What's the used Mercedes E-Class saloon like?
This is the fifth-generation model, a revamped car that incorporates a number of significant updates designed to keep it competitive with a number of hugely competent rivals, most notably the magnificent BMW 5 Series. It’s bigger, lighter and stiffer, as well as more efficient. 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 fulfill so many roles so well points to an in-built engineering strength in its basic mould.
The choice of diesel engines begins with the entry-level E200d, working up through the E220d to the V6 E350d. Petrol options start with an E350e plug-in hybrid, which combines a four-cylinder engine with an electric motor, and work up to the super-sporty Merdeces-AMG E43, E63 and E63 S models.
There are just two basic trims for regular E-Class models: SE and AMG Line. 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 E220d has the edge over the E200d on oomph and, seeing as its claimed fuel economy is the same, there seems little point in seeking out the smaller engine. The E350d has plenty of performance and is refined, but you’ll pay for it at the pumps. The intriguing E350e hybrid’s performance is only slightly behind the E350d’s, with an electric driving range of around 20 miles and CO2 emissions of just 49g/km. While that sounds fantastic in principal, 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 30mpgs 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 E43 model doesn’t feel as quick as you might expect on the highways, but the E63 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 E220d, 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.