Mercedes Benz have always been at the forefront for innovations in motor vehicle features. New technology and features tend to be introduced on their flagship S-Class, are quickly introduced to the E-class, then eventually make it to other brands years later. We recently got our hands on the new E220d Saloon, which boasts an impressive list of technology. Would it live up to the reputation for innovation and quality?

There are three models of E-class saloon available, the $99,900 E200 with a 2 litre turbo petrol engine, the $102,900 E220d tested here, and the $146,300 E350d with a 3 litre V6 turbodiesel, producing 190kW and 620Nm. I’m not sure why you’d go for the E200 as the diesel has 8kW more power, 100Nm more torque and uses 2.3l less fuel per 100km, for only a small jump in price.

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All models come with an array of safety systems and acronyms, including adaptive brakes with auto hold, brake drying and priming, hill start assist, 9 airbags, ASR and ABS, attention assist, brake assist, cross traffic alert, blind spot monitor, drive pilot, lane keep assist, evasive steering assist, ESP with crosswind assist, to name just a few.

First Impressions

Our test car came in classic Mercedes Benz Iridium Silver metallic paint, and even though Fred will complain about it being another grey car, you have to admit it suits the E-Class well. It’s a big car at nearly 5m long and 2m wide, with a long bonnet. The front has the modern Mercedes Benz nose, with a large three-pointed star badge and LED running lights integrated into the headlights in twin slashes. The rear is similarly imposing, with multi-LED taillights and large chrome surrounds on the twin exhausts.


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Our car had the $6,300 AMG Line package which includes 20” alloys, different front, side and rear skirts, rear privacy glass, and perforated front discs and lettering on the calipers. Inside it adds illuminated door sill panels, mats, sports pedals, sports seats and steering wheel, and more leather on the doors and dash. It also adds agility control suspension, selective damping and air suspension.

The Inside

The first thing that hits you is those two 12.3” widescreen displays in the dash, the same ones used in the S Class. One is the instrument display and the other the media system. They’re excellent quality, high resolution and super clear. The driver’s screen houses the instruments, and can be configured in several ways with different looks. Want a rev counter and speedo? No problem. Power and torque displays in the central screen? Certainly. Just a rev counter with stereo info on one side, fuel consumption on the other? Whatever you want, sir. There are so many configurations available, and so much information can be displayed.

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The second thing is the LED ambient lighting system. There’s a lit-up strip around the dash and doors, as well as soft lighting in the footwells and centre console. All of it can be adjusted from hardly-there to disco-bright, and it can be any of 64 colours depending on your mood.

The Nappa leather sports seats are excellent. Goldilocks would have been pleased as they’re just soft enough to be really comfortable, but well shaped and supportive when cornering. They’re electrically adjustable in every direction you can imagine, even the headrest height is electrically altered. The steering wheel adjusts electrically too and there are multiple seat memories. The driver has a button to press to control the passenger seat from the driver’s side. Not sure why you’d want to but it’s there. I think the best use of this is to sneakily turn on the ($900 optional) heated seats for the passenger when they’re not looking.

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The dash is finished in black ash open-pore wood, and the top part and doors are beautifully covered in stitched, padded leather. All of the controls are solid-feeling and well weighted. Everything silver that you can see in the cockpit is made from metal, there’s no painted plastic here.

The centre console has two cupholders under a pop-up cover, as well as power and USB sockets. The cover and central dash are finished in piano black, which looks great when it’s clean but is very susceptible to fingerprints and scratches. At the driver’s elbow is a large cubby containing more sockets and stereo inputs. It has a really cool lid that pops up in two halves like a butterfly’s wings. There’s also a large, air conditioned, glovebox.

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The media system and everything screen related is part of Mercedes Benz’s COMAND system. It can be controlled by a rotating knob in the centre console, or a touch pad, or even two smaller touchpads on the steering wheel. It’s a comprehensive and complex system, with hundreds of features and options. It supports Android Auto and Apple Carplay. It has Bluetooth of course, radio, media system, very cool 3D satnav, and gives you the ability to change almost everything you can imagine about the car. Do you want the interior lights on for 15 seconds after closing the door? Or 30? It’s that level of configurability. There are buttons to switch between the main functions such as nav, media, radio etc but most is done via the click/jog wheel and menus. It’s intuitive to use but can sometimes be fiddly, and I occasionally found myself searching through menus, struggling to find a feature I’d changed previously.

The Drive

The E Class has keyless entry and start with a proximity key. Sit in the driver’s seat and the displays start up, with your gauges subtly animating as they fade into existence. The crystal-looking start/stop button glows with a soft white. It’s all subtly impressive. Pressing the button fires up the 2 litre diesel engine, which shakes the car as it starts, before settling to a well-damped idle. Engaging Drive is where the E Class is a little different from most cars. The shifter is a stalk on the right of the steering column where most cars have a wiper or indicator. There are three stalks on the left for everything else – a combined wiper and indicator stalk, one for the cruise control and one farther back for the steering wheel adjustment. This takes a bit of getting used to and if, like me, you came from a Japanese car, you might shift into neutral a couple of times when meaning to indicate.

