Has there ever been a car offered for sale with a broader remit than the Mercedes-Benz E-class?

We’re not just saying this because the car is offered for sale as a saloon, estate, coupe and cabriolet, for there are many others you can buy in just as wide a number of configurations.

But we know of no other car that can claim on the one hand to be a supercar with more power than a standard SLS, on another the most capacious estate money can currently buy and, on a third, far and away Germany’s most popular taxi. If versatility alone decided such things, the E-class would be the class leader at a canter.

Its competition, however, is stronger than ever: the BMW 5-series is an ever-present threat while the Jaguar XF is always going to attract the eye of aesthetes and enthusiasts alike. Even the Audi A6, the one car in the class you could once always have counted upon to fail to beat the best is now a formidably able contender.

Now comfortably past its mid-life facelift, the current generation of E-class comes with a rationalised range, though to see how much choice remains available it may be hard to believe it.

However ninety per cent of E-classes sold in Britain are powered by diesel and here the choice is between two standard 2.2-litre four cylinder engines producing 168 and 201bhp respectively, a diesel hybrid based on the same unit with 228bhp or a V6 3-litre diesel offering 249bhp and only a fraction less torque than that aforementioned SLS.

For those not yet persuaded by the black pump you can either have a 2-litre petrol engine with either 181bhp or 208bhp or a 5.5-litre twin turbo V8 in the AMG developing 549bhp in standard trim and that SLS-busting 577bhp for the ‘S’ model. Between these poles there is no middle ground.

Top 5 Mid-size execs

  • The Jaguar XF is a sublime British executive saloon. It has a tremendous interior and even greater dynamics

    Jaguar XF

    1
  • Superb engine and cabin, but ride and handling let the side down

    BMW 5-series

    2
  • Mercedes-Benz E-Class
    The E-class more than lives up to traditional Mercedes values

    Mercedes-Benz E-Class

    3
  • Audi A6
    The Audi A6 is a car that delivers in every area

    Audi A6

    4
  • The Lexus GS is unusual in the part of the market in not offering a diesel option

    Lexus GS

    5

First drives

Videos

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • First Drive
    3 July 2015
    Charming four-door city car gets Smart's new six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, in a bid to make the Forfour more versatile
  • First Drive
    2 July 2015
    First UK drive in the latest-generation MX-5 reveals an iconic roadster that's back to its best
  • First Drive
    2 July 2015
    Extra firepower and pared-down kerb weight conjure even greater brilliance from the Boxster's chassis. Pricey – but superb to drive
  • BMW's prototype fuel cell concept is based on the 5GT
    First Drive
    1 July 2015
    Fuel cell-powered 5 Series GT concept previews a revolutionary storage and refuelling system which could pave the way for hydrogen to become the alternative fuel of choice
  • First Drive
    1 July 2015
    There's another BMW 2 Series variant on the horizon; we drive a late-stage prototype plug-in hybrid Active Tourer