If a 0-62mph time of 8.8sec is acceptable to you, the news is good. That’s the time for an E 220 CDI estate and the slowest of any E-Class on sale. An E 250 CDI saloon needs just 7.5sec, as does the hybrid while the E 350 CDI knocks that figure back to 6.6sec.
If you want to go faster than that, it’s to the AMG you must look, which needs either 4.3 or 4.2sec depending on whether it has the ‘S’ specification engine or not. Bear in mind this is achieved without four-wheel drive: in America where four driveshafts are standard, the E 63 S hits 60mph in a faintly bewildering 3.6sec.
Experience suggests that shopping at the performance poles is probably the best idea: the standard petrol engines will always be a minority interest on a continent where over 90 per cent of sales of such cars are diesel. Likewise the 3-litre diesel, while tempting, will in the real world really hit your pocket hard at refuelling time.
So it’s the little diesels to which most will turn and quite correctly. Remember the base E 220 diesel is now the only E-Class available with a manual transmission – all the others get Mercedes’ own seven speed auto, which is not and never has been as smooth or intuitive as the ZF eight speeder used by most rivals.
And while Mercedes’ four cylinder diesel is rather gruff in lesser cars, it responds beautifully to being installed in an E-class where it is sufficiently smooth and quiet not to puncture the picture of serenity Mercedes has so carefully constructed for this car.
Of the two we’d choose the more powerful E 250 CDI motor because the additional performance is notable and welcome in a 1775kg car and the penalty at the pumps not as great as you might expect.
As for the 5.5-litre twin turbo AMGs, if you can find the extra to get the ‘S’ you should on the basis that even more of a good thing can often prove wonderful. It does here: this is a mighty motor, sweeter, more powerful and with a better spread of torque than the smaller, less powerful engines used by the BMW M5 and Audi RS6.
Bear in mind too that while the BMW (and Jaguar XFR-S) is available only as a saloon and the RS6 just as an estate, Mercedes will build you an E 63 with either four or five doors.