- Elegant cabin design
- Comfortable and refined drive
- Huge variety of engine choices including petrol and diesel hybrids
- Cost of some options
- Executive taxi image makes it less special
- Not quite as good overall as a 5 Series
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a real institution, with decades of heritage and a reputation for luxury, technology and dependability. Behind its restrained yet elegant design is a cabin with real design wow-factor and plenty of tech, while comfort is the name of the game with a relaxed driving experience.
It also has to be noted the E-Class comes with a very broad engine range, covering everything from the company car fleet-pleasing E220 d all the way to the mightily fast AMG E63. There is also a plug-in hybrid model in the range now, so the E-Class has one of the widest, most advanced offerings when it comes to propulsion. You also have a choice of rear- or four-wheel drive depending on the engine you choose, so the E-Class is taking the fight directly to the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series on this front as well.
One of the superstar choices undoubtedly remains the basic E220 d model, powered by a four-cylinder 2.0-litre diesel engine that boasts an official 53.3mpg. That would be impressive even if the engine clattered like the generator at a budget campsite, but the fact the E220 d is actually quite punchy and extremely composed make it a remarkable feat of engineering. It’s a board-level car with factory floor running costs.
If more pace is required, the six-cylinder diesel in the E300 d offers huge low-rev pick up, or you could go the whole hog with the impressively swift and smooth E400 d. There's also the E53 AMG, a potent six-cylinder petrol model that's cheaper and less bombastic than the E63.
Many people will also be looking to the petrol and diesel plug-in hybrid models. The E300 de produces carbon dioxide emissions as low as 34g/km. It can travel up to 32.9 miles on battery power alone, which is more than enough for most urban commutes to be completed with zero tailpipe emissions.
Generously equipped across its various trim levels, the basics you'd expect like navigation, climate control, Bluetooth, a leather-type interior, a nine-speed automatic gearbox, LED headlamps and radar cruise control are all present and correct. It’s a shame, though, that much of the stuff that really takes the E-Class into the luxury car stratosphere is left on the options list.
That includes a twin-screen panoramic infotainment display, which places two 12.3-inch HD widescreens side by side, and a function that allows the owner to remotely un-park the car from a garage or parking bay using a smartphone app, which also means your phone becomes your car key.
All of this clever stuff is underpinned by the Mercedes E-Class getting the basics spot on, so it’s still a comfortable, roomy and very classy executive saloon. The BMW 5 Series does all that well too, though, while being more enjoyable to drive and offering slightly more passenger space.
Is the Mercedes-Benz E-Class right for you?
There is something reassuring about the three-pointed star on the bonnet of an executive class car and the Mercedes E-Class understands this. It’s a symbol of quality, comfort and engineering solidity and all of that is embodied in the E-Class to perfection.
All of this stand-up citizenry is far from skin deep with the E-Class as it really is made as strongly and solidly as its appearance suggests. There are also superb engines, a wonderfully smooth drive and excellent comfort, though you have to fork out extra for the brilliant air suspension on most models. The 5 Series is a sharper tool if that matters to you, though.
Other reasons the E-Class should be on your list of contenders? How about plenty of cabin space, lots of standard equipment, top drawer refinement and engines that are hushed and economical. Of course, if you like your thrills, there’s always the AMG models with their brutally powerful engines that still manage to come across as gentlemanly than thuggish in their delivery.
If you need more space, look at the Mercedes E-Class Estate.
What’s the best Mercedes-Benz E-Class model/engine to choose?
If you want the outright speed and acceleration of the E53 and A63 models from AMG, nothing else will suffice. However, in the mainstream of the E-Class range, we reckon there are two absolute pearls.
The first is the entry-point E220 d turbodiesel model that is the darling of the company car fleet. It’s easy to see why as the engine is a willing performer and superbly smooth while offering wallet-soothing economy and emissions that mean you don’t get hijacked every time road tax is mentioned.
Alternatively, and we mean this in every sense, there is the E300 de EQ hybrid model. It uses a 2.0-litre diesel, the same as the E220 d, but with a 122PS electric motor added into the mix. This is able to run for up to 32.9 miles on battery power alone and contributes to combined economy and emissions of 217.3mpg and 34g/km respectively in its most efficient form.
What other cars are similar to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class?
You cannot think about the Mercedes E-Class without considering its arch-rivals, the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series. The Audi is a very classy bit of kit, with build that speaks of precision and care in its manufacture. Yet, it’s not as refined as the Mercedes.
BMW has the edge when it comes to driving enjoyment with its 5 Series, but comfort and quality are closer calls. The BMW is more generous for rear occupants, though. Also consider the Jaguar XF and the excellent Volvo S90, while the Lexus ES and the Genesis G80 are interesting left-field offerings.
In the company of these more popular SUVs, the modern E-Class doesn’t feel quite as majestic or practical as it used to, but there’s still more than enough of the feel of the S-Class about its front quarters to still come across as very special.
Some of this sense of luxury is down to the E-Class offering its driver a great deal of space. It’s an underrated quality when so many others try to convince you of their upmarket appeal with fancy finishes and tech.
Sure, the E-Class can compete on this front with its optional large infotainment screen, but it also serves up masses of leg, shoulder and headroom, along with a whole host of adjustment. This is completed with partial electric movement, while the steering wheel also moves for height and depth.
With the driving position all sorted in the E-Class, you’ll find it offers a fine view of the road ahead and to the sides. Like others in this class, the vision over the driver’s shoulder is limited by the thick rear pillars, but that is negated by parking sensors and a reversing camera fitted to all models that saves straining your neck and worrying about marking that expensive and sleek bodywork. There’s even the option of remote parking using an app on your smartphone.
Quality and finish
Mercedes has built its entire business on the idea that its cars are built to a standard that’s more than just a cut above the common herd. In the E-Class, this impression is more than justified as the attention to detail and quality of build is second to none. We mean that absolutely, not just in the executive sector but across the board and even including Mercedes’ own S-Class.
It means the fit and finish of the E-Class is a source of much pleasure to its owners and the materials used are also of a very high grade. On some models, the seat upholstery is a man-made hide, which Mercedes has been using for decades. You’d be hard-pushed to tell it’s not real deal hide such is its comfort and feel.
Mercedes also imparts a sense of high-end finish to its drivers and occupants in the way all of the controls, buttons, switches and levers operate. There is not so much as a squeak or creak to be heard in the E-Class and everything works with a weighty, considered action.