Mercedes E220 CDI SE

Model scores on refinement and comfort, plus the appeal of the brand

The E-Class has only been in showrooms since 2009, but the it’s the elder statesman of this executive trio. Despite its advancing years, the imposing Mercedes still represents a stern test for any new arrival in this sector. 

Top-notch build quality, superb refinement and unrivalled company car park kudos make the E-Class a desirable machine, even in entry SE guise. However, you will have to do without the racy bodykit, eye-catching 18-inch AMG alloys and LED daytime running lights of the Sport trim version in our pictures. 


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Instead, you’ll get rather small 16-inch rims and an upright and old-fashioned design. Factor in the fussy creases along the car’s flanks, and the E-Class takes the wooden spoon in the style stakes.

Matters improve when you climb aboard. The cabin is solidly built and logically laid out. And while the dashboard design doesn’t have the flair of the Audi or material quality of the BMW, loyal Mercedes fans will feel at home. Behind the large steering wheel is the trademark single stalk for the wipers, lights and indicators. But while it works well enough, it isn’t as intuitive as the rotary controller for the car’s COMAND multimedia system. 

There’s a decent standard kit count, which includes heated seats, parking sensors and climate control. Occupants get plenty of space, too, with rear passengers benefiting from generous leg and headroom. 

And the useful 540-litre load bay offers 10 and 20 litres more than the Audi and BMW respectively.

Yet while the Mercedes takes practicality honours, it can’t match the more powerful 5-Series from 0-60mph – trailing by three-tenths, with a time of 8.4 seconds. However, despite its combination of a gruff 168bhp 2.2-litre and optional, power-sapping, five-speed auto box, the E220 delivers decent pace once it’s up and running. In kickdown, it betters the in-gear performance of its manual rivals, but the differences are small enough not to really matter. The dynamic contrasts are more obvious.

The E-Class’s softer suspension set-up is geared for comfort rather than back-road blasts. Standard adaptive damping and accurate steering help deliver decent composure, but the Mercedes can’t rival the BMW or Audi for driver appeal. Instead, excellent refinement and a supple ride make it better suited to relaxing long-distance cruising.

Running costs are less inviting. With emissions of 154g/km and 34.5mpg economy, it will be more expensive to tax and fuel than its rivals. Factor in lower residuals, and the odds are against it.


Chart position: 3WHY: Few manufacturers can rival Mercedes for heritage. Will the E-Class come up trumps in the company’s 125th year?

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