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 Mercedes 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 car, 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 Mercedes 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 Mercedes 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 Audi 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.
The E-Class range was substantially facelifted in late 2020. Tweaks to the exterior styling included a new grille design and new bumpers. While the exterior changes are minor, Mercedes extensively reworked the E-Class’s electronics, allowing the firm to offer a host of new driver assistance systems, ‘energising’ comfort seats and its latest infotainment technology. The revised E-Class comes as standard with two 10.25in screens, for the MBUX infotainment and instrumentation, with 12.3in screens optional.
The revised engine line-up includes seven petrol and diesel plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variants across the saloon and estate bodystyles, variously offering rear and four-wheel drive. Outputs for the PHEVs range from 154bhp to 362bhp for the petrol units and 158bhp to 326bhp for the diesels.
Other engine options include the four-cylinder M254 mild-hybrid petrol unit, along with six-cylinder petrol and diesel engines, all of which now feature a 48V starter/alternator electric motor. The installation of the EQ Boost system has been tweaked to further improve fuel economy.
What used Mercedes E-Class saloon will I get for my budget?
A lot of E-Classes have done high mileages, so watch out for those - not for nothing is it known as the Stuttgart taxi. A 2016 example with high-mileage starts at around £14,000. Up your budget to £17,000 for something from the same year with a below-average mileage.
A tidy 2018 E 220 d at a dealer should be around £20,000. A good six-cylinder E 350 d with reasonable mileage costs a similar amount, while the stonking E 400 d or an early E 43 AMG can be had for roughly £25,000. You'll need somewhere between £25,000 and £30,000 for a good 2019 car, and between £30,000 and £40,000 for a good 2020 model. You'll need in excess of that for a post-facelift car.
Buyers looking for a plug-in hybrid will need £24,000 or more for petrol-electric E 350 e without galactic mileage, or £33,000 for the E 300 de diesel-electric.
At the other end of the E 53 and E 63. Expect to pay £44,000 at least for the E 53 and £55,000 or more for an E 63.
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How much does it cost to run a Mercedes E-Class saloon?
The E 300 de diesel hybrid model is officially the most economical engine, with a claimed fuel consumption of 188.3mpg, quickly followed by two petrol hybrids at 141.3mpg for the E 300 e and 134.5 for the E 350 e, but as previously mentioned, you’re unlikely to get anywhere near that figure in regular mixed use. However, if all your journeys are short and you have use of a charging point at each end, it may well work out to be the best.
The E 200 d and E 220 d both managed 72.4mpg under the old NEDC test, but that figure was downrated to a rather a more realistic 53.3mpg under the later WLTP tests.
The E 300 d and E 350 d returned 47.9mpg and 47.1mpg, respectively. Despite having a similarly sized engine as the latter, the E 400 d returned a less impressive 42.8mpg, but that's probably down to being saddled with a heavy four-wheel drive system.
If you prefer petrol the E 200 is the most cost-effective choice, returning 38.2mpg. The low 31.7mpg of the E 450 means you might as well go for the E 43 or E 53 AMG models, which can manage 33.6mpg and 31.4mpg, respectively. Don't bother with the E 63 unless you have deep pockets; 23.7mpg is all you can expect from it.
Not all of the engines in the Mercedes E-Class range were available before 1 April 2017, so here we'll concentrate on the ones that were. The lowest CO2 emitter is the E 350 e plug-in hybrid at 49g/km, followed by the E 200 d at 102g/km. Stepping up to the E 220 d increased emissions to 109g/km, but that's nothing compared with the AMGs. The E 43 emits 192g/km, while the E 63 is the worst at 207g/km.
Tax for all cars registered after April 2017 will be at the flat rate, and there's currently a small saving on that for the hybrid, but any models costing over £40,000 will attract a supplementary charge that's payable for five years from the car's second year. Anything registered before this date will fall under the old system that based the amount of tax you paid upon the amount of CO2 (see paragraph above). Current costs are £155 a year for the road tax (£145 a year for hybrids) and £335 a year for the luxury car tax.
Servicing costs will be high, but Mercedes offers a number of servicing plans to help spread the cost via direct debit. It'll still be pricier than comparative servicing costs from Audi or BMW.
Which used Mercedes E-Class saloon should I buy?
With excellent on-paper economy and a smooth and mostly refined soundtrack, the E220d would be the one we’d seek out.
We’d keep things simple and stick with the SE trim, which offers most of what an E-Class owner would expect.
Our favourite Mercedes-Benz E-Class: E220d SE
What alternatives should I consider to a used Mercedes E-Class saloon?
The BMW 5 Series is wonderfully plush and classy inside and drives better than anything else in this class. It corners with composure and rides comfortably and is a great used buy.
The Jaguar XF strikes a superb balance between ride and handling, and is great fun to drive. It’s well equipped, too, and comfortable. It’s a little noisier than rivals and not as spacious, but it’s good value on the forecourts.
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