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First drive: Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

First drive: Mercedes-Benz E-Class
We've driven the all-new E-Class in four distinct flavours, including best-selling diesel E 220 d guise.

   



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Mercedes-Benz E-Class

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The arrival of the brand new Mercedes-Benz E-Class is marked by the debut of some of the company's most cutting-edge technology, including near-autonomous driving assistance, but the biggest news is the introduction of a quiet and efficient new four-cylinder diesel engine, which complements the reduced weight and enhanced aerodynamics of the executive saloon to result in a leaner E-Class than ever before. We sampled the likely best-selling E 220 d, along with the E 350 d, E 350 e plugin hybrid and the highest performer in the range (for now), the E 400 4Matic.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz E 220 d
Pricing: from 35,935
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: from 102g/km (VED Band B, 20 per annum)
Combined economy: as high as 72.4mpg
Top speed: 149mph
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Power: 194hp at 3,800rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,600- to 2,800rpm

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz E 350 d
Pricing: from 44,930
Engine: 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 diesel
Transmission: nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: from 136g/km (VED Band E, 130 per annum)
Combined economy: as high as 55.4mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Power: 258hp at 3,400rpm
Torque: 620Nm at 1,600- to 2,400rpm

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz E 350 e
Pricing: estimated at 50,000
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine mated to electric motor
Transmission: nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic, rear-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: from 49g/km (VED Band A, 0 per annum)
Combined economy: as high as 134.5mpg
Top speed: 153mph
0-62mph: 6.2 seconds
Power: system peaks at 286hp
Torque: system peaks at 550Nm

Model tested: Mercedes-Benz E 400 4Matic
Pricing: to be confirmed
Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbocharged V6 petrol
Transmission: nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic, four-wheel drive
Body style: four-door saloon
CO2 emissions: 174g/km (VED Band H, 205 per annum)
Combined economy: 36.7mpg
Top speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.3 seconds
Power: 333hp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 480Nm at 1,600rpm

What's this?

The brand new Mercedes-Benz E-Class saloon, and the most technologically advanced car in the company's line-up. Clever new autonomous driving features enable the car to steer, brake, accelerate and even change lanes for itself in certain situations, while the interior can be specified to be even more impressive than that of the Mercedes S-Class. In spite of all that, the E-Class is about 100kg lighter than its predecessor and its new body also cuts through the air easier, helping it to considerable efficiency gains and reduced noise. On top of that, the E-Class is bigger than before, to the benefit of interior space.

Big news is the introduction of a brand new four-cylinder diesel engine, a 2.0-litre unit that replaces the biggest selling 2.1-litre engine of old. It's introduced initially in E 220 d guise with 194hp, 400Nm of torque and emissions of as low as 102g/km. This model goes on sale in the UK in May starting at 35,935 and will be joined by the E 350 d and E 350 e later in 2016. The former is powered by an updated (more powerful, yet more efficient) V6 turbodiesel, which has historically accounted for some 30 per cent of E-Class sales in the UK. The latter is the first plugin hybrid E-Class, using a turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor. It has an electric-only range of less than 20 miles, but its low official CO2 figure of 49g/km could endear it to company car buyers, especially those confined mostly to urban driving. All models come as standard with the nine-speed 9G-Tronic automatic transmission, sending power to the rear wheels - though 4Matic four-wheel drive will become available in time on certain variants.

Trim levels in the UK will be called SE and AMG Line. SE includes a multifunction leather trimmed steering wheel with (fantastic to use) dual touchpads; LED headlamps and tail lights; Collision Prevention Assist; a Garmin Map Pilot satnav system; Pre-Safe Sound, which effectively readies the occupants' ears for the noise of an impending accident; and a full suite of parking assistance including sensors, rear view camera and a self-parking function. The interior also gets LED ambient lighting as standard, with 64 different colours. The AMG Line adds 19-inch alloy wheels and AMG body styling on the outside, complemented by an AMG steering wheel inside and a mix of Artico/Dynamica upholstery inside.

