New E-class is more cosseting and better to drive than ever

What is it?

This is the new Mercedes E250 CDI SE BlueEfficiency, the big-selling version of the new E-class. It is the one car Mercedes has traditionally relied upon to boost its bottom line. But after more than a decade of niggling quality problems, the E-class’s once-glittering image has become somewhat tarnished.

No surprise, then, that Mercedes is talking up the perceived robustness of the new model – the W212 as it is known internally – describing it has the toughest E-class of all time. It is a bold claim.

Diesel engines traditionally make up 90 per cent of E-class sales in the UK, so it is the 201bhp twin-turbo E250 CDI SE BlueEfficiency, the most powerful of the two 2.2-litre four-cylinder turbodiesels in the E-class range, that we test here.

What’s it like?

The Mercedes E250 CDI SE BlueEfficiency could never really be described as a performance car. Still, with a 0-62mph time of 7.2sec (auto), it is encouragingly quick off the line and, with a prodigious 368lb ft of torque arriving at just 1600rpm, gathers speed with enthusiasm.

Once the initial rush subsides, the E250 CDI SE BlueEfficiency settles into its stride with a less frantic – but still convincing – degree of shove all the way to the 5000rpm red line.

For all this, the E250 CDI’s best work is done while cruising on part throttle. At a constant 75mph, the E250 CDI is barely pulling 2000rpm in fifth gear. And it does this while returning a claimed 47.1mpg in automatic guise which, in turn, provides it with CO2 emissions of 159g/km.

There is, however, a curious weak point in the E250 CDI’s driveline. Mercedes has decided, presumably for cost reasons, to provide all four-cylinder diesel versions of the new E-class with its old five-speed automatic gearbox.

It is an odd move, given the clear focus placed on fuel economy and emissions with the new car. It ultimately fails to operate in quite the same crisp and intuitive fashion as the more modern seven-speed automatic offered on other E-class models.

The Mercedes E250 CDI SE BlueEfficiency is a big car, weighing all of 1660kg, but it feels much smaller on challenging roads. It is not quite as agile as the smaller and lighter C-class, but there is not much separating them.

The new E-class also boasts enhanced low-speed manoeuvrability. The variable-ratio steering reduces the amount of lock required around town by almost 15 per cent, and the turning circle has been cut by almost 15cm.

But what about the E-class’s legendary ride? A final appraisal will have to wait until we get to drive the new E-class in the UK, but over the Spanish roads we tested it on there was sufficient evidence to suggest the new suspension, with an extra 5mm of spring travel both front and rear, is at least as cosseting as that of the old model.

The truly impressive thing about the new E-class, though, is the way it isolates its occupants from the outside world. Mercedes has worked hard on aerodynamics and insulation. Indeed, with a drag co-efficient of 0.25 and a specially developed film integrated within the windscreen designed to keep wind buffeting to a minimum, it cruises in a serene and unruffled manner.

Back to top

The mechanical aspects of the E250 CDI SE BlueEfficiency are equally impressive. The engine is barely audible on part-throttle, with typical diesel chatter only evident under hard acceleration.

For those who have spent any time in a recent Mercedes, the dashboard architecture, steering wheel design and general organisation of the secondary controls instantly feel familiar.

Take time to study the individual elements, though, and you discover there is sufficient differentiation to ensure the E-class gets a truly unique interior, even though the materials are not quite to the standard of some rivals.

Access to the rear has been improved by raising the roof line and providing a larger door aperture. The 540-litre boot is also slightly larger than before.

Should I buy one?

It would be difficult not to recommend one. That the new Mercedes E250 CDI SE BlueEfficiency is a tremendously competent car comes as no surprise; for Mercedes to turn out anything less would be a major disappointment.

The true revelation, though, is that it has finally delivered an E-class that is not only fun to drive but also boasts all the apparent solidity you expect of a Mercedes.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
ThwartedEfforts 15 March 2009

Re: Mercedes E250 CDI BlueEfficiency SE

A R Chen wrote:

The dynamics, cruising ability and perceived quality all sound very encouraging, but I am not sure I can get over the styling.

Frankel's test in today's Sunday Times was rather reassuring. Instead of appealing to BMW and Audi estate agent/finance/late-twenties stubble sporting geezer types by creating a car that handles sharply but whose primary ride utterly fails to isolate the driver from the worst roads in Europe (i.e. ours), Mercedes have designed the E for people who want old fashioned solidity and comfort.

Not too much to ask, was it? The new model appears to be almost the antithesis of the awful A6 or the increasingly naff looking 5-Series - though it is worth noting that Audi's inability to create a comfortable car has never yet affected sales.

Anyway it is, as you say, all very encouraging. Definitely going to book myself a test drive, though will have to keep my eyes tightly closed until I'm actually inside the car...

sorrel 10 March 2009

Re: Mercedes E250 CDI BlueEfficiency SE

Chas Hallett. wrote:
Mercedes took a lot of flak for the driving position in the outgoing E-class and rightly so.

I'm not sure what the complaint is about the E Class driving position. I've just come out of my '06 E Class and find the relationship between wheel, pedals and seat perfectly ok for me (I'm 6' 2"). Far better actually than the CLK I had before which felt very cramped in the footwell (and poor shoulder room too).

Regards the looks of the new E Class, personally I prefer the previous model as it seems a little more elegant, but I think in the metal the new one will look good and probably a bit more "purposeful" than the outgoing model and I think the forthcoming estate will deal with the slightly disappointing rear of the saloon, or at least if the images I've seen of it are correct! Funnily enough, I prefer the rear design of the estate version of the new C Class too.

A R Chen 5 March 2009

Re: Mercedes E250 CDI BlueEfficiency SE

The dynamics, cruising ability and perceived quality all sound very encouraging, but I am not sure I can get over the styling. Ok, perhaps this is in the interests of the unrivalled aerodynamics, but the awfully boring tail lights and rear could not have played that much a role or could they?

Yes, yes, perhaps its a matter of personal taste. In my eyes, this is the ugliest ever E-Class.

The current C-Class appears now to be one of the last good looking models to wear the 3-pointed star.