Mercedes E-Class saloon
"The Mercedes E-Class majors on superb refinement and technological innovation in the large executive car class"
- Excellent diesel engines
- Derivative styling
- Some rivals are cheaper
- BMW 5 Series better to drive
Cars like the Mercedes E-Class and its predecessors were the core products of the famous German company long before SUVs and sports cars came along. In many ways, today's E-Class is the purest representation of the three-pointed star's values – an elegant, well constructed saloon designed to soak up the miles. In its latest, facelifted guise, the E-Class offers S-Class levels of luxury at a much lower price.
Its natural rivals are the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6 and the Lexus ES – cars first conceived to beat the E-Class at its own game, and in some respects, they succeed. The 5 Series and even the A6 are more fun to drive, but the E-Class remains one of the most capable and comfortable all-rounders, and its interior is class-leading.
Eye-catching grille and badge aside, the E-Class saloon is very understated. Its flowing lines distinguish it from the flagship Mercedes S-Class, while more restrained headlamps give it an individual look from the front. It's a smoother, less aggressive design than the Lexus ES and Volvo S90, yet matches the Jaguar XF for character. Updates made in 2020 are subtle, with a reprofiled grille and LED headlights that you're only like to notice if two cars are side-by-side. The saloon's rear-end gets a new look, however, with sharper lines and lights similar to those of the Mercedes A-Class saloon.
After its firm, sharp-edged predecessor, the latest version marks the return of soothing, relaxed motorway manners, yet doesn't sacrifice driving enjoyment – which is quite an achievement. The entry-level 191bhp 2.0-litre diesel is all that many motorists will ever need, making the E-Class very fleet-footed indeed – and able to return up to 53.3mpg. Diesel fans who want still more power can choose a 3.0-litre E 400 d with 335bhp and typical six-cylinder smoothness.
There's also an E 300 de plug-in hybrid model featuring a 2.0-litre diesel engine, electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Low emissions of 36g/km and excellent fuel-efficiency makes it a top choice for company-car drivers.
Petrol engines kick off with the E 200, a 2.0-litre turbo with 182bhp capable of up to 38.7mpg, while the E 300 e plug-in hybrid model uses the same engine but combines it with an electric motor and 13.5kWh battery pack for 37g/km emissions and fuel-economy of up to 176.6mpg.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Mercedes-AMG E 53 manages a 0-62mph time of just 4.5 seconds thanks to the traction of its 4MATIC four-wheel-drive system and a boost from its ‘EQ’ electric motor. This is the first hybrid AMG model, with the technology used primarily to boost performance over the outgoing E 43, rather than shrink running costs. 4MATIC, incidentally, can be added to the E 220 d and E 350 d diesels. The E53 AMG is a strong rival to the Audi S6, BMW 540i and Jaguar XF S.
Star of the speed show is the Mercedes-AMG E 63 S. Its twin-turbocharged 4.0-litre V8 wields no less than 604bhp and takes this big car from 0-62mph in just 3.4 seconds. It's more than powerful enough to challenge the BMW M5 and Audi RS6.
Although the AMG-fettled models make the headlines, no E-Class is a disappointment to drive. It doesn't seek to challenge the BMW 5 Series or Jaguar XF for sharp steering and cornering reflexes, but it doesn't lag far behind. Its real trump card is a smooth ride that makes long motorway journeys a pleasure, and its well appointed interior helps, too.
It's full of stylish design touches, is built from top-notch materials and loaded with standard equipment. There’s an air of modernity and high technology, too – with twin 12.3-inch screens coming as standard in the facelifted version, turning the dashboard into something more akin to a flight deck. It adds up to an experience rivals can't currently match.
The regular E-Class consists of two core trim levels Sport and AMG Line Edition, with the latter spawning the AMG Line Edition Premium and Night Edition Premium Plus versions. A huge number of options and packs are available if you want to personalise your E-Class.
As the entry-point into the E-Class range, Sport specification cars are exceptionally well equipped, with adjustable driving modes, twin 12.3-inch infotainment screens with sat nav, DAB radio, keyless entry and leather upholstery with heated front seats.
The AMG Line Edition and Premium models get much sportier looks, thanks to AMG alloy wheels and a body styling kit. The theme continues inside, with a three-spoke steering wheel, sports pedals and a black roof lining. The AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus trim enhances the car’s styling further still, with 20-inch gloss-black alloy wheels and an array of black bodywork detailing.