What is it?
It hasn’t been on the market long, but the new E-Class has gone a long way to restore Mercedes’ reputation in this hard-fought segment. However the W212-series has already been given a overhaul and mechanical tweaking for the 2011 model-year, with more efficient petrol and diesel engines at the forefront of the changes.
Although the power outputs vary between 134bhp (in the 200 CDI) and 201bhp (in the 250 CDI), all three of the four-cylinder diesel Mercedes use the same basic engine unit with the same 2143cc capacity. This new generation engine, smoothed by twin balancer shafts and has been fitted with a ‘fourth-generation’ direct injection fuel system (now operating at an incredible 2000 bar), but 220 and 250 CDI engines also get a new, lighter, crankshaft fitted with four counterweights instead of eight.
The four-cylinder diesel E-class gets a super-quick stop-start system (which is activated and de-activated via the driver’s pressure on the brake pedal).
The new 7G-Tronic Plus autobox has finally been purged of its predecessor’s terrible hesitation from a standing start and the comprehensive engineering overhaul includes a new torque convertor and lock-up clutch, low friction bearings and seals and low-viscosity transmission fluid.
What’s it like?
On the road, the beautifully-built E-Class has refreshing honesty about its purpose. It is steady and undramatic, effortlessly reeling in long stretches of unrestricted autobahn. It does not posses super-sharp responses and nor should it.
At low speeds and wide throttle openings, it is obviously a four-pot diesel, but the engine is almost totally heard, rather than felt. At speed it is smooth and perfectly adequate in mid-range acceleration, with three adults in board. The 250 CDI’s extra 74lb ft of torque is, however, very noticeable and might be worth the extra money.
Should I buy one?
It does not pretend to be a driver’s car, but the sheer quality, fine cabin design, massive internal space and impressive detailing mean it has few really direct rivals. It feels like the sort of car that will go the distance. The 2011 updates add further polish for the already accomplished E-Class wagon and potentially impressive fuel economy returns with the right kind of light-footed driving style.