Mercedes-Benz knows its market well, and for many years its E-Class has proven a very popular choice with executive buyers looking for something upmarket, while keeping attainable running costs.
It’s always proven a solid contender for the Audi A6 and BMW 5 Series – its closest two rivals – and now it’s aiming to continue the fight as part of a recent mid-life facelift. Mercedes has aimed to give it a ‘softer’ look than before, introducing a new grille and reshaped headlights. Sharper new LED lights also feature at the rear.
A tweaked powertrain range sees the option of further plug-in hybrids being introduced, while inside the cabin there’s a new steering wheel with new touch pads. There aren’t a huge number of major changes then, but Mercedes is hoping what is new ensures it remains as competitive as before. So does it succeed?
Choice is everything on the E-Class, with a range of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrids to choose from, as well as hot AMG models.
Let’s begin with the E 200 mild-hybrid petrol, which uses a 181bhp 2.0-litre petrol. At the opposite end of the scale is the E 450, which uses a 362bhp 3.0-litre unit that makes it the most powerful E-Class available outside of the AMGs.
Next up is the E 300 e plug-in hybrid, which combines a 2.0-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for a total of 329bhp. The second PHEV option is the E 300 de, which joins a 2.0-litre diesel with an electric motor for a combined 312bhp. With both plug-in options using a 13.5kWh battery, Mercedes also claims they can travel for up to 34 miles when fully charged.
But remaining the most popular E-Class options are diesels, with a choice of the E 220 d, E 300 d and E 400 d. The former two use a 2.0-litre unit, with power outputs of 191bhp and 281bhp respectively, while the E400d features a punchy 326bhp 3.0-litre unit that delivers a brilliant mix of performance and efficiency.
Ride and handling
While the BMW 5 Series might take a sportier approach behind the wheel, the E-Class (in non-AMG form) is a car that majors on comfort and refinement. Even when riding on a huge set of alloy wheels, it seems to float across a surface with a supple ride that is rarely seen outside of far more expensive luxury cars. Adaptive dampers are also included as standard, while you should choose the optional full adaptive suspension setup for maximum comfort.
Strong engines across the board, and a superb nine-speed automatic gearbox mean the E-Class is a truly terrific cruiser and a brilliant companion on longer trips or early morning commutes.
Interior and equipment
The interior of the E-Class had a real wow factor about it when it debuted in 2016, and it’s telling of just how modern it was that Mercedes hasn’t made a huge number of changes as part of this update. In fact, the cabin remains dominated by twin 12.3-inch screens, one acting as the digital dial display and the second as the main touchscreen system. It truly is a brilliant technology showcase, but one that doesn’t sacrifice on quality in the process.
The E-Class cabin is also vast, with a generous amount of rear space for passengers and a big 540-litre boot. Just be aware that the plug-in hybrid’s batteries take 140 litres off of that figure.
There’s a huge choice of trim levels to choose from, too, though even the entry-level Sport comes with plenty of equipment – highlights include park assist, 64-colour ambient lighting and adaptive LED headlights.
AMG Line models prove popular, adding more stylish 18-inch alloy wheels, AMG bodystyling and three-zone climate control. Following this, AMG Line Premium adds 19-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and advanced Multibeam LED headlights.
At the top of the range is the AMG Line Night Edition Premium Plus (a right mouthful to say, we know). This brings a stealthier look thanks to 20-inch alloy wheels and a gloss black styling kit, while a Burmester sound system and full electric seats with massage function are also included.
Prices for the E-Class are unsurprisingly quite expensive, with the range kicking off from £39,760. That said, a long list of standard equipment and competitive pricing with core rivals means it easily helps to justify its price.
Given the generous level of kit, it’s the models at the lower end of the spectrum that make the most sense, given top-spec versions could set you back close to £60,000.
Where running costs are concerned, the plug-in hybrids are the ones to go for. With the E 300 e returning a claimed 188.3mpg, and the diesel E 300 de claiming 217.3mpg. Low CO2 emissions also mean the hybrids have a benefit-in-kind of just 11 per cent – ideal for company car drivers.
If you view a model like the E-Class as a luxury car on a lower budget, then it really does hit the nail right on the hand. With a fantastic interior, especially comfortable ride and huge range of standard kit, it truly excels in this class at being a premium saloon.
Though the BMW 5 Series might be more engaging to drive, the E-Class’s fuss-free fashion brings its own merits, and it truly would be an outstanding executive saloon to live with every day.Enquire on a new Mercedes-Benz E-Class