Mercedes E-Class review

Our Rating: 
5
5.0/5.0
2016 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

New Mercedes E-Class blends quality, comfort and tech in a stylish, efficient package

For: 
Refined and efficient four cylinder diesel, high quality interior, cruising comfort
Against: 
Rivals are more dynamic, pricier than competition, derivative styling

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The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a stylish executive saloon that features an interior which sets new standards for quality and design. Refinement is also top notch, while the S-Class-inspired technology makes it safer and easier to live with. It’s not quite as fun to drive as a Jaguar XF, but it’s close enough in a class where comfort and composure count. The latest entry-level diesel is now faster and more efficient than ever, which will be important for business users.

While it is more expensive than its rivals, even the entry-level E 220d SE packs more standard kit than the likes of the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF. Overall, it’s a comprehensively equipped, efficient and stylish package.

Our Choice: 
Mercedes E 220d SE

The Mercedes E-Class is a mainstay of the German firm’s range, and the executive saloon is a direct rival for models such as the Jaguar XFAudi A6 and BMW 5 Series

It features styling that's similar to the larger S-Class flagship limousine and smaller C-Class junior exec, and the E-Class slots into the line-up neatly in terms of size. And as the latest model has a longer wheelbase than its predecessor, there’s now even more room inside.

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The E-Class has always adopted advanced technology from the larger S-Class, and while the same is true here, this new model also showcases some clever systems that the top of the range S-Class doesn’t feature.

Items like Mercedes’ Drive Pilot and smartphone-controlled remote parking system highlight how advanced the new E-Class is, but it mixes this with real-world strengths, such as impressive efficiency, with CO2 emissions as low as 102g/km from the E 220d, and a 540-litre boot.

From launch in the UK there’ll be two engines available: an all-new 2.0-litre turbodiesel in the E 220d and a 3.0-litre twin turbo V6 diesel in the E 350d. The E 350e plug-in hybrid will follow this later, but we won’t get the petrol E 400 here in the UK.

There’ll still be plenty of options for performance fans, though. Mercedes recently revealed a hot new E 43 AMG version, while there’ll also be an E 63 AMG that’ll top the range in due course.

The regular engine range all come with a super smooth nine-speed auto gearbox to add extra comfort, while UK cars are limited to only two trim levels: SE and AMG Line.

However, SE comes well equipped, with more standard kit on offer than in rivals to offset the E-Class’ higher starting price. AMG Line sits above SE, and adds a sportier look and bigger wheels, plus a few extras inside to warrant the extra cash. If you want to add even more technology to the E-Class the options list lets you do just that too, with features like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, air-suspension, upgraded infotainment, advanced driving systems and plenty more, giving buyers the option to customise their car inside and out.

Engines, performance and drive

4.4
Improved efficiency and refinement is where Mercedes has made big strides with this new E-Class

It's not the sharpest large saloon on sale, but the new E-Class delivers when it comes to comfort and refinement. Steel springs with adaptive dampers are standard in the UK, while fully adaptive air-suspension is an option.

We’re yet to try the standard chassis setup, but cars equipped with air-suspension ride serenely, offering lots of composure, plenty of comfort and good body control. While the car floats along nicely on faster, smoother roads, go for an AMG Line model, and the larger wheels mean the ride will feel a little unsettled on more jagged surfaces. 

There are different driving modes to sharpen up the steering, throttle response and damping, but it’s best to leave the E-Class in Comfort and make the most of its cossetting, refined ride. Sport and Sport+ bring an element of extra focus, tying the body down with greater precision and adding some extra heft to the steering, Hit a corner quickly, and you’ll find body control soft in Comfort mode. Sport or Sport+ settings reduce roll, but also add an artificial weight to the lifeless steeringIt’s not as agile as the sportier XF, but you can’t fault its grip and composure.

The impressive ride stems from the new E-Class’ weight loss plan, having shed “around 100kg” over its predecessor depending on spec, according to Mercedes. Aluminium body panels have helped here, meaning the E-Class delivers a lovely, fluid ride even over poor road surfaces.

Combined with the impressive levels of refinement from the engines and the standard nine-speed automatic gearbox, which slurs changes nicely and responds sharply enough to pulls on the steering wheel mounted paddles, it’s easy to make relaxed progress.

