First DriveEntry-level diesel E-Class has a fine engine and typically laid-back dynamic character.
First DriveMerc's all-new E-Class has already impressed in entry-level E 220 d form. Now we try the rather more expensive V6 oil-burner
What is it?
This is the Mercedes E220 CDI, which from launch will be the entry point in the new E-class line up until a cheaper Mercedes E200 CDI becomes available. Until September the Mercedes E220 CDI will also only be available with the five-speed automatic gearbox.
The engine in the Mercedes E220 CDI is basically the same 2.1-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel found in the E250 CDI, but with the wick turned down. Power drops from 201hp to 168hp, and torque from 369lb ft to 295lb ft. While the official fuel figures and CO2 ratings are unchanged; in practice you may see better economy from the E220 CDI.
What’s it like?
The Mercedes E220 CDI retains the new E-class’s main strength: a tangible return to the old Mercedes qualities of robustness and refinement. It’s an impressively polished product.
Exterior noise is kept to a minimum and, although the four-cylinder diesel doesn’t quite have the hushed qualities of a six-cylinder, it’s perfectly tolerable. In comparison with the E250 CDI, the pegged-back outputs of the Mercedes E220 CDI are noticeable (adding nearly a second to the 0-62mph time), but for the most part its performance is entirely adequate. Occasionally you have to work the engine a little harder to build speed quickly, but that’s about it.
All steel-sprung E-classes (Airmatic isn’t an option on diesel models) get Direct Control suspension with hydraulically self-adjusting dampers. Although the two-stage system is hardly at the cutting edge of technology it works very well, mixing a supple and cosseting ride with accurate and controlled handling. At least that was the experience on our Spanish test route.
In developing the E-class Mercedes claims to have completed over 30 million kilometres in testing, including test routes in the UK with right-hand-drive prototypes, so there’s a reasonable chance that the new E-class will work equally well in Britain. We’ll find out next month, with a full UK test.
Stung by previous criticism of its pricing, Mercedes UK is increasing equipment levels to make the E-class more competitive. Entry-spec SE models get 16in alloys, climate control, front and rear parking sensors and heated front seats as standard. Avantgarde trim adds leather, LED running lights and a 15mm lower ride height. Sport brings an AMG styling kit and Mercedes’ variable ratio Direct Steering.
Should I buy one?
The only real sticking point with the new Mercedes E220 CDI is the styling, which looks a little forced from some angles. But get past that and there is very little reason not to like it.
The Jaguar XF may be more sleek and stylish, but it isn’t nearly as practical, especially for rear-seat passengers. The E-class can’t match the BMW 5-series for agility either, but it is more comfortable and, in its own way, no less enjoyable to drive.
If the Mercedes E220 CDI was your only choice we’d recommend it, because it’s a thoroughly decent car. But if you can afford the extra for the E250 CDI you could have an excellent one.