Lower-powered E-class diesel has most of the appeal of more powerful versions

What is it?

This is the Mercedes E220 CDI, which from launch will be the entry point in the new E-class line up until a cheaper Mercedes E200 CDI becomes available. Until September the Mercedes E220 CDI will also only be available with the five-speed automatic gearbox.

The engine in the Mercedes E220 CDI is basically the same 2.1-litre four-cylinder twin-turbo diesel found in the E250 CDI, but with the wick turned down. Power drops from 201hp to 168hp, and torque from 369lb ft to 295lb ft. While the official fuel figures and CO2 ratings are unchanged; in practice you may see better economy from the E220 CDI.

What’s it like?

The Mercedes E220 CDI retains the new E-class’s main strength: a tangible return to the old Mercedes qualities of robustness and refinement. It’s an impressively polished product.

Exterior noise is kept to a minimum and, although the four-cylinder diesel doesn’t quite have the hushed qualities of a six-cylinder, it’s perfectly tolerable. In comparison with the E250 CDI, the pegged-back outputs of the Mercedes E220 CDI are noticeable (adding nearly a second to the 0-62mph time), but for the most part its performance is entirely adequate. Occasionally you have to work the engine a little harder to build speed quickly, but that’s about it.

All steel-sprung E-classes (Airmatic isn’t an option on diesel models) get Direct Control suspension with hydraulically self-adjusting dampers. Although the two-stage system is hardly at the cutting edge of technology it works very well, mixing a supple and cosseting ride with accurate and controlled handling. At least that was the experience on our Spanish test route.

In developing the E-class Mercedes claims to have completed over 30 million kilometres in testing, including test routes in the UK with right-hand-drive prototypes, so there’s a reasonable chance that the new E-class will work equally well in Britain. We’ll find out next month, with a full UK test.

Stung by previous criticism of its pricing, Mercedes UK is increasing equipment levels to make the E-class more competitive. Entry-spec SE models get 16in alloys, climate control, front and rear parking sensors and heated front seats as standard. Avantgarde trim adds leather, LED running lights and a 15mm lower ride height. Sport brings an AMG styling kit and Mercedes’ variable ratio Direct Steering.

Should I buy one?

The only real sticking point with the new Mercedes E220 CDI is the styling, which looks a little forced from some angles. But get past that and there is very little reason not to like it.

The Jaguar XF may be more sleek and stylish, but it isn’t nearly as practical, especially for rear-seat passengers. The E-class can’t match the BMW 5-series for agility either, but it is more comfortable and, in its own way, no less enjoyable to drive.

If the Mercedes E220 CDI was your only choice we’d recommend it, because it’s a thoroughly decent car. But if you can afford the extra for the E250 CDI you could have an excellent one.

Jamie Corstorphine

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GRB 31 October 2009

Re: Mercedes E220 CDI Avantgarde

I agree with you.

I plunged for the Merc, whilst several colleagues went for the XF (company cars!). You can see my review of the Merc below but I have to say I made a mistake with this one.

Had a BMW 525D before, which was a great car. Thought I would stay German but I cannot warm to this car.

The XF is something else. Just makes you feel darn special...where the Merc just blends in with all the other Euro Taxi's. My colleagues take great pleasure in pointing this out.

Sadly I have to endure another 11months of the Merc... then i'm going for either an XF 3.0d Lux or another 5 Series.

GRB 31 October 2009

Re: Mercedes E220 CDI Avantgarde

MarkusMorelli wrote:
It was a pleasure to drive

I'm driving one of these in Europe and have covered 780 miles so far.

I would only go so far and say it rides well. It does not handle though and the steering is wooly. Styling is strange. Went futuristic with the front and gave up with the rear, which is plain awful.

Interior is well built but very frustrating. IPOD jack connection only..and its in the glovebox..whats the point of that! The indicator stalk is not at the natural 10 to 2 postion so you keep hitting the cruise stalk. The bluetooth is rubbish and would not synch to mine or any of my other 3 colleagues phones.

Swapped the car with a colleagues XF for the weekend. We both agreed after that the Jag was the better car...rave reviews or not.

MarkusMorelli 27 October 2009

Re: Mercedes E220 CDI Avantgarde

I have driven this car yesterday for cca. 150 miles and I can say that it is really the reference point in this class - a great car. The ride is perfect, the materials used very good quality, the engine is powerful enough (I would not bother with the bigger ones). It was a pleasure to drive it and I would be very sattisfied if I would own it.