The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The driver's seat of the Mercedes E-Class has four-way electric adjustment, unless you go for the top-spec trim. That's the AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus (we’ll call it the 'AMG Line Premium Plus' from now on), which includes a fully electrically operated seat and steering column with memory settings. Still, the seat is comfortable no matter which version of the car you choose, helped by the fact adjustable lumbar support is standard.
It's a pity, then, that every E-Class has two flaws: a steering wheel that's offset to the left and a bulge in the transmission tunnel. The bulge pushes against your left leg and offsets the pedals to the right. The Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series have offset pedals, too, but they're not as bad as this.
There’s a 12.3in instrument display behind the steering wheel that provides lots of information. If you’re tall, you might find that the steering wheel covers the top of the display unless you position the wheel higher than is ideal. Most of the buttons are well placed and the climate control buttons are much easier to use while driving than the touchscreen set-up you get in the A6. Less impressive are the fiddly touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Over-the-shoulder visibility isn't as good as it is in the Audi A6, due to the E-Class's more enclosed rear-quarters. However, it's no worse than it is in the BMW 5 Series, and the windscreen pillars are slimmer than the BMW's, so you get a decent forward view.
As a bonus, all versions come with lots of parking aids, including front and rear sensors, a rear-view camera and park assist, which will park the car semi-autonomously. AMG Line Premium trim, which is one of the higher ones but is well priced, adds a 360deg camera.
All E-Classes come with bright LED headlights, which from the mid-spec AMG Line trim are adaptive. You can leave the headlights on main beam and they'll create shadows around the cars in front so they don't dazzle other drivers.
Sat nav and infotainment
The E-Class's infotainment software is responsive, plus it has menus that are reasonably well laid out. These are displayed on a 12.3in touchscreen, but when you're driving it's less distracting to use the touchpad between the front seats (or the smaller touchpads on the steering wheel). It's not as easy to use as the BMW 5 Series' iDrive rotary controller, but it’s safer than the A6's touchscreen-only system.
Say "Hey Mercedes" and you’ll wake up the natural speech control. This operates various features and gets most things right – although less so if a passenger is talking or the kids are fighting. All versions come with wireless phone charging and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring. A 13-speaker, 590-watt Burmester stereo is standard on the top-spec AMG Line Premium Plus trim and it sounds good.
All trims have built-in sat-nav. From AMG Line Premium trim upwards, it’s ‘augmented reality navigation'. That's basically a live camera feed of the road ahead overlaid with sat-nav instructions, including house numbers, road names and direction arrows.
The E-Class looks classy inside and, in general, the materials are plush, with wood, leather and soft-touch plastics the main constituents. All versions come with 64-colour ambient lighting that jazzes up the interior at night, too, while the upper trims add extra-supple Nappa leather.
Sadly, the interior isn't put together quite as solidly as you'd expect. Take the wood panel that stretches across the dashboard – it flexes and creaks if you prod it gently. The E-Class is still smarter inside than the Jaguar XF, but the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series feel better made.
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