In lighter, larger tenth generation guise, it retains a sensible side but dials up the desirability, aiming to offer a smarter, more prestigious approach to Executive class motoring than its closest competitors. It does so with more efficient engines, astonishing technology and comfort that makes you question the need for a larger luxury saloon. Rivals from Audi, BMW and Jaguar should be worried.
On the move, you quickly find that Mercedes has achieved an excellent balance between comfort, refinement and agility with this E-Class. It’s as happy easing through town as it is covering great highway distances – but then you’d expect that. More surprising is how at home it feels on twistier roads, particularly if you’ve got a model fitted with the impressive ‘AIR BODY CONTROL’ pneumatic suspension that can be fine-tuned with the ‘DYNAMIC SELECT’ driving modes controller. More technology is provided by the optional ‘DRIVE PILOT’ system that when activated, allows the car to pretty much drive itself, working with the adaptive cruise control and active steering systems to keep the E-Class rolling in its chosen lane at any chosen speed up to 130mph.
On to engines – and the key ones will be the two diesels that almost all buyers will want. There’s a 258bhp 3. 0-litre six cylinder diesel unit fitted to the E350d, but most will prefer the 194bhp four cylinder powerplant installed in the volume E220d variant we’re trying here. This all-new 2. 0-litre engine is right up there with the best in class for refinement. Even when pressed hard, it refuses to be noisy or harsh, which all adds to the luxury feel. It also makes a solid business case thanks to 72. 4mpg combined consumption and 102g/km carbon dioxide emissions. If you really don’t want to fuel from the black pump but need efficient returns, then Mercedes also offers a 2. 0-litre petrol/electric E350e Plug-in hybrid variant with a 20 mile all-electric driving range.
The looks and appearance of any car are subjective, but it’s hard to argue against the assertation that this tenth generation E-Class is a very handsome machine. It’s a touch larger than before, but you’re more likely to notice the sportier, more confident demeanour and a more graceful sense of style borrowed from the larger S-Class model.
Take a seat inside and the extent to which the changes continue will depend quite a lot on the spec you’ve chosen. Entry-level models get conventional instruments and a central dash 8. 4-inch central monitor, but if you opt to upgrade to the COMMAND Online system we’re trying here, things change quite significantly. The central display is upgraded to 12. 3-inches in size and, if you pay more, you can link this to a virtual instrument display of the same size, creating one huge ‘floating’-style screen that’s framed by subtle ambient lighting.
Enough on infotainment: time to focus on class and quality – and there’s plenty of it on show. Build quality is predictably faultless and the ‘AMG Line’ trim we have here extends the interior’s leather finish to the upper part of the dash along with classy contrast stitching, a package that really lifts the interior.
I have to mention the leather seats too. They’re perfectly contoured and fitted around the driver to give ample comfort during long trips.
Time to take a seat in the rear. The first thing you find is more than ample space - no great surprise given this E-Class model’s popularity as an up-market private hire vehicle. If the front passengers have their seats at the lowest setting, you might find room for your feet slightly limited, but otherwise the rear footwells are big and broad.
Let’s move round to the boot, which gets this rather pointless automatic operation if you’ve opted for the ‘KEYLESS-GO Comfort package’. With the lid up, we find the body sides sloping in towards the bottom, which leaves a narrower entrance than you might expect. However, inside, the E-Class’s 540-litre capacity is one of the largest in its class, matched only by the Jaguar XF.
In summary, this is, in short, very much a 21st century full-sized Executive sector conveyance, the kind of car that really does set fresh benchmarks in its segment. True, it’s slightly more expensive than the competition. Also, there are rivals you could choose that’d be more dynamically rewarding to drive, though as Mercedes well knows, that kind of thing doesn’t tend to be prioritised by many likely buyers. Certainly if you can see beyond these two issues, then what’s on offer here is probably the ultimate statement of technology and luxury in this part of the market and certainly a package good enough to leave you questioning the need to spend more on a larger S-Class model. ‘The best or nothing’ was the slogan that Mercedes founder Gottlieb Daimler’s lived by. If it’s yours too, then we think you’ll like this car.