- We like...restful cabin; solidity
- We don't...legroom in back is tight
Classy, assured and very restful, the E-class saloon could have everything you'd ever need from a big car
Restful. That’s Mercedes-Benz’s E-class in a word. If you ever wanted a car that’ll take you hundreds of miles at a sitting and let you emerge feeling daisy-fresh, this is it. Whether you are trickling through town or humming along the M1, the cabin is so hushed that, at first, it’s unsettling.
The tone set by the cabin’s soberly chosen mix of cloth, plastic and metal adds to the effect so that, for passengers, it’s as if entering an exclusive, expertly judged chill-out zone. For the driver, the same influences apply, except that they work to free him or her of distraction, the better to fix on the driving.
The way the car rides is exceptional, too. It’s firm enough to feel as heavy as it is on the road but it’s cut with a rare suppleness and a degree of body control. What you have is a big car that feels to ‘shrink’ around you as you drive, so neat is the steering and precise its body control. Our ‘E’ was a Sport model, which rides more stiffly, so expect a plusher ride if you pick an Elegance or a Classic.
The comfort it offers has limits, though, especially for passengers. For such a big car (over 4.8m long) it’s a touch tight on headroom in the back, while the transmission reduces leg space for the centre rear occupant. It’s better as a four-seater than as a five-.
For drivers the at-wheel position is spot-on, finely adjustable for the small as for the tall. The controls (mostly) follow logic and are well sited, although the gear-change paddles for the optional auto gearbox are mounted to the back of the steering wheel, too close to the wand for the cruise control.
The 320 CDi is a diesel V6 that packs huge shove, yet it growls softly when pressed, only giving voice when really pushed. The car’s 38.7mpg overall is reasonable for a heavy car running an auto gearbox. And, indeed, the seven-speeder in ours picked its gears nimbly and well.
So it’s very good. But it’s also pricey. At time of writing, a BMW 530d would be cheaper to buy, more powerful and yet go six further miles per gallon. It would also emit less CO2, enough to drop it into a lower company car tax band. And while the BMW mayn’t possess the same feeling of solidity or match the E’s hush at speed, we’d bet that a 530d would feel the sharper and more responsive of the two to drive. It depends what matters more.
Second-hand, diesel-engined E-classes lose value so that, by the time it’s three years old, it’s worth half what it originally cost. A petrol-powered one sheds even more. That makes either a terrific buy at that point. A big improvement in component quality in recent years mean that late-model Es are more reliable, while servicing and other routine work costs as you’d expect for a prestige car.
- Engines3.0 V6 diesel
- 0-60 mph6.8sec
- Insurance groups17D
Motors.co.uk value verdict: