In the 90s, if you had told a senior executive that their Mercedes E-Class could one day park itself and participate in video meetings with colleagues from around the world, they would have thrown their Nokia at you.
Yet, this sixth-generation E-Class can do all that and more. We’re talking about Level 4 autonomous driving features, a new infotainment system with a separate screen for the passenger, active ambient lights that pulse to the rhythm of your music, and a Burmester surround sound system with Dolby Atmos. It’s like being in a high-end cinema.
It’s a bit like a Herman Miller office chair. It may be priced for middle-aged buyers with more disposable income, but if you’re willing and able, you can sit in style and comfort.
However, it’s not just good space and old-fashioned comfort. You also get a lot of new-age technology, with the optional Superscreen being the highlight. There’s your typical central infotainment screen and a second screen in front of the passenger, all under a glass section. It’s fast, responsive, and easy to use, but reflections can be really annoying on the move.
While the changes inside are quite comprehensive, it’s more of an evolution than a revolution on the outside. The Mercedes E-Class doesn’t look radically different from its predecessor, but it still looks elegant, with chrome highlights and a new front grille that incorporates the Mercedes star for a nice effect.
The optional air suspension makes city streets feel smooth and silky – an option that’s worth ticking.
And comfort is truly the name of the game inside the E-Class. Getting a good driving position is easy thanks to plenty of adjustment options in the seat and steering wheel. There’s plenty of space, whether you’re sitting in the front or back, with well-sized cabin holes and cup holders that accommodate bottles of various sizes. The trunk is conveniently large in both petrol and diesel models, with more capacity than a BMW 5 Series and an Audi A6 Saloon.
On the road, you won’t find it’s a case of style over substance either. The Mercedes E-Class is incredibly comfortable, and you’ll hardly notice bumps on the road, though it’s worth noting that the optional adaptive suspension is a checkbox that’s really worth ticking.
It’s a similar story on the highway, where comfort and refinement are the order of the day. You’ll barely hear the engine in the background, and the E-Class isolates you from wind and road noise outside.
Note that hybrid versions can both travel about 100 km on a charge and are ideal if you can charge at home or work and spend a lot of time driving in the city. There’s also petrol and diesel available for those who cover more miles or don’t have easy access to a charger.
The Mercedes E-Class is extremely comfortable in the city, on the highway, and on winding roads, but the desirable air suspension is an optional upgrade.
I drove the Mercedes E-Class in the city of Bilbao, a densely populated city with many traffic lights, roundabouts, and even though the E-Class is a fairly large sedan, it feels perfectly at home in the city. If you opt for the same optional upgrade package that includes air suspension, you also get rear-axle steering, making it small and agile even in tight spaces.
And with this intelligent suspension system, you’ll be looking for bumps and potholes just to marvel at how the E-Class glides over them as if they weren’t even there.
So, it’s all very comfortable and relaxing. Even more so with the plug-in hybrid engine, because when you drive solely on electricity, it’s extremely quiet. You can even accelerate quite strongly without calling on the petrol engine until the last moment, so it’s almost like driving a fully electric car.
Parking is also a breeze, as the surround-view cameras are excellent.
You get a bird’s-eye view of the car to position yourself accurately, and a high-resolution camera to see what’s behind you. This only appears when needed, so it doesn’t become distracting and distort your view.
ON THE MOTORWAY
Driving on the highway is a bit like driving in the city in the E-Class. That means quiet, comfortable, and relaxing.Even at higher speeds, there’s very little wind or tire noise thanks to impressive sound insulation, and when the hybrid engine kicks in, it’s a barely perceptible background hum.
Adaptive cruise control with lane-keeping assist is standard, so it’s easy to follow the flow of traffic and alleviate some of the fatigue on longer journeys. There’s also a lane-change function that can automatically move you to the correct lane if you’re exiting the highway, although that’s part of an upgrade package.
I traveled in the Rioja region with the Mercedes E-Class, between the stunning landscapes of the region and the vineyard roads. I had the opportunity to put it to the test, and it didn’t induce much body lean; the steering is precise, which is reassuring.
ON A TWISTY ROAD
The seats themselves have nice plush cushions, and there’s plenty of space between them in the front, with a large center console to rest your arm. It’s also practical, with door bins that will take a few drink bottles, also lined with felt to prevent things from sliding around. The two cup holders are adjustable so they can take both large and small bottles, but the wireless phone charging storage area is hard to access if the cup holders are in use. This area has a few USB-C slots, and there are two more in the bin under the center armrest.
The front space doesn’t come at the expense of rear space, as there’s plenty of legroom. Even tall passengers won’t find their knees pressed against the front seat, even if another tall person is driving. All this space means you’ll have no trouble fitting even the bulkiest baby seats, and the ISOFIX mounting points are really easy to access.
Another positive point is practicality. It doesn’t change the game, but the door bins are of a useful size, and you have pockets behind the front seats. A nice touch is that the cup holders in the central armrest actually come out from the front when lowered. This means they won’t get in the way when you really want to rest your arm.
