14 Jun 2013

Mercedes E 220 CDI SE review

Matt Hubbard reviews the 2013 E Class Mercedes

I drove the new Mercedes-Benz E Class 220 CDI SE, with the 2.2 litre diesel engine and 7-speed automatic gearbox.  It's pretty much the base model and costs £33,920.  Here's my review.

How does it look in the metal?

Good.  Great in fact.  The E Class is a thoroughly handsome car.  The test car sat on 17 inch alloys which worked well visually.  The crisp lines hide its bulk.  The LED headlights are fantastic.  The front end doesn't have a convoluted 'face' - it just looks like a Mercedes should.  The rear is pretty sensational.  I couldn't fault the styling at all.

What's the interior like?

The layout is good.  The switches and dials look and feel nice.  I do have an issue with some of the materials that Mercedes use.  Most of the materials are pretty good - aluminium, leather and some of the plastics.  The E Class starts at £34k and for that money I don't want to see cheap plastic on the door and the dreadful material used in the roof lining and A pillars.  There's plenty of space in the E Class - front and back.  The boot is also massive

What's it like to drive?

It's smooth.  It can cruise for miles and you'll step out feeling refreshed.  The steering is over-assisted and not a patch on that in the Jaguar XF.  The brakes are horrendously wooden, which is a huge surprise.  The brakes in every other Mercedes I've driven are fine but in the E Class they lack feel.  The suspension is soft too.  In a straight line it's fine but around corners it all falls apart.  The engine is merely OK.  It has 170bhp and does 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds but it doesn't feel it.  The E 220 CDI is about as dynamic as a teenager on a wet Sunday morning.

Does it come with all sorts of tech?

Yes, lots. Collision Prevention Assist, ActiveParkAssist with Parktronic.  All things that manufacturers love but I'm not quite so sure consumers do.  It's also got an improved COMAND system which will connect with your smartphone via bluetooth or cable, and a DAB radio.  The menu is easy to use and the satnav works well.

Will it impress the neighbours?

Yes, until they hear the engine noise at which point they will assume you have quit your job and started a new career as a taxi driver.  The same engine in the CLA is well insulated and sounds OK but in the E Class and C Class it sounds like a tractor.

What's the competition?

Jaguar XF, BMW 5-series, Audi A6, Keith's all-night minicab service

Should I buy one?

You might but I wouldn't.  I'd prefer a higher specced C Class - you can buy a C 350 CDI for the same money.  The BMW and Jaguar are much better cars than the E Class.  I was left feeling distinctly flat after my time in it.  I felt like it was designed for someone much older than me - and I'm 42.

Oh dear, you don't like it do you?

The E Class should work but, for me, it doesn't.  It looks good outside and in but something intangible just didn't draw me to it.  Maybe it was the poor driving experience, maybe it's the minicab association, maybe it's the fact I've driven better Mercedes and felt like the E was a let-down in comparison.  A Ford Mondeo would give the driver almost everything the E Class does for £10,000 less.

What are the specs?

Engine - 2.2 litre turbodiesel
Price - £33,920
Power - 168bhp
Torque - 258lb ft
0-60mph - 8.4 seconds
Top speed - 141mph
Economy - 58.9 mpg
CO2 - 128g/km