Choice options include Air Body Control air suspension, which is standard on the E 350 d, but otherwise 1,495; impressive twin 12.3-inch high-res display screens sitting behind one big glass screen; Remote Parking Pilot to allow moving the car into and out of spaces using a smartphone app remotely; Multibeam LED headlights with 84 individual LEDs; and a comprehensive Driving Assistance Plus Package, which features all the semi-autonomous technology.

How does it drive?

The important car here is the E 220 d. Not only will it be the biggest seller, appealing to private and business buyers alike, it also marks the introduction of a spanking new four-cylinder turbodiesel engine, which will go on to be one of the most produced units in the Mercedes range. And it takes mere minutes behind the wheel to confirm that the new 2.0-litre engine is far smoother and quieter than its 2.1-litre predecessor. There's ample performance on tap and little reason to rev the engine out to its red line as it's all produced at lower speeds. The nine-speed automatic is a good companion, silky smooth in its changes and sensibly calibrated. Its reactions (and the rest of the car's) are sharpened up by choosing Sport or Sport + from the Drive Select switch, and there's little reason to reach for the manual override gearchange paddles behind the wheel.

We tested two different suspension systems at the launch, but sadly not the standard lowered 'comfort suspension' that will be included on the E 220 d in the UK. The Air Body Control system is highly impressive, using multiple air chambers instead of steel springs, with two levels of stiffness depending on driving mode and conditions. It also includes adaptive damping, but in most settings it remained very comfortable. The AMG Line cars we tested had a firmer set-up with adaptive damping and they handled with more sharpness for a slightly compromised ride quality. We even took the E 400 4Matic on track in Estoril in Portugal to see what it could do. Its four-wheel drive system splits torque front-to-rear in a 45:55 split so it feels mostly rear-wheel drive. Yet driven beyond its limits with the (sometimes overly keen) ESC system disengaged the divvying up of the power front and rear can be felt and while it's not really a car designed to be driven on a race circuit, it proved to be moderately adjustable on fast sweeping bends and until the brakes and tyres got too hot it put in a good performance. Back on the road, we'd prefer the V6-engined E 350 d. It sounds good and is faster in the real world even than that twin-turbocharged E 400 due to the extra torque available low down the rev range.

The forthcoming E 350 e plugin hybrid is worth a mention, though as ever with these things it's best-suited to drivers that don't spend long hours at the wheel on the motorway. That's because its eye-catching economy is only achievable if you regularly charge up the lithium ion battery pack and use its electric-only running to the maximum. Still, it drives much like any other model in the line-up, despite a weight increase, and it's such a joy to cruise along at low speeds in utter silence. The petrol engine is quieter in this than it is in the Mercedes C 350 e too, so the luxury image is maintained.

All versions of the E-Class are fitted with speed-sensitive variable ratio electric power steering so it's smooth reacting in a straight line and not overly responsive on the motorway, while offering tangibly more directness in tighter curves. On track it revealed that there is some useful feedback in the system too, but on the road this was overshadowed somewhat by all the driver assistance technology that was fitted to our test cars. In theory, this semi-autonomous function is great; it can effectively keep the car within the speed limit at all times, can brake and bring the car to a complete stop when traffic dictates it and even offers steering assistance. Mercedes doesn't encourage its customers to let go of the steering wheel, but the system is capable of fully steering the E-Class and keeping it within its lane on pretty much any road. It has limitations though. We found it struggled to cope with very tight corners on smaller roads, for example. Owners are told they have full responsibility and indeed the system won't allow the driver to let go of the wheel indefinitely, but this is clearly a big step towards fully autonomous driving.

Verdict

Our drives at the international launch were somewhat overwhelmed by the new autonomous driving technology, though much of it is optional. Likewise, we've not yet driven a version of the new E-Class with suspension that represents the majority of buyers in the UK. Thankfully, the new 2.0-litre diesel engine in the E 220 d did shine through and combined with the nine-speed automatic transmission it seems to be a real jewel in the crown for Mercedes. That, along with the best interior in the segment, means the new E-Class is once again competing for class honours.

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Shane O' Donoghue - 9 Mar 2016



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2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.

2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.



2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 

2016 Mercedes-Benz E 350 d AMG Line. Image by Mercedes-Benz.
 






 

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