Sixth-generation executive saloon and estate ramp up the luxury and tech

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Quite a few all-new cars from all-new car makers enjoyed road test scrutiny last year, so let’s start the new year with something very much the opposite: that old executive stager, the Mercedes E-Class.

This is new ‘W214’ E-Class, which is the latest iteration of one of the oldest model lines from one of the oldest car manufacturers. By Mercedes-Benz’s own count, it is the 10th generation of a largely unbroken lineage going back to 1947.

Despite being very keen to refer to its heritage (and why wouldn’t it be?), Mercedes isn’t a particularly nostalgic company. It has come up with radical designs, such as the original A-Class and Smart City Coupé, while its electric cars are really exploiting the aerodynamics and design possibilities that an EV offers. 

Unlike with the BMW i5 and 5 Series, Mercedes is choosing to keep the electric Mercedes EQE and combustion-engined E-Class apart. According to the literature, the new E-Class needs to balance tradition with modernity and ‘build a bridge’ between traditional exec saloons and the tech-filled EVs of the future. 

Plenty of buyers are not ready for their car to be a smartphone on wheels, so that mission could well strike a chord. To find out whether the E-Class might succeed, we've road tested an E220d saloon, though we've also driven the E300e and E220d Estate

The range at a glance

Models Power
E200 201bhp
E220d 194bhp
E300e 308bhp
E300de 308bhp
E450d 4Matic 362bhp
Mercedes-AMG E53 Hybrid 4Matic+ 577bhp

The E-Class offers a very wide range of powertrains, including a four-cylinder petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid, a six-cylinder diesel with four-wheel drive and uniquely for Mercedes, a diesel plug-in hybrid. Topping the range for the time being is the E53 AMG, with a plug-in hybrid six-cylinder. In other regions, there's an E450 petrol as well, but that is not offered in the UK for the time being

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Apart from the top-rung Exclusive Edition, all trim levels are AMG Line of some sort, with Advanced, Premium and Premium Plus tacked on for the more expensive versions.


02 Mercedes E Class review extras 2024 front cornering

From the outside at least, the E-Class has none of the shock value of its rival from Munich. It is resolutely a three-box saloon (an estate remains available) with a long bonnet, a well-defined bootlid, generally clean lines and few fripperies, apart from some tasteful details.

It is inoffensively good looking: painted ivory beige, it would be a welcome sight were it to greet you when walking out of Frankfurt airport. 

All versions get the retractable door handles. They’re slightly fiddly because they’re very keen to retract, but pushing them makes them pop back out. The doors do produce a satisfying and old-school clunk when you throw them closed, though.

Mercedes doesn’t say much about the structural engineering of the new E-Class, most likely because it is a development of the outgoing car. Unlike the 5 Series, the E-Class doesn’t need to share its platform with its electric counterpart, and after decades of building ICE and even plug-in hybrid saloons, the recipe has been largely perfected.

Or has it? Mercedes still struggles to package the battery pack for the plug-in hybrid models. Petrol and diesel versions have a slightly bigger boot than an equivalent 5 Series, but the tables are turned for the plug-in hybrids. The E300e has a pathetic 370 litres; the 530e retains 520 litres.

The E-Class does have a slightly bigger battery, at 25.4/19.5kWh (total/usable), and a longer electric range of 68 miles (to the BMW’s 22.1/18.7kWh and 58 miles).

The E-Class still comes with a full range of petrol and diesel engines, even if options have been slimmed down compared with previous generations.

The engine in our E220d test car is in effect carried over from the outgoing E-Class. It is part of Mercedes’ modular engine family, so in crude terms it’s two-thirds of the straight six in the E450d. It is boosted by a variable-geometry turbocharger and assisted by a 48V mild-hybrid system, which sandwiches a 23bhp electric motor between the engine and the gearbox to act as a starter-generator and help out under acceleration.

There are no great surprises with the suspension, but there are a few disappointments. The front suspension is a four-link set-up, while the rear is a five-link. All E-Class saloons apart from the plug-in hybrids get Mercedes’ Agility Control suspension, which is effectively sport suspension that’s 15mm lower than on the hybrids.

The dampers are frequency-selective: it’s a passive system and with no driver-selectable modes, but its valving reacts to the frequency of inputs. In theory they firm up with low-frequency inputs, such as body roll, and soften off with high-frequency inputs on rougher roads. 

There’s no option of steel coils with adaptive dampers, but some versions offer the option of the 'Refinement Package', which adds 'Airmatic' air suspension with adaptive dampers, and four-wheel steering that allows the rear wheels to steer 4.5 degrees. All estates get air suspension on the rear axle as standard for self-levelling.


mercedes bens e class review 2024 12 dash

Anyone hoping Merc’s ‘bridging model’ strategy means the E-Class’s interior stays traditional will be disappointed: our Superscreen-equipped test car is wall-to-wall display, but the MBUX system is, at least, one of the best for usability.

