Fleet News

Mercedes-Benz E-class E220/270 CDI

Mercedes-Benz

Review

Poor old Roget and his thesaurus. He is feeling heavily overworked at the moment as I have been trying to find enough words and phrases to use in place of 'superb', because with the new E-class, nearly every aspect of it warrants such vocabulary.

Mercedes-Benz expects to sell around 11,000 E-classes in a full year, which is a couple of thousand up from the last year or two of the outgoing model. And with the new company car tax rules, more than 50% of orders are expected to be for the diesel CDI models.

Recognising the need for a full range of diesel engines in the newly-shaped UK corporate car market, Mercedes has installed a 270 CDI in the E-class for the first time alongside the 220 CDI. Later in the year, there will also be a 320 CDI.

On-the-road prices will be £25,985 for the E220 CDI and £27,435 for the E270 CDI in Classic trim. Upgrading to Elegance costs £2,100 and Avantgarde £2,600. Although this is a slight price hike over the outgoing models – where applicable – Mercedes says there is more kit as standard on the new models, which more than offsets the extra cost.

The 2.7-litre five-cylinder diesel has had power upped by 7bhp to 177bhp, and torque by 10% to 313 lb-ft, while the 150bhp four cylinder 2.2 has the same power and torque hike as the larger unit, and is now fitted with Lanchester balancers to iron out any roughness.

The E270 CDI achieves 41.5mpg on the combined cycle, the 220 slightly better at 42.2mpg. Acceleration is closely matched as well, as are carbon dioxide levels: 167 g/km for the smaller engine against 172g/km for the larger.

Mercedes has made much play of the fact that the E-class has 'everything we know in one car', and this car proves the firm knows an awful lot.

Image has never been a problem with Mercedes. In fact, it is the very essence of image and the E-class will enhance that perception.

It is a big, imposing car, but manages to balance that immensity with delicacy. The pretty front and rear lights are much more dynamic than the old model, while the gentle curves and lipped rear boot spoiler add some tenderness to the German corporate might evoked by the rest of the car.

Inside, that feeling is replicated. The dash has a slight swoop, the buttons – of which there seem to be hundreds – are all laid out prettily, and some of the more mundane controls, like climate control, and dials are all ringed with fine chrome bands.

As expected, the E-class is packed to the rafters with safety equipment. Most notable is the standard fit Sensotronic Brake Control, the brake-by-wire system, which is a world first for a volume production car.

Although it appears on the SL-class, Mercedes executives at the launch were particularly proud to have it on the E-class, as they claimed a major rival manufacturer had said it could not be fitted to a mass production car.

SBC claims a number of advantages: a quicker response time from pushing the pedal to braking and automatic disc drying function, which sees the brakes lightly brush dry the discs every five minutes.

Another feature is the lack of judder through the pedal during an ABS-assisted stop. Apparently drivers will often brake, feel the heavy vibration, panic and lift off – a possibly fatal reaction. This system cuts out that reaction.

The E-class also gets six airbags: two front, side and full-length windowbags, and a roll-over sensor, which tightens the seatbelts should a roll-over be imminent. The firm is aiming for a five star Euro New Car Assessment Programme rating when the car undergoes tests soon.

Residual values should be as safe as the occupants. Although there are no official figures yet, a quick scour through the CAP figures for the outgoing diesel E-class reveals all are still above 40% after three years/60,000 miles. Nothing will change with this version.

As for roominess, there is plenty in the front, and the boot, at 520 litres, is cavernous. But rear legroom, especially behind a taller driver, is not brilliant, and certainly no better than a Jaguar S-type. If it were, I suppose it would be called an S-class.

Although all cars come with automatic windscreen wipers and headlights, automatic climate control, alloy wheels throughout the range and SBC, it is some of the technology available as an option or only on top-spec models that is downright staggering.

The Airmatic Dual Control semi-active air suspension with adaptive damping and self-levelling suspension is very impressive.

