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What is it?
This is the Mercedes E220 CDI Sport, and it’s the first time we’ve got our hands on the new E-class in right-hand-drive form.
The E220 CDI Sport is the top-spec trim level of the E-class’s entry-level engine, so you get variable-ratio steering and an AMG bodykit over the mid-spec avantgarde trim.
As for the engine itself, it’s the same 2.1-litre twin-turbo diesel unit you’ll find in the E250 CDI but detuned to 168bhp from 201bhp. Torque is reduced from 369lb ft to 295lb ft.
What’s it like?
The conversion to right-hand drive has been the downfall of many a German executive saloon, and the old E-class was no exception; the pedals on UK cars were distinctly offset, leaving UK drivers with an awkward, twisted driving position.
Thankfully, the new E-class consigns such awkwardness to history. The basic relationship between pedals, seat and steering wheel is spot on, and the vast range of adjustment (especially on the electrically adjustable steering column) means that drivers of most shapes and sizes should find it easy to get comfortable.
The solidity of the E-class’s construction also banishes another bugbear of the old E-class. Unlike the old car, the new E-class has managed to bring back some of that hewn-from-granite feel that characterised Mercedes in the 1970s and 1980s.
Over typically twisty, scarred UK Tarmac, the Mercedes E220 CDI feels composed, polished and agile, if not overtly sporty. The ride is quiet and always controlled, though it lacks the authoritative waftiness of a Jaguar XF. The E220 CDI is a more serene companion than a BMW 5-series, though, even if it doesn’t feel quite as eager to tackle a twisty road.
At low speeds, the variable-ratio steering feels a bit light and overly artificial, although it weights up nicely as the speeds and loads on the steering rise.
Despite being downtuned, the engine rarely feels underpowered, and the entirely adequate 0-62mph time of 8.3sec reflects this. Thank the relatively slight 1735kg claimed kerb weight for that.
The gearbox is a bit of a let-down, however. A new seven-speed gearbox will be available from September, but for now customers will have to make do with the old five-speed unit. It’s a smooth enough device, but changes, particularly kickdown, can take a while to come, especially in Comfort mode.
Should I buy one?
If you can’t stretch to the more powerful E250 CDI, then the E220 CDI is a fine choice. But regardless of which model you choose, we can heartily recommend the new E-class.
Provided you can cope with the awkwardly proportioned looks, the new E-class blends the sense of solidity from Mercs of old with the involving dynamics that, with cars like the new C-class, we’ve come to expect from Mercedes.