Model/Engine size: 2.2 CDI SE Saloon 4-Door 5-speed Auto
Fuel economy combined: 48.7 mpg
Green Car Guide rating: 8/10
You may not think of a
Mercedes E-Class as a low emission car
, but the Mercedes-Benz E220 CDI BlueEFFICIENCY can manage an average of 53.3 mpg and emissions of 139 g/km CO2 in manual form, which is not far off the 56.5 mpg of the BMW 520d, and is identical to the Audi A6 2.0 TDI.
However automatic transmission is the obvious choice for the E-Class, and the 5-speed automatic of the E220 falls quite a way short of the 6-speed manual in terms of eco-credentials , managing only 48.7 mpg and emissions of 154 g/km CO2. This results in significant implications for
company car tax
, meaning a 22 per cent rate for the auto version compared to just 19 per cent for the manual. The auto is also two VED bands higher than the manual version.
There’s also the option to go for the E200 CDI model; average mpg is just 1 mpg better at 54.3, and emissions are 2 g/km lower at 137 g/km CO2. However its performance is worse. You’d only save around £1000 by buying the E200 rather than the E220.
But there’s also the E250. Economy for the manual is identical to the E220 , at 53.3 mpg, and there’s not much difference in performance. Therefore the E220 seems to strike the best balance between performance, economy and price.
Automatic is a better choice for this car, as it’s more in keeping with the comfortable, luxurious, effortless feel to the E-Class. Also, the manual isn’t the most slick transmission, however the automatic has its own issues, as it’s not particularly responsive, especially in the first couple of seconds when accelerating from standstill. You can override the automatic changes by manually shifting the lever, but it’s not one of the best systems and we can’t see many owners using this feature. You can also choose between Eco and Sport settings.
Overall, the E-Class is a car that is designed to waft its occupants along in comfort , and a slightly delayed reaction in the acceleration department may not be a huge issue. Like the BMW 5-Series, but unlike the Audi A6, the E-Class is rear-wheel drive, which is far better suited to this class of car than front-wheel drive, although the BMW makes the most of this set-up with more sporty handling.
The E220 CDI is generally a well-insulated place to be, although there is a noticeable background growl from the engine at motorway speeds and under acceleration.
This car is all about a cosseting ride, and an interior ambience of luxury. The fact that it can do all this while managing around 50 mpg (we averaged 45 mpg with the auto box) shows how much progress has been made with the efficiency of cars in this class.
In fact, the fuel economy of this latest generation E-Class is 23 per cent better than the previous model. A key factor in this is the introduction of BlueEFFICIENCY, which means that all four and six cylinder engines benefit from technology to assist with the improvement of economy and the lowering of emissions, including weight reduction, aerodynamic improvements, reduced rolling resistance, and optimised energy management. Seventy per cent of UK sales will be of models below 160 g/km CO2.
This latest E-Class is the ninth-generation model. You can’t argue with the success of the car – 10 million have been sold over 60 years. During that most of that time, the E-Class was also synonymous with solid engineering – until recent years, when the reputation for quality and reliability became somewhat tarnished.
As an acknowledgement of this issue, Mercedes makes a point of stressing that during the development of this latest E-Class, 400 test vehicles completed over 21 million miles – this is equivalent to 850 times around the earth’s equator.
The E-Class certainly feels solidly put-together, and the car as a whole feels large and secure. The interior has the traditional Mercedes ambience, along with the normal quirky features, including the handbrake that is operated by a combination of your left leg and your right hand, and the joint indicator/wiper and cruise control stalks both sitting close together on the left of the steering column. The interior could be more modern and exciting, but that’s not what this car is about.
There’s plenty of space in the E-Class – in the front, rear and in the boot – but so there should be, as it is a big car and it feels like it when driving. There’s a transmission tunnel that reduces the legroom for central rear-seat passengers, and although the rear seats can fold down, this is an extra-cost option. The rear seats have ISOFIX child seat connectors that are easy to access, which is still a rarity in most cars.
This latest generation E-Class is also laden with technology – some standard, some optional – and much of which is focused on improved safety, including Active Bonnet which results in the bonnet rising in a crash to prevent injuries to pedestrians; Attention Assist, giving audible and visual warnings if the driver starts to fall asleep; and PRE-SAFE, which predicts a collision and deploys airbags and seat belt tensioners.
There’s also Adaptive Highbeam Assist, where the range of the headlamps is constantly adjusted based on data received every 40 milliseconds to give the best illumination without blinding oncoming drivers; Intelligent Light Assist, which automatically offers five lighting systems based on the conditions; DISTRONIC PLUS, radar which keeps the car a set distance from the car in front, automatically braking if too close, and accelerating if required; LINGUATRONIC voice control system; Parktronic with advance parking guidance; and Nightview Assist Plus – infrared technology to help you see pedestrians at night.
All models have at least seven airbags and this generation of E-Class had over 17,000 crash text simulations in its development, so you should feel safe in this car.
The E-Class is available in SE, Avantgarde and Sport trim levels. Apart from differences in equipment, the SE – aimed at business fleets – has the most comfortable suspension settings, the other models being firmer. Visually, the wheels on this BlueEFFICIENCY model didn’t look as good as the larger wheels on other models.
The basic price of our test car was £28,880. However it came with a number of options. The 5-speed automatic transmission with Tipfunction, Speedtronic variable speed limiter and cruise control cost £1490. The COMAND multimedia system, which includes satnav, cost £2185 (the satnav wasn’t the most user-friendly system). And the metallic paint was an extra £630. All that brought the total price of this car to £33,185.
So if you’re looking for an
executive saloon with low emissions
, should you go for the Mercedes-Benz E220 CDI , or for offerings from the likes of BMW or Audi ?
The new Audi A6 is due soon, and it promises to edge very marginally ahead of the BMW 520d in terms of economy. However in terms of models currently available, the 520d is the economy winner. The 520d also beats the Audi in terms of driving dynamics, with rear-wheel drive and a more entertaining chassis. The BMW also has a good claim to be a better all-rounder than both the Mercedes and the Audi, with its excellent combination of performance, economy, sporty handling, elegant looks, and good value.
However there would be no point in the Audi, BMW and Mercedes all being exactly the same . If you want more of a bias towards comfort during many motorway miles, then the E-Class diesel may be the one for you. You can’t argue with its image, and the automatic transmission does suit the car better, although it’s slightly behind the manual version in terms of emissions. That’s why, despite the E-Class being a hugely competent overall package, it only gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10 . But prospective buyers of this car are likely to be swayed more by the badge, the image, the luxury and the cosseting ride quality than out-and-out fuel economy.
Fuel economy extra urban: 64.2 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 36.2 mpg
CO2 emissions: 154 g/km
Green rating: VED band G – first year £155
Weight: 1735 Kg
Company car tax liability (2010/11): 22%
Price: £28,880 (From £27,810 to £71,900)
Insurance group: 33E
Power: 184 bhp
Max speed: 141 mph
0-62mph: 8.8 seconds