What's the used Mercedes E-Class saloon like?
Not quite as large and expensive as the mighty S-Class, and not quite as common a sight as the compact executive C-Class, for many the E-Class has always represented the sweet spot in the Mercedes-Benz saloon range.
This is the fifth-generation model; it's the E-Class at its most technologically advanced and fit to compete with with a number of hugely competent rivals, most notably the magnificent BMW 5 Series. You can buy it as a saloon, as here, or a commodious estate, a nifty coupé, a cabriolet or a mildly off-road estate called the All-Terrain. That its adaptability means the E-Class can fulfil so many roles so well points to its sheer in-built engineering strength.
The breadth of engine choice is huge. The entry-level option is the 148bhp E 200 d, with the six-cylinder 335bhp E 400 d at the opposite end of the range. There are also two petrol plug-in hybrids starting with the 232bhp E 300 e and 295bhp E 350 e, or there's a 222bhp E 300 de diesel-electric plug-in hybrid. Petrol options start with a 181bhp E 200, then step up to the 362bhp E 450, before winding up with the super-sporty AMG models beginning with the 395bhp E43 (later revised to the 451bhp E 53) and ending with 563bhp E 63 and 603bhp E 63 S models that both used versions of the same turbocharged 4.0-litre V8.
There are just three basic trims for regular E-Class models: SE, AMG Line and AMG Line Premium. Entry-level SE comes with plenty of luxuries, including alloy wheels, climate control, sat-nav, a DAB radio, cruise control, LED headlights, a self-parking system, heated leather seats and keyless start. AMG Line adds lots of sporty design touches, including bigger alloys, a sporty bodykit and a faux leather-wrapped dashboard. Oddly, it also gets you faux-leather seats instead of the real leather ones that feature on the cheaper SE.
Even the smaller four-cylinder diesels are smooth and quiet, helped by their standard nine-speed automatic gearbox. The E 220 d has the edge over the E 200 d on oomph and, seeing as its claimed fuel economy is the same, there seems little point in seeking out the smaller engine. The E 350 d has plenty of performance and is refined, but you’ll pay for it at the pumps. The intriguing E 300 e hybrid’s performance is only slightly behind the E 350 d’s, with an electric driving range of around 20 miles.
While that sounds fantastic in principle, the petrol engine is disappointingly rough; the handling is poorer than the regular E-Class's due to the additional weight of the battery, and real-world economy (with a discharged battery pack) was in the 30mpg range at best. At least the integration between the power sources is smooth. As with most plug-in hybrids, it perhaps only really makes sense if you do lots of short journeys punctuated by recharging. In some ways, the E 43 model doesn’t feel as quick as you might expect on the highways, or even the later E 53s, but the E 63 versions are real flyers.
In bends, the E-Class acquits itself well. There’s just about enough grip in the more basic cars and plenty in the sportier models, while all models steer with reasonable precision and speed and handle well, although the balance is definitely towards comfort rather than outright sportiness.
The E-Class is available with three distinct suspension options: firstly, regular 'passive' steel springs, in which its soft and spongy suspension smooths over larger obstacles with ease, even if you are jostled around a little along patched-up urban streets. Then there’s the pricey optional Air Body Control suspension, on which the high-speed ride is superb, but sharper-edged obstacles, including potholes and expansion joints, aren’t dealt with quite so deftly. And finally there’s a cheaper adaptive suspension system for the E 220 d, which adds a little adaptability to the basic set-up. Cruising refinement on all models is generally excellent, although there's a little more road and engine noise in the sportier versions.
The E-Class has an interior of rare class. It feels like a smaller S-Class from behind the wheel, and that’s a real compliment. The driving position is excellent, and the dashboard is logically laid out and adds a touch of style to everyday proceedings, especially if the original buyer opted for the giant display that stretches from centre console to behind the steering wheel.
Interior quality is one of the E-Class’s strongest suits. It runs the 5 Series close for quality and even matches the A6, yet it has a far more flamboyant-looking interior than both of those cars, which many buyers will appreciate. The materials used to construct the cabin are mostly classy and the buttons and switches, in the main, operate with precision.
Space is plentiful both front and rear, although two rear-seat passengers will be much more comfortable than three abreast, which is a bit of a squeeze, and the boot is an excellent size and shape with room for a week’s worth of holiday luggage.
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