What is it?
"The biggest facelift ever undertaken by the company," says Mercedes, although the extent of the exterior styling changes is not quite that obvious.
The quad headlamps have gone, and not before time it would seem, given the less-than-glowing response to the appearance of the old model.
The car also comes with the option of two grilles – a more conservative affair or a slicker sport variant, in the same manner as the C-class. In the UK, Mercedes will only offer the sport grille, as it reckons most buyers would choose it anyway.
A new four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine has been introduced offering 181bhp in the E200 and 208bhp in the model driven here, the E250. The rest of the engines are carried over from the current E-class. The chassis has been tweaked a little, too, to improve the car’s already fine ride.
Inside, Mercedes says it has improved the quality of the cabin with new trim, higher quality materials and a new monitor for the infotainment system. There are more standard safety systems, too, including Collision Prevention Assist, which brakes the car in order to reduce the severity of an impact.
What is it like?
Still very much an E-class – so it’s composed, well balanced and satisfyingly agile, if not quite as eager in its actions as the best of the competition.
Among the strengths is the steering, which is well weighted, encouragingly direct and, for such a system, quite communicative. But it is exemplary body control that really shines through when you begin pushing on.
A further asset is the deft tuning of the suspension. It retains conventional steel springs in the model driven here (higher end models get air suspension), delivering a smooth, quiet and cosseting ride even on heavily patchworked roads, making the car a tremendously serene and comfortable long-distance proposition.
On paper, the E250’s outputs aren’t that exciting, but it’s how they’re developed that counts. Increased peak torque now arrives 800rpm lower, at 1000-4000rpm, endowing the E250 with totally adequate performance.
Indeed, there is impressive shove low down, but the top end lacks sparkle, with the ignition cut-out arriving at an early 6300rpm. In this respect, this engine feels uncannily like a diesel.
Granted, the E250 is no rocket ship. However, there’s sufficient performance and tall gearing gives it a relaxed feel on the motorway. Refinement is also excellent, with little or no engine noise evident below 4000rpm, and the seven-speed gearbox has a much crisper action on upshifts than before.
Should I buy one?
We’re going to need to drive more new E-class models over greater distances before making a definitive judgement on the success of the mid-life facelift.
But if the new E250 is any indication, Mercedes-Benz has done enough to keep it in the hunt against the likes of the Audi A6, BMW 5-series and Jaguar XF.
The appearance, performance, efficiency, dynamics and comfort are all improved and it still does what E-classes do best – cocoon and cosset while offering the ability to cover ground quickly and with a degree of deftness. So yes, if you want what an E-class has always done well, the new one still does it.
Price £31,550 0-62mph 7.4sec Top speed 146mph Economy 48.7mpg CO2 135g/km Kerb weight 1605kg Engine 4 cyls, 1992cc, turbocharged Power 208bhp Torque 259lb ft at 1000-4000rpm Gearbox 7-spd automatic