In recent months I've been given two new Mercedes-Benz E-Class vehicles to test drive. Both were E220d models. The only difference between the two was that one was white and the other was black. So why two test drives? Well, the first drive of the car was to test out the dynamics of the car. The second drive, well... I wanted to check the fuel economy.
Mercedes-Benz claims that the new E-Class can return a very generous 4.3 l/100km. I wanted to see just how close to that figure I could get - without driving consistently below the limit. I set myself rules. Firstly, if I could safely maintain the speed limit on any road, I had to. I also set myself a target of covering over 800 kilometres. 130 of those kilometres were done in cities - travelling from one end of Dublin to the other on my daily commute and then a spin through Belfast and Newry. My next rule was to ensure that I covered motorways, dual carriageways and country roads - that was easily achieved, I took a spin to Rossnowlagh in Donegal and back. The Donegal-return route allowed me to travel on motorways, lanes, through towns, up mountains and more. It was really quiet the glorious drive - and the fuel economy return for this large machine, was surprisingly good. But I'll get to that later.
The first thing I noticed in both of my test drives was the smoothness in changes in the 9G-Tronic automatic gearbox. I've often given out about Mercedes' 7-speed box, but this 9-speed offering is pretty-much flawless. Transitions between gears was about as smooth as you could want. It didn't hold on to gears like the 7-speed box. It was happy to change when I wanted it to.
Our Mercedes-Benz E220d was delivered to me in AMG-line spec, and it looked great. In both white and black the E-Class is a pleasant offering. There is the right amount of chrome on the exterior, and the wooden trim and leather seats in the interior offer excellent comfort. Both the interior and exterior offerings are more S-Class than ever before. The only down-side about the exterior is the fake twin-exhaust openings to the rear. Sure it looks good, but they're fooling no-one. You'd wonder why they couldn't have come up with a better solution here. The E-Class is supposed to be about class, and adding these was just a bit too boy-racer for me. However, this is a minor flaw and I might be among the few who are actually annoyed by it.
Under the bonnet is 2.0 litre diesel engine that offers 190 hp. Delivery of these horses is quick and the car will bring you from 0-100km/h in just 7.3 seconds and it has a top speed of 240km/h. On all terrains the vehicle handled with precision. There was a bit of roll on bends at higher speeds, but nothing to get upset about. The suspension in our test model also soaked up bumps nicely.
Leg room to both the front and rear is good and there is no difficulty in terms of head room. This is a good family bus too, with a 540 litre boot. So that means you get a good mix of style, prestige and versatility. Another change from Mercedes is the presentation of the infotainment system. It's still complicated, but it looks very suave sitting in the dash. The system can be controlled through the centre console or from the touch scrollers on the steering wheel. I quite often give out about the complications of Mercedes' media system, however, I noticed on my second test drive that I was becoming more used to it. It still had me confused on some occasions though. The touch scrollers on the steering wheel are a nice idea, however they weren't nearly as responsive as I'd have wanted them to be and I found that I had to try a command a few times before I achieved success.
Okay, so back to the fuel economy on my 800 km journey. On paper Mercedes say that the E220d range can offer between 3.9 and 4.3 l/100km. I achieved neither of these figures and nor did I expect to. When cars are tested for fuel economy they are done in favourable conditions. They are not what I would call real-world conditions where people have to overtake, stop in constant city traffic, or even be stuck behind a tractor on a country road for a few miles. My real-world driving of this machine, where I stuck to the limit when and where possible, returned a very impressive 5.4 litres per 100km. I was extremely impressed and there was a fair bit of juice left in the car when I handed it back to the manufacturer. I would've scored 5.3, but unfortunately the last city test that brought me back to Mercedes-Benz Ireland pushed the clock back up to 5.4.
The new Mercedes-Benz is a real classy number. Recently I drove the new Volvo S90 and I said in my review that it would give the Audi A6 and the BMW 5 Series a run for their money. I mentioned the E Class in that piece, but most of my emphasis was on Audi and BMW. The E-Class is the top of its class. I'm told that the average age of a Mercedes driver is in the fifties, whether that's true or not I'm not sure, but if it is I don't fit the stereotypical profile. If I had the money though, it would certainly be on my list.
Prices for the new E-Class start at €52,850 for the E220d. If you want a bit more oomph the E350d starts from €66,900. These prices stretch up to €74,655. Not cheap!
For: Quality, refinement and class.
Against: Expensive and infotainment can be confusing.