New Mercedes E-Class 2023 review
The newly electrified Mercedes E-Class arrives to challenge the BMW 5 Series at the head of the executive car class
UK pricing and specs have yet to be confirmed, but even with the expected hike, we can already say that the latest E-Class really is the best of Mercedes. It’s packed with useful tech and has a beautifully finished cabin that’s more spacious than ever. But where it really delivers is in that trademark ability to melt away long journeys in exemplary refinement and comfort. If this really is to be the last combustion-engined E, it’s a hell of a way to sign off.
Is there still a place for the combustion-engined executive saloon? Mercedes and BMW clearly still think so. The latter’s all-new 5 Series line-up might feature a pure-electric edition for the first time, but it’ll sit alongside petrol and diesel variants. And right on cue, there’s a fresh generation of the E-Class ready to take them on.
Even so, the latest W214 version of Merc’s mid-size offering does feel like it could be the ultimate iteration. SUVs have scalped a fair chunk of sales out of this premium segment already, and you suspect that all-electric saloons may soon accelerate their assault on the E-Class’s last stand: the small-limo and private-hire taxi markets.
This E-Class range doesn’t include a pure-electric variant – that’s a role fulfilled by the EQE instead – but every version does feature electrification in some form or another. It’s hard to imagine how Merc could have done any more, really, to keep its combustion-engined stalwart relevant, as well as legally compliant.
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- New Mercedes E 220 d 2021 review
Used car tests
This E-Class is the largest version yet – 40mm longer and nearly 30mm wider than the car it replaces. And 22mm of that stretch is fed into the wheelbase in a bid to improve cabin space.
The new line-up starts with the E 200 petrol, with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo producing 201bhp and 320Nm, and a nine-speed automatic gearbox with an integrated starter-generator that can feed in 23bhp and 205Nm to deliver better response while the engine is spinning up. Mercedes claims a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds for this version, with CO2 emissions of between 144 and 166g/km, depending on trim level.
There’s a four-cylinder diesel too, the E 220 d, which gets the same gearbox and electric motor; it produces less power, but more torque: 195bhp and 440Nm. This comes with rear or four-wheel drive and can deliver CO2 emissions as low as 125g/km.
Half of the initial line-up will be plug-ins, in fact – all featuring 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol power, but a stronger electric motor (127bhp) and a 26.4kWh battery that can take the E-Class at least 59 miles in zero-emissions mode, Merc claims. The E 300 e mixes this set-up with a 201bhp engine and returns CO2 emissions of as little as 12g/km (14g/km in four-wheel-drive form), while the E 400 e is four-wheel drive only and has a more powerful 248bhp engine. The PHEVs are all faster than the mild hybrids, too, with 0-62mph taking as little as 5.3 seconds.
Our test starts in an E 200 equipped with the optional air suspension, and within only a few metres you can tell Merc has really resharpened its focus on comfort. The longer wheelbase probably helps a little, but in any case there is real sophistication to the low-speed ride as the E 200 glides over manhole covers, tram tracks and road scars on our test route. The experience is helped further by the assisted petrol engine, which never feels strained as you’re pulling away, and the smooth-shifting gearbox.
This same soothing nature also applies to faster terrain. The Merc flattens out gentle undulations on motorways, refuses to be bothered by bridge expansion joints and seems to pretty much ignore the variations in surface camber that you get at the edges of A and B-roads. There’s excellent wind and noise suppression, too, and with the electric motor’s help no longer needed, the engine is just a distant rush at 80mph.
Now, if you’re expecting to read how the E-Class still can’t quite match the balance and dynamic poise of even the outgoing 5 Series, well, it probably can’t. But it’s not as if it loses its composure in corners or is anything except well controlled. The steering is consistently weighted and accurate, and the body stays in check, even over mid-corner bumps and road imperfections. Only the very worst, sharpest ridges force the suspension beyond its limits; everything else is soaked up in a way that few modern cars on 21-inch wheels can manage.
The E 200 is expected to be the best seller, but the diesel E 220 d is pretty much just as refined, and even more efficient. There’s a bit of a rasp beyond 2,500rpm, but the engine never needs to go there – and motorway pace only needs 1,500rpm. Based on our experience, the E 220 d’s real-world cruising range could be around 800 miles (seriously), thanks to a 66-litre tank.
Motorway miles will, in theory, be made easier by a new level of assistance within the cruise control. The car will not only maintain its speed, but also overtake slower traffic, including signalling and making a lane change. The system we tried is set up for North America instead of Europe, but it already feels like a potentially useful tool.
Inside, the E-Class has never felt more of a baby S-Class, with high-quality materials and plenty of space for four tall adults. It’s easy to get comfortable in the supportive seats, and motorised vents help to direct airflow once you’ve picked a scenario from the climate control (you can still grab them for manual adjustment). The boot capacity remains the same as before, at 540 litres, although it’s reduced to 370 litres in the PHEV version.
Up front, the S-Class’s Hyperscreen has been shrunk slightly into what Merc is calling the Superscreen, with a standard set-up of a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and a 14.4-inch central display, plus the option of an additional 12.3-inch passenger screen. The last of those set-ups can show videos while you’re on the move, but they’ll be hidden from the driver’s line of sight by pixel-filtering technology.
The MBUX system behind it all is pretty significant too, though, because it’s actually taken from Merc’s next-generation vehicle platform, due next year. There’s no shortage of tech tricks, including the potential for the cabin-facing lens on the top of the dashboard to take selfies. Or, more usefully, to be a wide-angle camera for parked-up video conferencing on apps like Zoom.
There’s greater functionality with the voice-command system too, including conditional speech instructions, like telling the car to turn on the heated seats and pick warmer ambient lighting if the cabin drops below a certain temperature. And the car has AI that can pick up on your habits and act accordingly – turning on seat massaging if it notices the driver always does so on their morning commute, for example.
Merc is really hoping that it can keep customers away from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and MBUX could well do it; telling our E-Class that “we need a haircut”, for example, brought up a list of possible barber shops nearby, complete with review scores taken from Google.
On the whole, the cabin does feel like a technological tour de force, as many E-Class generations have over the years, and the early signs are that Mercedes has nailed the execution of its own systems where so many other manufacturers have failed.
The key factor in whether the E-Class is a hit or miss, of course, may well be specs and pricing. First UK deliveries won’t arrive until the end of the year, but sales will start in the second half of August, and the UK line-up will feature a range of AMG Line-based trim levels, plus an Exclusive Edition.
We’re told to expect a price rise of at least 10 per cent compared with the outgoing model – so the entry point will be bumped comfortably north of £50,000. For many, that will probably look like a lot of cash for a four-cylinder petrol saloon; but for those who really want a car with the E-Class’s effortless qualities and cutting-edge tech, it may well seem like money well spent.
|Model:||Mercedes-Benz E 200|
|Engine:||2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol|
|Transmission:||Nine-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive|