New Mercedes E-Class 2024 review: a technical tour de force
The all-new Mercedes E-Class executive saloon piles on the tech to take on the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6
The latest E-Class is a technical tour de force, and it continues to be a comfortable and upmarket cruiser that will leave you relaxed even after spending a whole day at the wheel. But it's not without issues. It feels as if the car's tech is taking over inside, and it's not as spacious as you might expect, particularly in the rear. The mild-hybrid E 220 d is certainly efficient, but it's also noisy when pushed, spoiling the cabin ambience.
It's been 30 years since Mercedes added a prefix to its medium-sized saloon car to create the E-Class. Since then, the model has morphed from a family-friendly machine to one that's a byword for executive comfort. And with the arrival of the latest version, that executive appeal has been boosted by a raft of cutting-edge tech.
Under the skin, the new E-Class uses the same MRA II platform system as the C-Class and even the S-Class, so all models now come with mild-hybrid technology at the very least. For the E 220 d driven here, that means a 48-volt lithium-ion battery is fitted, which takes some load off of the engine and helps to smooth its power delivery. There's 197bhp on tap, with an additional 23bhp offered by the electric system, while drive is sent to the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic gearbox.
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Used car tests
This powertrain is wrapped in a body that's an evolution of the previous E-Class. It incorporates styling cues from the larger S-Class and Merc's EQ-badged electric models, especially on the nose. Smooth lines give it the look of an enlarged C-Class, with plenty of family resemblance.
Inside, the cabin is also inspired by the S-Class, and this top-spec AMG Line Premium Plus version is loaded with plenty of gadgetry. In fact, it almost seems like too much; it feels like everything is crammed in at the expense of cabin space.
There's a broad range of seat and wheel adjustment, but the digital driver's display is positioned close behind the wheel. Combined with the broad sweep of Merc's new MBUX Superscreen that dominates the dashboard, plus a centre console that's set quite high, you feel a bit more cocooned than you might expect from a car that's normally thought of as a spacious executive.
That applies to the rear cabin, too. Considering that the E-Class is often used by prestige private hire companies, the amount of space offered in the back is surprisingly tight. The two outer chairs are heavily sculpted, so the middle seat will only really be of use to smaller passengers on short trips, while the large front seats eat into kneeroom, too.
Back up front, and that Superscreen is the centre of attention. The central display measures a substantial 14.4 inches across, while the driver's digital instruments are only slightly more compact, at 12.3 inches. On Premium Plus models these two screens are augmented by a third display for the front-seat passenger, also measuring 12.3 inches. This features most of the same functions as the central screen, so it's also possible to download games and apps, and also use the system without disturbing the central screen for the driver.
Options buried within include the ability to change the active ambient lighting, and make use of the climatised front seats with pseudo massage functions. The seats also incorporate '4D' audio, with the Burmester sound system adding bass thumps through the seat backs.
For the driver, there's smartphone-style tech that includes face recognition to activate different driver profiles, which is a step on from the fingerprint ID offered on the S-Class. There are 3D-effect instruments, a comprehensive head-up display, and a suite of drive modes and safety systems that can be tailored to your heart's content. Overall cabin quality is very hard to fault, with open-pore wood trim on the centre console, metal rocker switches for the air vents, and plenty of gloss-black plastics.
With so much tech on board, the E 220 d's mass is edging ever-closer to the two-tonne mark (1,915kg), and that does have some impact on how the E-Class drives. While the steering is light and responds quickly, and the chassis has good grip, the car's weight discourages really keen driving. As with previous generations, the rear-wheel drive layout is neutral in its set-up, with the car edging towards understeer when it's pushed, although the limits of grip are so high that you're unlikely to encounter in everyday driving.
There are Comfort and Sport driving modes, with the latter firming up the steering and sharpening the gearbox and throttle responses. But the Comfort setting is the one that's best suited to the E's character.
Where the E-Class really excels is when it comes to refinement and cruising comfort. These talents shone through with our test car, albeit with some caveats. The first of those is the 20-inch alloy wheels, which come as standard on AMG Line Premium Plus models, and introduce a fidget to the suspension when riding over rough surfaces. There's a conventional spring and damper set-up here (air suspension is available as an option), and it's great when the road is smooth, but we'd like to see what the ride is like on smaller 18 or 19-inch rims to see if they take the edge off the car's ride.
One unavoidable feature of the E 220 d is its diesel engine. While the 48-volt system smooths out its responses, the nine-speed auto delivers smooth shifts and the power delivery is strong, the tranquillity of the cabin is broken when the four-cylinder engine fires up. It's quite a noisy performer, especially when extended, which further dissuades you from making the most of the car's potential.
When you do take things easy and the engine does settle down, the E-Class is a hugely capable cruiser. There's almost no wind noise even at motorway speeds, while tyre noise is kept to a minimum, too. Combine this with the refinement of the interior and the seat comfort features, and you could spend a whole day at the wheel and step out feeling refreshed.
It's at night when the E-Class shows off some if its best tech, though. The LED Digital Light system (standard with Premium Plus trim) is hugely impressive, with the auto main beam set-up adjusting the spread of light imperceptibly as it manipulates the individual bulbs for other traffic. The system also projects shapes on the road ahead to warn when you're close to the car in front or are moving out of your lane, too. The interior lights add to the upmarket ambience, but the illuminated grille up front is a bit chintzy to our eyes.
The safety tech on board is comprehensive, but it's not as intrusive as some rival systems. Mercedes' lane assist works just as it always has, so the system gently vibrates as you cross a line, but doesn't jerk the wheel out of your hands like some set-ups. There's an automatic speed limit warning that comes on by default each time you start the car, but it only takes two presses of the main screen to access and deactivate it. The comprehensive head-up display shows road signs alongside nav and other information, so it's easy to keep tabs on what's going on.
One benefit of the 48-volt system is the boost it gives to fuel economy, with an official figure of up to 58.9mpg quoted for the E 220 d. Considering the latest E-Class's size and weight, that's a pretty impressive result, and one that's likely to be achievable in everyday driving, if our time with the car is anything to go by.
|Mercedes E 220 d AMG Line Premium Plus
|2.0-litre 4cyl mild-hybrid diesel
|197bhp (+23bhp electric motor)/440Nm
|Nine-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive