Jan 16 2010 Robin Roberts
Mercedes E-Class 220 CDI BlueEfficiency SE saloon
MERCEDES is underlining its intention to re-build the best executive range with the latest E-Class.
Once the benchmark for executive quality in the sector, a succession of second-rate models seriously damaged its reputation but the newest E-Class is once again becoming the measure for the rest.
The range may not be as big as it once was but it specifically offers models which Mercedes believe will have the widest possible appeal. There are saloon, estate and coupe bodystyles in four trim levels as well as the range-topping AMG derivative, with an extensive range of petrol and diesel engines and priced between £26,000 and £70,000.
The 220 CDIBlueEfficiency SE is expected to become one of the most popular in the new line and it certainly brings higher levels of refinement and sophistication to the sector for Mercedes.The highly advanced, fuel efficient, clean and strong engine delivers good performance with deceptive ease.
A light throttle pedal brings instant and strong response from the engine and it comes without mechanical noise or fuss and you get a feeling of smoothness and effortless performance despite being a four-cylinder unit.
The automatic gearbox is also a superb example of engineering excellence with seamless succession of changes up or down the range no matter how hard it is pushed. The ratios give good acceleration even if it's not neck-snapping, and you can confidently overtake or just sit back and let it gobble up the miles on main roads.
Just as good from the driver's point of view is the good turning circle, low ratio steering and its precision at speed. You also get a sense of a well developed braking system as the big E-Class slows and stops with only light pressure underfoot and the parking brake holds it safely on steep inclines.
The secondary controls are all immediately available around the column, on the wheel or just ahead on the facia and work with a satisfying feel.
Comparatively simple instruments are also well designed to give instant readings in any conditions.
I liked the straightforward heating and ventilation system, its ability to fill the interior with any desired output and its quietness. Powered windows give further options for ventilation.
In a car the size of the E-Class you expect a lot of oddments room and it does not disappoint, but it could possibly be greater and instead of having a lot of shallow places to stow items it would benefit from deeper compartments.
The interior will very comfortably take four and even squeeze in a third person in the back seat. The seats are firm and support well and the front pair have a useful settings range and I liked the adjustment range on the seat-belts.
Access is good to the cabin and the boot is big but its opening is not as large as it might be and this limits the size of items which can be placed inside.
Visibility is very good all round and you can just about see the rear corners though the back window when reversing. To the sides and front the line of site is uninterrupted and it can be parked fairly easily. Good powerful lights and big wipers are excellent when visibility is poor.
The E-Class can be very accurately placed on the road and this inspires confidence to make up for the lack of absolute power underfoot. Its handling is very encouraging and its road-holding is entirely surefooted.
The ride quality of the newest E-Class is probably the most significant advance over the previous series as it shakes off the worst potholes and bumps without rolling or flopping around faster corners.
The engineering sophistication of the E-Class is immediately apparent and while only time will tell if its integrity has also returned, there is no doubt this is a big step forward for Mercedes and it can stand toe to toe with its keenest competitors.
Mercedes E-Class 220 CDI BlueEfficiency SE 4dr
Mechanical: 170ps, 2,143cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 5-speed automatic gearbox
Max speed: 141mph
0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
Combined mpg: 49
Insurance group: 15
CO2 emissions: 154g/km
BIK rating: 21%
Warranty: 3yrs/ unlimited miles