Most of the interface is the same as in other recent Mercedes, so almost everything is controlled via a big screen, with a row of physical shortcut buttons giving access to driving modes and vehicle settings. 

I got into our range-topping Premium Plus car on a 2deg C morning and searched fruitlessly for the heated steering wheel button. So I asked the voice assistant, who told me it wasn’t fitted – and there’s no way to option it in the UK. We aren’t in the Arctic Circle, but we do get cold hands.

The advanced voice control can activate lesser-used functions that might otherwise require a trawl through menus, or you can just say “Hey Mercedes, set mood lighting to yellow” in one go, rather than waiting for it to acknowledge you.

Where the user experience has taken a baffling backwards step is with the climate controls. In other Mercedes, the temperature and fan controls are permanently on screen, but here you must open a menu first. The layout doesn’t save space on screen (not that it needs to) and is more difficult to use.

We have criticised some recent Mercedes models for their interior quality, but this E-Class seems to halt, if not completely reverse, the trend. Most things feel solidly built and the materials are pleasing.

For an ICE-powered saloon, it is decently practical, too. Having the gear selector on the steering column leaves the tall centre console free for storage, and the carpeted door bins are pretty big.

In a world of EVs, the rear leg room in a longitudinally engined exec saloon can disappoint. Nevertheless, there is slightly more here than in the new 5 Series, and head room is plentiful even for tall adults. The boot is 20 litres bigger than that of the BMW 520i. If you choose one of the plug-in hybrid E-Class versions, you're in for a shock, though, since the battery eats up 170 litres of space. The floor remains flat, but you lose a lot of height.

We would opt for the estate in any case. It gets 50mm more head room in the rear seats, and lots of room for the dog. The rear seats fold nicely flat with electronic release but tons in the boot, and the luggage cover automatically lifts up when you open the tailgate. Plug-in hybrid versions suffer from the same problem as the saloon, but it won't be as noticeable.

Multimedia system

Mercedes’ MBUX interface has been with us for a few years now. It has always distinguished itself with its ‘zero-layer’ concept, which puts navigation, media controls and frequently used functions on the home screen permanently so none of them requires any menu-diving to operate.

We have remarked in the ‘Interior’ section (see opposite) that the climate controls have sadly gone rogue and retreated into a menu, but apart from that, the rest works mostly as before.

The navigation is clear and easy to program, and while the ‘augmented reality’ function isn’t especially helpful, it is at least easily turned off. Phone mirroring is integrated well and can be used wirelessly or wired.

Increasingly, functions are tied to having a Mercedes Me account. Our test car had not been properly configured so we didn’t experience the full functionality of the navigation’s traffic information or voice control. This won’t be an issue for most owners, but it still seems an unnecessary complication that these functions won’t work properly on the ‘guest’ profile.


mercedes bens e class review 2024 22 engine

In theory, a 2.0-litre diesel with only mild-hybrid assistance sounds like an outdated powertrain for a large executive saloon. BMW UK must think so: the 520d and 530d are no longer sold here.

However, it doesn’t take many miles in the E220d to be reminded that, away from the tax benefits of EVs and PHEVs, diesel really suits a car like this.

I’m a big fan of standard cruise control but don’t much like adaptive cruise, except Mercedes’ Distronic, which seems to read my mind. It’s easily the best system I’ve tried.

You can just about hear that this is a diesel engine, but at no point is it unrefined or raucous. Whether on a cold start, while pootling through town or being run to the limiter during performance testing, this ‘OM654M’ unit quietly does its work, seemingly far away in the engine bay. Unlike some mild hybrids, you can easily disable the start-stop system, but we rarely felt the need, so quick and smooth is it to shut down and start back up. 

Despite registering a planetary 1917kg on the weighbridge, and the test track being both damp and very cold, the E220d powered to 60mph in 7.2sec, which is 0.2sec quicker than the outgoing 520d. Next to many EV or hybrid options it’s nothing special (the Audi A6 50 TFSIe did it in 5.7sec), but the effortlessness impresses – and is what really counts.

First of all, it always delivers the same performance and doesn’t depend on having enough charge in the battery, like a PHEV. The engine also works well with the nine-speed automatic transmission – most of the time. The gearbox doesn’t annoy by lugging the engine like so many others, and it is quick to shift down a gear or two to make the most of the engine’s rich torque but without sending it to the redline. 

