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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For Has just the right image; it's smooth and comfortable, too

Against BMW’s 5-series is - just - better to drive and quicker

Verdict Leads the pack for refinement and space

Go for… E200 Classic auto

Avoid… E500 Sport

Mercedes-Benz E-Class Saloon
  • 1. If you stick to the smaller engines and basic Classic trim, you get 99% of what’s best about the car at a value price
  • 2. The cabin is solidly screwed together and should remain rattle-free
  • 3. If you're looking at an E320 CDI, ask the previous owner if it has suffered starting problems
  • 4. It's important to choose the right colour: pale metallics hold their value best, dark blue and green the worst
  • 5. An E-class is costly to insure, with even the cheapest models in group 15
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Mercedes-Benz E-Class Saloon full review with expert trade views

This car lopes along with regal smoothness, smothering bumps and shutting out noise almost completely. Good as it is to drive, though, BMW’s 5-series is definitely better.

The huge and very comfy cabin is adorned with wood, even on the entry Classic. It isn’t as barge-like as previous Es, so while passenger space remains good, rear headroom is perhaps a touch tight. That said, the boot is still a cavern.

The huge range of engines and trims makes buying any E a maze. And, if that’s not enough, the number of options available when the car was new means you’ll rarely find two used cars alike.

The smaller engines and lower-spec models are the most common and also represent strongest value. Most have auto gearboxes and they’re so smooth we’d shy away from manual shifts. In any case, the foot-operated parking brake makes hill starts a wrestle if you also have a clutch to deal with.

Trade view

John Owen

Great car spoilt by electrical reliability concerns

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Five petrol engines, three diesels and four trim levels make choosing the right E-Class a potential headache. Fortunately, sticking with the smaller engines and entry-level Classic trim buys you 99% of what’s best about the car at a value price.

Buy from Merc dealers or reputable non-franchised specialists, stick with the E200 petrol or the E220 diesel, insist on an auto gearbox and you can’t go wrong.

If you have cash to spare, the E280 petrol or diesel Elegance/Avantgarde have extra kit and added power, but we wouldn’t stray further up the model list because the bigger, more powerful engines don't suit the car’s wonderfully relaxed nature.

As well as that, you should pick the colour of your car carefully. Pale metallics look best and fetch the most come resale time, whereas dark blues and greens look dull and are consequently worth less. Similarly, a fully documented history and only a couple of previous owners help shore up values.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Strong demand, but small engines and spec ignored, E320 CDI best buy

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Owning an E-Class is never going to be cheap, but you can reduce bills by finding a good independent garage for servicing and repairs. Check, though, that they follow Mercedes schedules and use proper branded parts rather than cheaper copies to keep your warranty intact.

The car decides its own servicing schedules based on how it's driven, and tells you when work is due. However, a major service is needed every three years, so the smart move is to go for a car that’s just had this done.

Engines and transmissions are durable, so there's no real need to budget for repairs on them. But, the E’s complex electrical systems have caused grief for too many first owners, and threaten nasty bills later on.

Insurance is expensive, too, running from group 15 for the low-end models up to 20 for the E55 AMG. But, on the other hand, fuel economy is reasonable: 30mpg for the E200, up to 40mpg for the diesels and mid-20s mpg for the E280 and E350. The only really scary ones are the E500 or E55, which barely reach 20mpg.

Trade view

John Owen

Great car spoilt by electrical reliability concerns

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Above all, look out for problems with the electrical systems, especially on early cars. Mercedes prides itself on being first with advanced electronic gizmos, but this car had problems.

Prod and push every switch to ensure they work. And, if the car has an automatic gearbox, make sure that it changes gear as it should, that the engine idles smoothly and there are no flat spots when accelerating.

On every model, also check that all the warning lights come on when you turn the igintion on, and then go out when the engine fires. Note also that the battery can go flat if a car is left for as little as three days (some owners fitted an upgraded battery to counter this), the electronics governing the brakes can go haywire, leaving the system in ‘limp-home’ mode, and the paintwork on older cars can scratch too easily or even flake off.

Overall, the car received a kicking from owners reporting to the JD Power customer satisfaction survey, while the What Car Reliability Index shows plenty of faults, too.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Strong demand, but small engines and spec ignored, E320 CDI best buy

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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