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In-depth reviews

Mercedes E-Class review - Engines, performance and drive

Improved efficiency and refinement is where Mercedes has made big strides with the E-Class

It's not the sharpest large saloon on sale, but the 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.

The standard coil springs and adaptive damper suspension set-up does a better job of soaking up bumps than the firmer Jaguar XF, but trails the BMW 5 Series for ultimate comfort. While it deals with big bumps well, broken tarmac and potholes send the occasional shake and shudder through the floor of the cabin. Cars with optional 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. 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.

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

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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-litre Ingenium unit in the Jaguar XF when it comes to a subdued idle and 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 400 d certainly offers that. With its 3.0-litre turbo diesel straight-six there’s a mammoth 700Nm on tap. This, combined with 336bhp, gives a 5.1 second 0-62mph sprint. However, it’s how the E 400 d pulls from low revs with plenty of potency that demands your attention.

Squeeze the throttle and the engine pulls hard from as low as 1,200rpm. Also, it will happily plod along at 30mph in sixth gear and accelerate all the way up to motorway speeds with minimal fuss. There’s no real need to wring the engine out past 3,000rpm because of the effortless power delivery. Add in the supple ride quality and the E 400 d is simply one of the most relaxing and refined cars in which to cover long distances.

The 429bhp AMG E 53 acts as a go-between for the standard E-Class models and the fire-breathing AMG E 63. Its straight-six delivers power smoothly and, while never being fast enough to scare you, has more than enough performance to get out of its own way. There’s plenty of grunt to be exploited in the mid-range, thanks to the 520Nm torque output. Acceleration is decent too, taking only 4.5 seconds to get from 0-62mph.

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The top-of-the-line engine is the E 63, with a massive 4.0-litre V8 giving 604bhp. Performance is a step above the E 53, tackling the 0-62mph sprint in 3.4 seconds and pressing on, if you go for the optional £765 AMG Driver’s Package, to a top speed of 186mph.

It’ll be the E 220d that makes up the majority of sales in the UK. However, Mercedes’ frugal E 300 e and E 300 de plug-in hybrids aim to be successful in the business market.

Combining a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor, the cars offer brisk performance, with both producing over 300bhp and 700Nm of torque. Each will also offer quiet electric running in town, and low CO2 emissions. Company car Benefit in Kind tax is cheap, too.

The two hybrids will cover 0-62mph in less than six seconds and press on to top speeds in excess of 155mph. Supposedly, emissions will be low too, with the petrol producing only 45g/km of CO2 and the diesel between 38 and 42g/km of CO2 on the more stringent WLTP test cycle. Official fuel economy figures stand at 141mpg for the petrol-hybrid and a staggering 176mpg for the diesel-hybrid.

On the road, the E 300 e shows how far electrification has come. If you’re careful, (and if you follow the car’s suggested economical route) you should be able to squeeze more than 30 miles of pure-electric driving, which is enough for most morning commutes. The car feels a little less keen to change direction thanks to the extra weight of its batteries, but the plug-in hybrid is still good to drive and very comfortable. 

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