Yet the gearbox is also our main target of criticism. Mostly it’s smooth, but it can be caught napping when you ask for something it wasn’t expecting. If you suddenly accelerate when you had been slowing (because the lights turned to green after all, for instance), or accelerate hard from a stop at a busy junction, the gearbox can need a moment to shift down or engage drive.

We've not performance tested an E300e plug-in hybrid, but it feels as quick as its official 6.4sec 0-62mph time suggests. More impressive is how the engine and electric motor work together. While some PHEVs don't feel like they're making all the power they're supposed to unless you've got your foot to the floor, that's not the case here. The electric motor subtly boosts the petrol engine to give efforless thrust without sending the revs soaring. The gauge cluster shows quite clearly how much throttle you can use before the engine will be forced to kick in. The petrol engine itself is smooth and free-revving. With 127bhp of electric power, the E300e is not exactly a rapid EV, but feels swifter than that figure suggests. It's possible to safely get up to motorway speed and stay there. While in electric mode, the shift paddles function to change the level of regenerative braking.

The software keeps a decent amount of charge in reserve, so that even when the battery is too empty for EV mode, the E300e still functions as a decent full hybrid, managing to keep the engine switched off remarkably often. Sport mode will actively recharge the battery from the engine, which is inefficient but does ensure that performance isn't noticeably degraded.

All E-Classes come with shift paddles but no obvious way to engage manual mode – it’s done via an on-screen menu. It’s not ideal, but the menu is easy to find, and a diesel executive saloon isn’t the kind to invite manual shifting.

The braking figures probably say more about how much performance summer tyres struggle in damp, near-freezing conditions than it does about the E-Class’s stopping ability: 56.2m from 70mph is long for a car like this. Interestingly, it was about four metres longer still after disabling the ESP, which is clearly doing quite a lot to stabilise the car under braking, as well as under acceleration.

Pedal feel – a big weakness with electrified Mercedes – was fine in normal use but felt soft during the emergency stop.


04 Mercedes E Class review extras 2024 front cornering acute

The dynamic character of Mercedes-Benz cars has been rather inconsistent lately. Mainstream UK-market models usually come on standard sport suspension and can feel reactive on bumpy roads, but other models show that Mercedes knows how to make a plush-riding car. Plug-in hybrids on standard suspension, along with air-suspended versions of the EQE and EQS, are very pleasant indeed.

Versions of the E-Class fall into the former category. We found our E220d saloon road test car a bit too clunky over rougher roads, particularly at speeds of up to 35mph. It’s fairly firm, and its damping isn’t of the quality that can make it a nice kind of firm. At higher speeds, however, the car does seem to pick up its skirts and iron out the bigger bumps. Having said that, these frequency-selective dampers feel oddly inconsistent and will occasionally fail to filter out a bump that they would have done previously. On the long motorway drives this diesel E-Class is surely built for, however, you will find it a perfectly pleasant experience. The E300e plug-in hybrid has slightly softer, higher-riding suspension, and does indeed feel slightly more cossetting, though the effect is not night and day. The same is true for Estate versions, which have air suspension on the rear axle as standard.

Alloy wheel fitment depends on the trim level you go for. Entry-level AMG Line gets 18in with 225-section tyres all-round; Premium and Advanced go to staggered 19s. Our Premium Plus test car has 20s, while Exclusive Edition rolls on 21in cartwheels.

From launch, Mercedes-Benz UK decided not to offer air suspension on the E-Class, but has since changed its mind and started to offer it on some engine and trim combination. We've not tried it yet, but if other air-sprung Mercedes are anything to go by, it would be well-worth seeking out. It is usually bundled together with the 4.5-degree rear-wheel steering in the £3500 'Refinement Package'.

The flip side of the firm suspension is that the E-Class handles with a surprising keenness. It keeps the body level in corners, and there is plenty of grip from the P Zero tyres. The steering is downright excellent: it’s very quick, at 2.2 turns from lock to lock, but thanks to a well-judged variable ratio, it never feels nervous, and it weights up progressively in corners, even when you’re not pushing it particularly hard. 

Whether that is the right ride/handling compromise for a large exec saloon is debatable, mind. This is a near-two-tonne car that’s over two metres wide across the mirrors, so while the handling is poised and satisfying, you would never truly call it fun, and it won’t let you forget there is a lot of weight in play.

For the company that was the first to commercialise electronic stability control, the ESP system is somewhat lax – the rear axle can step out slightly when accelerating out of a tight junction. It’s by no means unsafe – even with the system off and in slippery conditions, you need to provoke it for anything dramatic to happen – but it might give some drivers something of a surprise.

Comfort & Isolation

The ride is somewhat disappointing, but the E-Class is still a broadly comfortable car, and particularly so if you’re not a fan of the raised driving position of an SUV.