It allows the driver to choose three settings, which vary from soft and cossetting limousine to hard-edged sports saloon. It makes the E-class three different cars in one.

Then there are the seats. The Driving Dynamic Seats sound a silly idea: the side bolsters inflate and deflate through corners to hold the driver upright, and how much depends on the forces involved.

But after a couple of fast bends, with the shock of the seat moving around you gone, it becomes very reassuring, and really holds the driver in position well. It might cost £860, but it is worth it just for its dinner party conversation potential.

There is only one aspect that disappoints: the car still has a manual handbrake. Jaguar, Renault and BMW are now starting to introduce electronic versions and I find it surprising that Mercedes, with its reputation for leading-edge technology, is still relying on the ratchety foot pedal.

There are no official RV figures, yet a quick scour through the CAP figures for the outgoing diesel E-class reveals all are still above 40% after three years/60,000 miles. Nothing will change with this version.

As for roominess, there is plenty in the front, and the boot, at 520 litres, is cavernous. But rear legroom, especially behind a taller driver, is not brilliant, and certainly no better than a Jaguar S-type. If it were, I suppose it would be called an S-class.

Although all cars come with automatic windscreen wipers and headlights, automatic climate control, alloy wheels throughout the range and SBC, it is some of the technology available as an option or only on top-spec models that is downright staggering.

The Airmatic Dual Control semi-active air suspension with adaptive damping and self-levelling suspension is very impressive.

It allows the driver to choose three settings, which vary from soft and cossetting limousine to hard-edged sports saloon. It makes the E-class three different cars in one. Then there are the seats. The Driving Dynamic Seats sound a silly idea: the side bolsters inflate and deflate through corners to hold the driver upright, and how much depends on the forces involved.

But after a couple of fast bends, with the shock of the seat moving around you gone, it becomes very reassuring, and really holds the driver in position well. It might cost £860, but it is worth it just for its dinner party conversation potential.

There is only one aspect that disappoints: the car still has a manual handbrake. Jaguar, Renault and BMW are now starting to introduce electronic versions and I find it surprising that Mercedes, with its reputation for leading-edge technology, is still relying on the ratchety foot pedal.

Behind the wheel

It is impossible for any driver not to find their ideal driving position in the Mercedes, due to huge variations in the seats and steering wheel.

Of course, comfort and luxury have never been a problem with Mercedes. If there was one fault with the last E-class, it was that it was fantastic on a long motorway haul, but a bit of a barge on twisting roads and unable to hold a candle to the BMW 5-series.

That has been rectified with the new generation. This car really is fun to throw around and feels compact and direct. On bends, the car can barrel through flat and fast, the tyres squealing, with very little body roll. For such a large and heavy car, it shows remarkable poise.

The steering is also much better, although fairly heavy at low speed, and the driver gets a lot of information through the wheel, when previously it felt over-servoed and bland.

The SBC brakes do take some getting used to. Although they haul the car to a stop well, I did find myself coming off the brakes, and then having to go back on, having misjudged the amount of braking needed. They are not vague and, to be honest, I wondered if it was me rather than the car. A longer drive would probably sort this out. The lack of dive under heavy braking, particularly when fitted with the air suspension system, is noticeable and exceptional.

The automatic gearshift is as good as ever, understanding your mood, and holding revs through bends when you might expect some boxes to slur up a gear.

There is very little noise intruding into the cabin in the E270, even under heavy acceleration, and the sound is noticeably flatter. There is less 'chug' than you might expect – instead a more sonorous hum – perhaps the result of an increase in common rail pressure, new injector nozzles and internal geometry.

In the E220, the noise is harsher and more metallic than the 2.7, although there is little to choose between them on the road. The bigger engine has more grunt, as expected, but it is not a marked advantage. Both cars will cover large distances seamlessly.

CO2 emissions and fuel consumption data correct at time of writing. The latest figures are available in the Fleet News fuel cost calculator and the company car tax calculator.

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