Anything else? Well, the material quality is excellent in the back as well as in the front, except for a few cheap plastics on the console surround. It’s a bit of a shame because you might touch it more than you expect as it houses the air conditioning panel for rear seat passengers.
If you opt for the petrol or diesel E-Class, you’ll be pleased to note that it has a 540-liter boot, which is conveniently large and a bit more than the 520 liters you get in a BMW 5 Series and the 530 liters in an Audi A6 Saloon. It’s a slightly less impressive story in the plug-in hybrid, where the batteries for the electric motor are stored under the floor. This reduces the boot capacity to only 370 liters, although the advantage is that it removes the lip above the bumper, making it easy to load and unload things. The only positive is that the A6 hybrid has the same issue and drops to 360 liters, while the 5 Series doesn’t offer a plug-in hybrid yet.
Back to positives, and you can get a hands-free boot opening and closing option, which is activated by waving your foot under the bumper. Not revolutionary, but it works more consistently than most versions we’ve tried. Inside the boot, you can fold the rear seats by pulling the latches on one side so you don’t have to lean over, and there’s a clip to keep your hybrid charging cables secure. It’s a shame there’s nowhere to store them, as they eat into an already limited space.
The interior of the E-Class is stunning and features impressive technology, but the screen suffers from annoying reflections.
A chic interior is one of the most important aspects of any chic car, and the Mercedes E-Class delivers. The design is stylish, and almost everything you touch feels like it’s made with high-quality materials. That’s about the only complaint in terms of technology, however. As standard, the E-Class has a digital driver display and a typical infotainment screen in the center of the dashboard.
There are deliberate distractions, though, in the form of third-party apps that can be used when not in motion. For example, you can play Angry Birds and even take Zoom calls using a dashboard-mounted camera that points toward the cabin. In less headline-worthy news, Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay are included.
Mercedes-Benz has integrated more clever features – such as a selfie camera and downloadable third-party apps like TikTok. Integrated dashboard navigation is available and includes an augmented reality feature that overlays directions on the upcoming road via a heads-up display.
There are a few exceptions, such as the door handles and the stalks of the indicator and gear selector, which is a shame because you touch them a lot. We’re also not fans of Mercedes’ touch-sensitive steering wheel buttons. They’re difficult to use when you want them to, and you constantly brush against them and change the volume or switch tracks when you don’t intend to.
However, there’s an optional upgrade to the Superscreen, which integrates the usual infotainment display alongside a screen for the passenger, each sitting under a single glass-shaped window. It looks fantastic, and the touchscreen is fast and responsive, with high-definition displays and easy-to-navigate menus. However, the glass is highly reflective, so you’re constantly distracted by trees and buildings reflecting in your peripheral vision.
In front of the driver is the digital driver display, which is the same on all models. There are plenty of menus, settings, and layouts to play with depending on your mood and personal preferences, and the 3D effect that’s so good in the S-Class is also available here.
Enough technology for you? Mercedes isn’t done. The standard stereo can be upgraded to a Burmester 4D surround sound system that is incredibly good, with “exciters” in the seat that vibrate to the rhythm of the music.
The diesel E 220 d I drove has similar performance, making 197 hp and 440 Nm of torque for a 0-62 mph time of 7.6 seconds. Fuel economy is much better, though, up to 51 mpg on the official test cycle. This model is also available with “4MATIC” four-wheel drive, making it a fraction slower and less economical, although it’s better in slippery conditions.
With a range of about 100 km, it’s not too difficult to do, especially if you have easy access to a charger – it’s mostly a game-changer, especially in the city. So with a maximum charging rate of 50 kW, you can get up to 80% in about 30 minutes at a public charging point.
You have a choice of four engines in the Mercedes E-Class. Starting with the E 200 petrol, it produces 204 hp and 320 Nm of torque, contributing to a fairly quick time of 7.5 seconds 0-62 mph, achieving up to 39 mpg on the combined cycle.
Two plug-in hybrids have the potential to use much, much less fuel, with official figures exceeding 300 mpg. To achieve this, however, you should spend most of your time operating on electricity.
Choosing between these two essentially comes down to whether you want more power or not. The E300 e produces 230 hp and 550 Nm of torque, while the E400 e offers 280 hp and 650 Nm of torque. The lower-power model is available with rear-wheel drive or four-wheel drive, both options going from 0 to 62 mph in about 6.5 seconds, while the more powerful version is four-wheel drive only and will send 0 to 62 mph in 5.3 seconds. Diesel will be preferable for long-distance drivers due to fewer stops at the gas station.
Choosing one of these hybrids will increase the purchase price, but they really suit the relaxing nature of the E-Class driving experience. And much like that Herman Miller chair, if it’s in your budget, you won’t regret the purchase when you’re sitting in comfort.
Safety & Security
As standard, you get all the usual things like braking and lane-keeping assist, but you also have parking sensors with this high-definition reverse camera and adaptive cruise control.
If you want more, there’s an advanced assistance package that comes with some extras for the cruise control, including the ability to move away automatically if you’re stopped in traffic on all types of roads, not just the highway, as was the case before. There’s also a 360-degree camera, an accident avoidance system for intersections and merging into traffic, automatic lane change on the highway, and much more.
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