Whereas the BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF offer more for keen drivers, the E-Class puts the focus more on comfort and quality, delivering a relaxed drive at the expense of some handling performance that, for most people day-to-day, will be a welcome benefit.

You can still drive it hard and lean on the decent amount of grip available, but it doesn’t feel quite as natural as in some larger saloons. There’s always a reassuring, planted feel on the road though, while Mercedes’ clever safety systems – including the E-Class’ standard autonomous braking – offer peace of mind.

Engines

Mercedes’ all-new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel opens the E-Class range in the E 220d. With 192bhp and 400Nm of torque on offer this is now faster than the old E 250d, but importantly the new 2.0 unit is much quieter than the clattery old 2.1-litre diesel.

The 0-62mph sprint takes 7.3 seconds, while top speed stands at 149mph, but it’s the smooth, subdued pulling performance that impresses most. Refinement is much improved, and the new four-cylinder diesel is easily a match for the 2.0 Ingenium unit in the Jaguar XF when it comes to quiet cruising on the motorway. The nine-speed auto gearbox makes for low cruising revs of just 1,300rpm at 70mph, and the car's slippery shape also means there’s virtually no wind noise.

If you want extra performance the E 350d certainly offers that. With its 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6 there’s a mammoth 620Nm on tap, which combined with 254bhp gives a 5.9-second 0-62mph sprint. However, it’s how the E 350d pulls from low revs with plenty of potency that demands your attention.

A and B road overtakes are easy thanks to the large, low-down swell of torque. Stab the accelerator for a burst of acceleration and the nine-speed auto kicks down to the right gear, while the refinement means the E-Class builds speed deceptively. There’s just enough noise emitted from the nicer sounding V6 diesel when you rev it too, but it’s a smooth and quiet performer the rest of the time. 

It’ll be the E 220d that makes up the majority of sales in the UK, while the E 350d will join it from launch. However, Mercedes’ E 350e plug-in hybrid will be added to the line-up later this year – and we’ve already driven it.

Combining a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, the E 350e promises brisk performance – thanks to its 282bhp and 550Nm of torque – as well as low CO2 emissions.

However, while its 134.5mpg and 49g/km might look impressive on paper, the E 350e can’t quite live up to these figures out on the road.

The official 20-mile electric range is difficult to achieve, and once the battery energy is depleted, the extra mass of the battery pack dulls performance. It means you have to rev the petrol motor hard, and it sounds strained higher up.

Your lifestyle has to fit the E 350e for you to feel the benefits most, so unless the low CO2 emissions will save you a worthwhile sum and you can plug the car into the mains at home and work to make the most of the electric range, we’d stick to the refined diesels.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4.7
New 2.0 diesel improves CO2 emissions to class-leading levels

Not only is the new 2.0-litre diesel in the E 220d faster and more refined, it’s also more efficient. On the SE model’s standard 17-inch wheels, CO2 emissions are now down to 102g/km, improving the all important BiK tax rate for company car drivers to 18 per cent, delivering savings over rivals in the process.

This undercuts the Audi A6 ultra S tronic and BMW 520d SE auto by 7g/km, while combined fuel economy is up to 72.4mpg. It’s the low CO2 that makes the E-Class a real challenger in this sector now, however.

Opt for the E 350d and the vital figures aren’t quite as impressive, with the E-Class offering 54.3mpg and 136g/km CO2, but this is still competitive efficiency compared to its rivals and good considering the level of performance on offer.

As mentioned, the E 350e serves up enticing figures of 134.5mpg and 49g/km CO2. But while its low CO2 means the E 350e is eligible for the new Category 2 Plug-in Car Grant of £2,500, also helping to cut company car tax, in the real world you’ll be lucky to achieve the official figures, even if they’re for comparison purposes.

All cars get stop-start to help reduce tailpipe emissions, while other features such as clever aerodynamics further improve efficiency. The new E-Class has a drag coefficient of 0.23 Cd, which is actually 0.01 lower than the latest Toyota Prius, an already very aerodynamically advance vehicle, showing how well the Merc slips through the air, using less fuel in the process.

Servicing costs will be similar to other models in the Mercedes line-up. With service intervals of 15,500 miles or one year (identical to the S-Class), Mercedes offers a three-year/three-service maintenance package on the new E-Class for £37 per month, working out to £1,332 overall.