The E-Class doesn’t sit you as low as one would be in a 5 Series, but that feels about right in a car that isn’t marketed as an overtly sporty saloon. The controls feel correctly positioned in relation to each other, and there’s extensive seat and steering wheel adjustment. The seats themselves are particularly supportive, if firmly padded.

Despite Mercedes revealing its advances in aerodynamics and how its engineers used almost 500 microphones to pinpoint sources of unwanted cabin noise, the E-Class doesn’t set new standards for quietness. There isn’t much wind noise, but at motorway speeds the road noise is definitely noticeable. We recorded 67dBA at 70mph – that’s 2dBA more than in the Audi A6 we tested in 2022.

Assisted driving notes

Every UK E-Class comes with a dashcam, blindspot monitoring and Distronic adaptive cruise control as standard, plus mandatory emergency braking, lane keeping assistance and speed limit assist. Those last two work better than most but still get it wrong too often for comfort. They are quite easy to disable: a single tap of the screen or a press of a physical shortcut button and a tap suffice.

On AMG Line Premium and up, you can add the Driving Assistance Package Plus for £1695, which adds active lane following, automatic speed limit adoption and extended automatic restart on motorways.

Our car didn’t have the optional package, but even without, Mercedes’ adaptive cruise control is one of the best, with none of the irksome tendencies of some. It isn’t confused by cars in other lanes, and instead of sticking rigidly to a set following distance, it acts like a real driver when another car cuts in, at which point it gently slows rather than panic brakes.


01 Mercedes E Class review extras 2024 front driving

The E-Class starts at £55,290 for an E200 in AMG Line trim; the E220d wants £1635 more. The E300e PHEV and E450d six-cylinder diesel require a step up to a higher trim.

Mercedes’ UK configurator is a somewhat frustrating experience compared with the German one, because you don’t get to do much configurating. With that said, things have improved since launch. Things like thee Refinement Package and Superscreen have become separate options on some trim levels. All grade are fairly well equipped, with heated and ventilated leather seats, at least dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and adaptive cruise. 

If you want the ‘gunsight’ bonnet mascot, go for range-topping Exclusive Edition, which is the only non-AMG Line trim level. All other versions get a grille made up of little Mercedes stars. The big Mercedes logo neatly hides the radar.

The E-Class is an expensive car. An equivalent 5 Series has a lower starting price, but there’s little in it once you option it to match a mid-range E-Class. An equivalent Audi A6 is a good deal cheaper, while a Jaguar XF is a barely believable £20k less – and no, that’s not a typo.

Company car drivers should pick the E300e. It is pricier still but, because it’s rated for 70 miles of electric range (excluding the estate in AMG Line Premium Plus), is one of very few plug-in hybrids to net 5% company car tax. The E220d sits at a 30-32%, depending on trim level – but still very creditable thanks to good fuel consumption.

It’s frugal in the real world, too. Our 45.5mpg average is slightly low because it includes performance testing, but we frequently saw figures around 60mpg, which makes for a near-900-mile range.

In our testing, the E300e fell a little way short of its 71-mile claimed electric range, with the engine kicking in after 60 miles. Tested in temperatures in the low teens, it averaged 3.0mpkWh in EV mode. Unlike most EVs, it appeared to be more efficient at speeds over 35mph than in town. This is likely due to the electric motor driving through the nine-speed automatic gearbox. With a depleted battery, the E300e still returned over 40mpg.


mercedes bens e class review 2024 25 static

The new E-Class has a clear goal: to be the bridge between the traditional executive saloon and the electric, ultra-connected cars of the near future.

Indeed, its comfortingly familiar shape incorporates modern details and streamlining. There is a small yet varied range of powertrains and, excepting some small niggles, the 2.0-litre diesel tested here is an excellent argument for why the technology deserves to remain relevant.

Unlike other recent Mercedes efforts, the E-Class’s interior feels expensive and luxurious, and you have the choice of an enormous screen or merely a large one. It works well too, if slightly less well than previous versions. The ride and noise isolation should be better, but this car handles with more verve than you might expect.

One might question in what ways this new E-Class substantially moves the game on compared with its predecessor. Perhaps that’s the job of the electric models, while the E-Class is left to hold the executive saloon fort while rival models get watered down or axed. It fills that role quite convincingly.

Illya Verpraet

Illya Verpraet Road Tester Autocar
Title: Road Tester

As part of Autocar’s road test team, Illya drives everything from superminis to supercars, and writes reviews, comparison tests, as well as the odd feature and news story. 

Much of his time is spent wrangling the data logger and wielding the tape measure to gather the data for Autocar’s eight-page road tests, which are the most rigorous in the business thanks to independent performance, fuel consumption and noise figures.