coming at 38th – quite a one-two punch for one car's durability. Admittedly, the previous E-Class wasn’t 100 per cent reliable, but recent revisions in the current car have banished these worries. The interior is solidly built from truly high-quality materials, but the dashboard lacks the visual appeal of rivals from BMW and Jaguar. The list of safety equipment is also as impressive you’d expect, with all models coming fitted with at least seven airbags, electronic stability control and driver drowsiness detection as standard. And the addition of a pop-up bonnet helps protect pedestrians in the event of a collision. Options include night vision (yes, night vision), blind-spot monitoring and adaptive cruise control. Naturally, the E-Class secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests.
Engines, drive & performance
Because of the wide range of power outputs that are available in the E-Class, its driving experience is very variable, perhaps more than it should be. If you go for the entry-level E200 CDI diesel, it produces 136bhp but is too sedate, with the E220 CDI diesel proving to be the best all-round engine. It has enough power and speed for some great performance combined with better fuel economy, too – and all for less than the E350 BlueTEC. As you’d expect, the fuel consumption increases in the smaller petrol engines, because they need to be worked fairly hard to get the most out of them. Only the E220 comes with a six-speed manual gearbox, with all other models getting a smooth-operating seven-speed automatic with steering-wheel-mounted paddles, which isn’t as responsive as BMW's equivalent. The diesel engines suit the overall feel of the E-Class the best, which is more about easy cruising than intense driving – anyone truly interested in keen driving should probably look at the BMW 5 Series instead, or be prepared for the incredible performance of the 549bhp 5.5-litre V8 E63 AMG. An even more powerful AMG S-Model is also available, for those who want to go even faster.
Price, value for money & options
Being a Mercedes, the E-Class is a little bit more expensive to buy than many of its key rivals, but all models are decked out with lots of equipment and accessories as standard. That includes Bluetooth telephone connectivity, climate control, alloy wheels, rain-sensing automatic windscreen wipers, heated front seats and electric adjustment on the driver's seat. As you go up the specifications, you can add bi-xenon headlamps and LED daytime running lights, as well as full-leather upholstery to that list, while Sport models are fitted with AMG styling and a sporty interior.