The Mercedes-Benz E-Class saloon clearly has a lot of loyal fans. It consistently scores highly in press reviews and more than 23,000 models found a home in the UK last year, outselling both the Audi A6 and BMW 5 series. And with the company’s goal to usurp its competition to world domination by 2020, it’s a very important model in the Mercedes line-up.
The Stuttgart-based company has therefore given the E-Class a mid-life cycle refresh for 2013. The new E-Class features a revised exterior design, additional equipment, new technologies and lowering emissions to appeal to savvy customers. We road tested two diesels that will make up the bulk of E-Class sales, the E250 CDI and the E350 BlueTec, and can now give you our verdict.
The new E-Class is a face-lifted model in the literal sense: most of the cosmetic changes have been applied to the front, the most obvious tweak being the headlamps. Mercedes designers ditched the previous quad lamp look for single units which communicate the split lamp identity of its predecessor, but we can’t help but feel that the visual identity of the quad lamp aesthetic we’ve seen on E-Class models for nearly 20 years was more appealing.
But they’re no ordinary headlamps: the entry-level units feature LED technology, and the optional full LED lamps – a first in the segment – light up the road in a crisp blue hue that simulates daylight better than conventional xenons.
The E-Class lineup has also been pared down from three to two: SE and AMG Sport. Both are adorned with a more pronounced grille sporting the three-pointed star at the centre, once reserved for the Sport model only. The design successfully conceals a multitude of sensors within it and looks more modern than the bonnet-mounted star, which soldiers on in other markets.
Designers also went to work on one of the more contentious design elements and revised the car’s bodyside surfacing. A single character line rising from the front wheelarch over the rear wheel replaces the ‘pontoon’ line of earlier models, resulting in a far cleaner design. In profile, this stretched look is said to preview the forthcoming S-Class as well.
The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class saloon is spacious and ergonomically suited to long journeys. Its seats are comfortable and supportive, which is ideal given its intended duty. All the usual storage compartments – the centre console, door pockets and two-level glovebox – are present in the cabin, including an under seat drawer in which to conceal smaller items you may not want to keep in plain view.
In the E-Class estate is both capacious and versatile, offering 1,950 litres of space in the boot as well as an optional folding bench seat to accommodate two additional passengers.
Swathed in high-grade materials, there is a premium quality to the interior and the E-Class does a remarkable job at keeping you isolated from exterior noises. Even at speed on motorways it felt as solid as a bank vault.
Performance & handling
As diesel powered E-Class models make up a whopping 90 percent of sales in the UK, we got behind the wheel of the turbocharged E250 CDI and the E350 BlueTEC – the former powered by Daimler’s 2.2-litre four pot and the latter driven by a 3.0-litre six cylinder.
Performance in the E250 is adequate; with 207hp and 500Nm of torque achieved at 1,600rpm it can reach 62 mph is 7.5 seconds. While these are decent numbers, the engine sounds strained in an otherwise well insulated cabin, especially as it climbs higher in the rev range.
The E-Class shell is better suitd to the 3.0-litre turbodiesel in the E350. With 252hp and 620Nm of torque it propels the car to 62 nearly a second quicker (6.6 seconds) than the four-cylinder and is significantly more refined and better to drive.
With either engine the E-Class is a fine motorway cruiser, its compliant suspension adding to the comfortable ride. It fares well when handling corners and, despite its lack of on-centre feel, the steering is well weighted.
Economy & environment
The E250 CDI is, unsurprisingly, more cost effective to run that the E350. Mercedes claims 57.7 mpg for the E250 CDI, which emits 131g/km of CO2 on 16-inch wheels, placing it in band E. And at 47.1mpg and 157g/km, the E350 BluTec slots into Band G.
Both feature stop/start technology and an ‘Eco’ mode, but only the E350 is Euro 6 compliant; the 250CDI is still in the Euro 5 emissions class.
Equipment & value
The new E-Class is dearer than its predecessor, but offers a host of additional standard equipment. SE models command a £2,280 premium over the outgoing model, but are now fitted with 17-inch five-twin-spoke alloys rather than 16-inchers and the simulated leather upholstery is now detailed with visible stitching. Mercedes’ COMAND online, Active Park Assist and Collision Prevention Assist systems are also standard, as is a DAB radio and folding wing mirrors, which include an auto-dimming feature on the driver’s side as well as the rear view. And it just wouldn’t be a Mercedes without a Nappa leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel, rain sensing wipers and automatic climate control.
An additional £2,495 will get you into the AMG Sport variant, which is £575 more expensive than the E-Class Sport it replaces, but adds the COMAND online, Active Park Assist and Collision prevention assist technology found in the SE. It also features AMG aprons and side skirts, side bolstered sport seats, a flat bottom steering wheel and a sports suspension. The E350 BlueTEC is only available in AMG guise.
Nappa leather seats will set you back an additional £1,935, the air suspension system costs £1,455 and the intelligent Adaptive High Beam assist, which allows you to drive in high beam without dazzling other drivers, is a £1,280 option.
Mercedes has a reputation for uncompromising attention to details where safety technology is concerned. Previewing a set of equipment that will find pride of place in the range-topping S-Class, the E features a host of driver assistance features to enhance not only passenger safety on-board, but for others on the roads as well. When so equipped, the E-Class can brake to a full stop to avoid impending collisions with other vehicles as well as pedestrians with Pre-Safe braking. It can steer itself whilst keeping a pre-programmed distance from the car in front through Distronic Plus, and even relay information that may have been overlooked through Traffic Sign Assist. It’s just one click shy of being autonomous.
The Mercedes E-Class has always been a fine bit of kit for cruising the motorways. From its well-appointed interior, solid build quality and multitude of technological advancements, there is good reason to visit your local dealership for a test drive. What the smaller four-cylinder powerplant lacks in refinement, it makes up for in overall efficiency.
But it’s the 350 BlueTEC that ticks all the boxes. Its engine is well suited to the overall qualities of this car – it’s more befitting a big, premium E-segment vehicle wearing the three-pointed star in its grille.
Though slightly more expensive than its comparable German rivals, the refined and spacious E-Class is certainly a strong contender. After all, 23,000 UK buyers can’t all be wrong.
Model tested: Mercedes-Benz E350 BlueTEC
Engine: 3.0-litre turbodiesel V6
Power: 252 hp
Torque: 620 Nm
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds
Top speed: 155mph (electronically limited)
Emissions: 157g/km CO2