Test drive Mercedes E-Class 220d: a safe bet

For decades, Mercedes has been the benchmark for large saloon cars and diesel engines. Over the last ten years or so, SUVs have changed the order of things, saloons are less and less popular. The E-Class just evolved slightly for the second half of its career and remains an excellent choice.

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Our E-Class 220d benefits from an AMG body kit, flared wings, bonnet bosses and 20″ wheels on run-flat tyres. This has no negative impact on comfort, which is superior in all circumstances.

Ever more technological…

At Mercedes, as at many other manufacturers, new technologies are introduced at the top of the range and then ‘get down’ on the smaller models over the years. This is obviously the case with this E-Class, which uses a good number of the technologies introduced in the S-Class. Obviously in a more compact and, above all, more affordable version. The E-Class is a prominent source of revenue for the brand, with more than 1,200,000 cars produced to date. It competes directly with the Audi A6, the BMW 5 Series and, to a lesser extent, the Jaguar XF and Volvo S90. The current generation, which appeared in 2017, has just been upgraded. Externally, the evolution is minor and discreet. New plug-in hybrid powertrains have been added, as have new driving aids and active safety systems.

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Without a C-Class or S-Class close, it is sometimes difficult to recognise the E-Class; another motorist even asked us if it was the new S-Class! It is true that the current Mercedes style, elegant and dynamic, adapts well to the different sizes of the cars in the range.

Another major new feature is the MBUX system with its touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel. The range includes two petrol engines, two diesel engines, two plug-in hybrids and… two AMGs. Although diesel is no longer very popular, the engine of the 220d is certainly one of the best diesel engines ever produced. With its 2 litres of displacement, it develops 194 hp and 400 Nm of torque at 1600 rpm. It is very flexible and works well with the 9-speed automatic transmission. Even if the paddles are present, it is best to let the gearbox do everything by itself, even if it can sometimes be hesitant. The 0 to 100 km/h takes only 7.3 seconds, in total and absolute comfort. Fuel consumption was very reasonable, varying between 6.0 and 6.8 during our test, with values most often close to 6.2 l/100 km. Considering the weight, equipment and performance the car is capable of, this shows the quality of the work done by the brand’s engineers.

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Highway or country roads, the comfort is perfect, even if the driving pleasure and the « sporty » side of the car is rather subdued, unlike some of its competitors. Nevertheless, the E-Class remains a very high quality car with a sound behaviour in all circumstances.

Aesthetically, the E-Class is inoffensive and can just as easily be a CEO’s car as a luxury taxi. So much so that you really have to pay attention to notice it and differentiate it from a C-Class and an S-Class. Together, it’s immediately obvious. Separately, it’s much more complex and amounts to a game of spotting the differences. Some will appreciate this range mimicry, others less so… we do, because the styling is as elegant as it is understated. The E-Class is ideal for covering hundreds of miles in absolute comfort. Highway, tight turns, city… it is absolutely unflappable. Inside, the dashboard consists of two 12.3″ screens. The central screen is now touch-sensitive and works with a single finger. For example, it allows you to select one of 64 ambient light colours or to be attentive when you say « Hi Mercedes… ».

The boot has 540 l capacity, enough for four people to travel without having to reduce the amount of luggage!

It can also be operated via the buttons on the steering wheel or the touchpad on the centre console. The air conditioning controls are located just below the central screen and operated via good old-fashioned buttons that exude quality. Our test car was equipped with electrically adjustable seats… the switches are located on the doors, except for the lumbar adjustment, located on the side of the seat. They are very comfortable and have an infinite number of adjustments. The gearshift control located behind the steering wheel on the right, where all other manufacturers (except Tesla) place the wiper control, frees up space in the centre console and improves passenger comfort. The number of charging sockets is significant and there is even an induction charging facility for the phone, well hidden.

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Ergonomics are excellent, even if some details, such as the gearlever, require some adaptation. The thick steering wheel rim makes for a good grip.

I like it

The E-Class 220d is not a sports car, but in sport mode or in individual configuration it handles well, with more responsive steering than in comfort mode. The boot offers 540 litres of capacity, with very geometric shapes to facilitate its use. The glass roof that opens up at the front blends in well with the car’s lines and makes the interior very bright, even more pleasant to live in. You really want to get behind the wheel and drive 1,000 km in one go, knowing that you’ll still be fresh at the end. The colour combination of Cavansite Blue metallic and brown and black Nappa leather suits it perfectly!

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The rear passengers are not left out! The panoramic sunroof is a real must for passengers comfort. The speakers of the Burmester hifi system, visible on the door panels, transform the car into an auditorium.

Quite clever

The E-Class offers a very high level of comfort. Advanced aerodynamics prevent noise and turbulence. All the controls are muffled and the suspension is both supple and supportive. All controls are smooth and the suspension is both supple and supportive. The navigation is very precise and gets you to your destination without a hitch. The rear windows are tinted and provide extra comfort for passengers.

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The 2-litre diesel from Mercedes is a real gem of an engine. Powerful, torquey, quiet and economical, it knows how to make itself forgotten and provides this E-Class with top level performance.

I don’t like it

The use of all the functions is not always intuitive and the navigation between the different levels of the menus not very easy. Positioning the gearstick lever where the windscreen wiper control is usually located requires a little practice.  The dashboard trim looks a bit too plasticky for a car of this price, especially compared to the « Artico » leather that is only a few centimetres away.

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The central touch screen is linked to the console touchpad and the steering wheel controls. Navigating the various menus is not always easy. The ventilation controls are well positioned and easy to use. The trim in the middle of the dashboard is a bit too plasticky, especially with the beautiful Nappa leather environment.

Why I buy it

The E-Class is refined and  very easy to drive. The Burmester Surround-Sound-System turns the E-Class into a concert hall, so don’t hesitate to check the box on the long list of options. The AMG body kit and bonnet bosses give the car a dynamic look and make it look good.

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The E-Class is always restrained and discreet, adapting itself to all uses, from taxis to company cars, with the same reassuring and dignified stance that is typical of the three-pointed star brand.

Why I don’t buy it

While it’s possible to configure an E-Class very easily, it’s clear that it’s pretty costly. In this case, our test model was loaded with no less than €20,000 worth of extras! The driving experience is very pleasant but not very ‘sporty’. Even in AMG trim, with 20″ wheels and wider wings, the steering is not as communicative as the one of some of its competitors. (Pictures: Pierre Fontignies)

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Don’t be fooled by appearances… underneath the quiet, even placid appearance of the E-Class, it can be very dynamic but we wouldn’t say “sporty”.

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