'The new Mercedes Benz E-Class is super elegant both inside and out'
E-Class has stepped up a gear with its interior, emerging from the shadows of its siblings, writes Geraldine Herbert
There's nothing radically different about the exterior of the new E-Class but it certainly looks so much more appealing. Gone is the three-pointed star from the front bonnet and the angular lines replaced with a more coupe and smoother look.
Now in its 10th generation, more than 13 million E-classes have been bought. There's no denying that it has always been a highly desirable car but as with everything there is always room for improvement, particularly when you consider the highly accomplished family it comes from. While outside it may not look that different, inside things have really stepped up a gear.
The interior, with tastefully restrained use of wood, now looks and feels expensive but still nods to the marque's heritage. Our test car came in black gloss with saddle brown nappa leather seats. An 8.4 inch infotainment system, controlled via a dial, dominates the dashboard. The centre console is elegant and well positioned, making the cabin feel spacious. There is also heaps of storage and nice tactile materials. There are no pointless little innovations, everything has a purpose. Even the ambient interior lighting, available in 64 colours via a visual gradient tool, is designed to make driving at night easier on your eyes.
There is also plenty of space in the back; an extra 65mm has been added to the wheelbase so now three adults will fit in the back snugly with decent head, arm and leg room. The 540-litre boot is ideal for luggage, golf clubs and shopping trips to Ikea.
The E-Class is awash with the very latest safety and technological advances, indeed it may well be the smartest in the car park. In the event of a crash a Pre-Safe Sound system plays a high-pitched note to protect its occupants' inner ears. There are also a host of crash-avoidance systems and an automatic emergency braking system that can apply the considerable brakes with force.
It is also a technological tour de force but there are just so many aids and features it's almost intrusive; high-pitched alarms alert you to obstacles you never even knew existed and a cacophonous ensemble implores you to stop every time you try to reverse park.
Previous versions of the E-Class offered a noisy 2.1-litre diesel engine, but the new one comes with either a more fuel-efficient, turbocharged four-cylinder 2.0-litre or a 3.0-litre V6 diesel. I had the new 220d, with 194bhp and 400Nms of torque, the greenest version. It promises an average range of between 3.9 and 4.3 litres per 100km, which is impressive given the size of the car; it is also quieter and much smoother. Emissions are just 112g/km so motor tax is €200 per year.
Driving the E-Class has always been a little sedate; an almost sober affair when compared to rivals. It never goads you to do anything irresponsible but why would you want to, you are sitting far too comfortably for that; in fact it is a supremely cosseting car. With a new nine-speed automatic transmission, the E-class offers nearly seamless shifting plus the road handling has also improved and zero to 100 is achieved in a snappy 7.3 seconds. There are various drive modes, opt for sport and the suspension is both forgiving and stiff.
The range starts from €52,850, so it is expensive; our test car, the 220d Avantgarde AMG Line Automatic Saloon, has a starting price of €57,650 but the extra options of a full parking pack, full keyless go pack, and ash trim costing €2,842, brought the price to €60,492. The BMW 520d SE auto is priced from €49,203, the Jaguar XF prestige starts at €45,995, and Audi's A6 2.0TDI 150 'Ultra' S-Tronic SE from €46,800.
The model line-up now consists of three style and equipment lines - Avantgarde, Exclusive and AMG. Standard equipment includes: full leather, Seat Comfort pack, Active Brake Assist, reversing camera, ambient lighting with 64 colours Dynamic Select, 9-Speed automatic, satellite navigation, keyless start, LED performance lights, Parking Pilot, heated seats, driver Attention Assist and Remote Online.
The latest E-class oozes style, sophistication and luxury. It's also extremely safe and very comfortable. The downsides are as you'd expect: all of this luxury doesn't come cheap. But the E-class improves in nearly every way. The drive is still not as sharp as the Jaguar XF or the BMW 5 Series but then E-Class aficionados tend to favour comfort, safety and a little luxury over performance. The Mercedes E-Class has finally emerged from the shadows of its talented siblings and delivers the very best the German car-maker has to offer.