Insurance groups

The entry-level E 220d SE is rated at group 31 and should be the cheapest to insure. Going for AMG Line trim doesn’t increase this rating, but opt for the more powerful E 350d and this rises to group 41 for both SE and AMG Line variants.

Due to the more expensive technology on the E 350e plug-in hybrid, insurance ratings will more than likely be higher due to factors such as increased repair costs following a crash. However, as the car isn’t yet on sale insurance groups haven’t yet been confirmed. 

Depreciation

With predicted residual values hovering around 45 per cent according to our experts, the new E-Class is on a par with rivals when it comes to depreciation. 

The entry-level E 220d SE will hold onto 45.2 per cent of its value, making it one of the stronger models in the range. However, it’s the E 350d SE that resist depreciation the best according to estimated values, retaining 48.5 per cent of its purchase price.

AMG Line models are likely to be more desirable on the second-hand market due to the extra standard kit and sportier looks, although there’s not too much difference in expected used prices between these and SE versions, so whichever E-Class you go for, you’ll lose around the same proportion of the price as you would on an Audi A6.

Interior, design and technology

4.7
High quality cabin, plenty of practicality and lots of tech make the new Merc E-Class easy to travel in

From the outside, the Mercedes E-Class takes styling inspiration from the larger S-Class, and it ditches its predecessor’s boxy design in favour of the limousine’s more svelte curves. While the design might not be to everyone’s tastes, the higher-spec AMG Line model has lots of kerb appeal.

Step aboard, and the interior also takes its design cues from the S-Class, with a minimalist approach to the dashboard layout. The fascia flows across the cabin, featuring four circular air vents in the centre and, if you opt for the twin 12.3-inch displays, a high-tech bank of monitors up above featuring crisp, sharp graphics. 

A neat row of toggle switches for the climate control on the dash, as well as a few other vital buttons are the only real items to press and prod, as the rest of the infotainment system is controlled from the rotary wheel on the transmission tunnel.

It’s a familiar setup to the rest of the Merc range, but isn’t quite as intuitive to use as some rival systems using similar control interfaces, or a touchscreen device.

However, you can’t fault the technology on offer. Self-parking is standard on SE trim, as is a reversing camera, sat-nav, LED headlights, Mercedes’ Active Brake Assist, climate and cruise control, keyless go, DAB and heated seats.

Options include advanced driving assistance systems such as Merc’s new Drive Pilot, however the UK won’t benefit from the automatic lane change function. This still takes us one step closer to autonomous driving, though.

There’s lots of space in the rear and access is easy too, thanks to the 6.5cm longer wheelbase than the previous E-Class. Headroom is also good, but the roomy cabin doesn’t hurt practicality elsewhere.

A 540-litre boot means there’s lots of space on offer for luggage, while adding the Premium Plus Package adds a power assisted bootlid. The E-Class will easily accommodate a family of four on long journeys thanks to the sumptuous, leather lined cabin.

And it’s this quality where the E-Class excels. Whereas the smaller, cheaper C-Class saloon feels flimsy in areas, this mid-size saloon model is more like the larger S-Class when it comes to material quality, fit and finish.

Allied to the advanced tech inside, the E-Class’ interior puts the older A6 and 5 Series in the shade, and beats the newer Jaguar XF, too.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Sat-nav is fitted as standard to the bottom rung of the E-Class ladder, the E 220d SE. However, this uses a smaller 8.4-inch screen as opposed to the larger 12.3-inch wide screen display available as an option. 

This automatically comes as standard on E 350d variants, along with the upgraded Comand Online nav system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for even more integration with your smartphone. E 350d variants also get twin touch pads on the steering wheel to navigate through different menus – especially useful if you go for the extra 12.3-inch dial pack. 

Go for the Premium Plus package and the E-Class also gets a high-end Burmester surround sound stereo, which is powerful and punchy, emitting a clear sound.

There’s plenty of scope to customise the look of the car inside, too, with different trim inlays and upholstery colours, while extras like the seat comfort package further improve the E-Class’ long distance cruising ability.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

4.4
Joint biggest boot in class and a roomy cabin offer plenty of practicality

There’s only one E-Class body style at the minute, although the estate will join the line-up in 2017, while Coupe and Cabriolet variants are likely to come later.

It means that the saloon is the only model on offer for now, but that’s no bad thing as there’s lots of flexibility on offer here. 

