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New Executive Champ?

New E-class is a technical tour de force, but does it have the beating of executive rivals?

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4.0 out of 5

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The latest model in Merc’s long line of E-Classes won’t disappoint. It’s improved in every area, offers supreme refinement and a cabin that wouldn’t look out of place in a luxury limousine. Comfort is first class in the rear, too, while the huge boot scores plenty of practicality points. Our only reservations are with the styling – will the boxy looks put off buyers? We think they might. For now at least, Jaguar’s XF remains our exec favourite, but when the E-Class arrives in the UK in June, it’s sure to give the desirable British contender a run for its money.

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Excellence, elegance and executive luxury – the Mercedes E-Class represents everything the German firm is famous for. And while competition is tougher than ever, with challengers from BMW and Audi being trumped by Jaguar’s superb XF, Mercedes is ready to fight back with a new executive superstar.

The latest model takes on the angular shape of the smaller C-Class. A four-lamp nose remains, however, and the rectangular lights flank a familiar bold grille, but it doesn’t look particularly pretty. At the back, the lines are more conservative. Even if you don’t like the styling, there’s no doubt about the E-Class’s aerodynamics. A drag factor of 0.25 allows it to slip through the air with maximum efficiency. And that contributes to some serious advancements in economy and emissions. BlueEFFICIENCY is the German firm’s term for reducing weight and energy on its models, resulting in a 3mpg improvement across the executive car’s range.

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Inside, designers have been much more successful than on the outside. Taking its lead from the S-Class, the newcomer offers first-class luxury. There are maybe too many buttons on the dash, but the quality and appearance of the cabin is tough to beat. And it’s this supreme comfort that sets the tone for the driving experience. Even though the bodyshell is 30 per cent stiffer than the outgoing model’s, the E-Class is more about isolating you from your surroundings than providing sporty handling.

Thanks to Mercedes’s latest air-suspension with adaptive shock absorbers, the E-Class rides well over potholes, while has greater cornering agility than its predecessor. The rear-wheel-drive four-door still can’t match the engaging handling of its BMW and Jaguar rivals, yet it proved resistant to high-speed body roll and responsive to sudden changes in direction.

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Our E350 CGI test car had Mercedes’ efficient V6 petrol unit. Carried over from the current model, it provides smooth acceleration combined with near-diesel levels of efficiency. But, if you want economy you should look elsewhere in the range. Buyers of the four-cylinder E200 CGI petrol will benefit from Mercedes’ first stop/start system. All variants come with change-up and down indicators on the dash to show the most economical shift points.

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High-mileage drivers will be more interested in the E-Class’s new diesel engine range. The oil-burning line-up is made up of 134bhp E200 CDI and 168bhp E220 CDI units, along with a 201bhp E250 CDI which emits only 139g/km of CO2. The range-topping diesel is the 228bhp E350 CDI.

Whichever engine you choose, you can benefit from a raft of hi-tech kit. One of the saloon’s cleverest features will be great for driving in rural areas at night. Adaptive High Beam Assist automatically dips your headlights when a windscreen-mounted camera sees another car’s lamps coming towards you, keeping as much of the road as possible illuminated without dazzling anyone.

Everything from a standard-fit drowsiness detection system to Lane Keep Assist, as well as radar night vision from the bigger S-Class, ensure the latest executive model from Mercedes can trump the safety kit of all of its rivals. Will that help it to climb to the top of this coveted market sector? There’s no doubt the E-Class is a contender for executive class honours once again.

Rival: Jaguar XF
While Mercedes might see BMW’s 5-Series as its rival, the XF has even more to offer. With a power and efficiency increase for its diesel unit and improvements to the petrols, Jag is a great drive and desirable

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