It’s a full five seater, and although the transmission tunnel restricts room in the middle slightly, the E-Class still offers enough space for five fully grown adults on shorter journeys. That’s thanks to the comfortable seats and, for the driver and front passenger, plenty of adjustment.

A softer chassis setup compared to rivals means the E-Class focuses on comfort more than sportiness, floating nicely over rippled roads. However, the big body and chunky C-pillars mean rear visibility over the shoulder isn’t the best – but with features like blind spot assist available, there’s enough safety tech to help out here.

That enlarged body means there’s lots of room inside, so the E-Class offers good storage. A deep central cubby between the front seats gives lots of space to stow items, while a large trinket tray in front of the multimedia controller gives a place to put mobile phones – in fact, this is where the wireless charging option is located if specified.

Decent sized door bins that run the length of the doors and a large glovebox give some extra storage, too.

Size

As mentioned, the E-Class has grown compared to its predecessor, so this new model is now 43mm longer than before at 4.9m.

Despite the space inside this fifth-generation E-Class is actually now narrower and shorter too, showing how Mercedes has cleverly optimised the layout inside to maximise passenger room and comfort.

It’s a similar length to all of its main rivals, with the Jaguar XF, BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 also all hovering around the 4.9m mark, but with a reversing camera as standard and an optional 360-degree monitor available, the E-Class should be easy to manoeuvre.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

The E-Class’ wheelbase has grown by 65mm, meaning more room between the axles for passengers – and you can feel this inside.

Legroom is good, and the practical roofline means even taller adults won’t suffer when it comes to headroom in the rear. Three big adults in the rear might feel a little tight, but it’s fine for shorter journeys.

Boot

A 540-litre boot puts the E-Class on a par with the Jaguar XF, making it the joint class leader. This is also 10 litres more than an A6 and 20 litres up on the 5 Series, while the square shape means you can make the most of the E-Class’ load bay. 

Saloons aren’t normally the most practical models when it comes to swallowing luggage, as large hatchbacks generally offer a bigger opening.

However, the E-Class’ boot lid rises high out of the way and reveals a big aperture, so although there is a small loading lip to contend with, the Mercedes still offers enough flexibility.

It’s worth noting that the battery pack in the E 350e does eat into boot space compared to the diesel models, and with a higher boot floor it’s easy to see where the space is lost. 

Mercedes hasn’t yet confirmed exactly how much luggage room is lost on this plug-in hybrid model, but will confirm figures when the E 350e goes on sale later this year.

You can add a £345 split-folding 40:20:40 seat option for extra practicality when carrying longer loads, while this also increases overall luggage volume.

Reliability and Safety

4.6
Cutting-edge safety tech and clever protection systems mean E-Class is arguably even more advanced than S-Class big brother

With autonomous emergency braking, tyre pressure monitors and nine airbags as standard, safety is strong on the new E-Class. 

You can improve things further with the Driving Assistance Plus package, which adds active brake and evasive steering assist to help avoid an obstacle in the road. Active blind spot assist and lane keeping also features while Pre-Safe Plus and Pre-Safe Side prepares the car for a collision to improve your chances of surviving unhurt.

Mercedes usually debuts advanced safety and assistance systems on its S-Class halo model, but it’s chosen the new E-Class to showcase its Drive Pilot system.

This comes as part of the Driving Assistance Plus package and uses the adaptive cruise, autonomous braking, lane keep assist and steering pilot to drive autonomously at up to 130mph. You can even flick the indicator to automatically change lanes, with the car assessing its surroundings and the traffic situation before performing the manoeuvre itself.

Unfortunately, though, we won’t get this last system in the UK from launch due to traffic legislation, but watch this space in the future as it’s a clever feature that really does work, taking the stress out of driving.

Although Mercedes slipped two places to 11th overall in our most recent annual Driver Power satisfaction survey, this is still towards the top end of the table, beating its closest rivals Audi and BMW who finished 13th and 14th respectively.

However, it couldn’t match Jaguar’s second place overall result, so there’s still plenty of room for the German brand to improve.

As we’ve mentioned, quality is strong here, so we’d expect this new E-Class to fare well when it eventually features in our Driver Power customer survey.

Warranty

All Mercedes cars come with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, and with 136 dealers across the country, if something does go wrong you won’t have to travel too far to get it fixed.

Last updated: 6 Apr, 2016