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The parking brake is electronic, and automatic, and worked perfectly. Lights and wipers are also automatic, so a lot of the basic stuff is done for you, in a smooth and effortless fashion.

On the motorway, the E Class wafts along with a supremely comfortable and slightly floaty ride. The combination of continuously variable dampers with air suspension means it corners with hardly any body roll even if you push it hard, but it always stays comfortable. Mercedes really have done a fantastic job with the ride quality in this car. If you feel the need to take the E Class off-road there’s a button to raise the suspension by up to 50mm. It’s quiet, too. Despite having 275 profile rear and 245 front tyres, the road noise is kept to a minimum. You can just waft along, hardly needing to turn the stereo up at all.

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But you’ll want to. As well as a huge glass opening sunroof and rear glass roof panel, the Vision Package fitted to our car included the Burmester stereo system. It comprises a 590w amplifier, 13 speakers including subwoofers, giving full 3D surround sound. This is hands-down the best stereo system I’ve ever heard. It’s truly stunning, with deep bass even at low volumes, and incredible clarity. I was hearing things I’ve never heard before in songs I’ve listened to a hundred times. And this isn’t even the best one you can specify. There’s a 23 speaker Burmester system available which includes speakers in the roof. If I heard that one I don’t think I’d ever want to leave the car.

In the back there’s ample legroom for the tallest passengers, and the seats are just as comfortable as the fronts. There’s a large, deep 540 litre boot, with a motorised opening and closing tailgate, and the rear seats split 40/20/40 for longer items.

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Mercedes Benz claim a combined fuel usage figure of 4.1l/100km, meaning the 66l tank should get you around 1600km. Impressive for such a large car, so we decided to drive up from Wellington to the snow to give it a bit of a run. Unfortunately, as you can see from the photos, we had one of the wettest weekends of the year. We ended up in stop/start traffic due to flooding and accidents, we eventually turned back. It was a shame we couldn’t test the long range of this car but a few things were obvious. The seats, as I said before, are excellent, and I’m sure would leave you refreshed after a very long journey. The E class has a stop/start function to save fuel when the car’s not moving. This is a good system but every time the car re-starts, that torquey diesel engine gives a bit of a lurch, which slightly spoils the smooth, luxurious feel of the rest of the car. Overall I managed 6.6l/100km, but an average speed of just 31kph so given the stop/start nature of a lot of the driving I did I think this is respectable.

The other thing which will make long trips so much less stressful is the Drive Pilot system. This isn’t just adaptive cruise control, it goes way beyond that, in a big step towards autonomous driving. Set the cruise using the stalk on the column, and the set speed and current speed are displayed on the heads-up display. Once set, not only will the E Class maintain the set speed, slow down and speed up if you catch up with traffic, it will also steer the car. You must have your hands on the wheel at all times. At one point I held the wheel loosely in my hands and the car beeped and told me to grip the wheel. But the E class can see and read the road ahead, monitoring road markings, obstacles, other vehicles, and steering to keep the car in lane. In stop/start traffic it can come to a complete stop, just requiring a tap of the accelerator to set off again. I can’t decide if this is awesome or scary, but it is impressive.

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Another great feature is the auto-parking. Press the button and the all-round camera system switches on. This gives a top-down full 360 degree view from multiple cameras as well as selectable views from front, rear, kerbside etc. They’re the clearest camera images I’ve seen on a car yet. Once active, the car scans for parking spaces, drawing a box for each on screen. Stop and select the one you want to park in, and let go of the controls, and the car just parks itself. It controls the accelerator and brakes as well as steering, and it doesn’t dawdle! Before you know it, you’re parked.

There are several driving modes, selectable via a control in the centre console. Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport+. Each changes the driving characteristics of the car as you’d imagine. I played with these a bit, but the car’s just so good in comfort mode that I left it there most of the time. It’s not really the sort of car that you want to throw down a twisty back road. It’ll do it, and handle it well, but it’s more of a comfortable cruiser. That nine-speed transmission is excellent, quick shifting and silky smooth, with shifts barely noticeable. When you want to press on, the 400Nm of torque gives you a good push, and in the wet I had the traction control light flashing a few times. The car is never unsettled though, it’s like the light is flashing just as a courtesy to tell you it’s sorting out your hoon-like behaviour. “Settle down sir, I’ll manage this for you”

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I’ve barely covered the list of features, it has so much more, such as Pre-safe, which makes a sound via the speakers to prepare your inner ear before an accident, and help prevent hearing damage if the airbags deploy. It’s this sort of extra touch that shows the real value in a car like this.

The Competition

It’s hard to find direct competition to this model as there aren’t really any other cars in this segment with smaller diesel engines. I’ve gone for large luxury cars at around the same price bracket.

Brand / ModelEnginePowerFuel L/100km0-100km/hPrice Highest to Lowest
BMW 530D3.0l 6 cylinder turbodiesel190kW/590Nm5.65.8s$132,000
Audi A6 TDI S Line3.0l 6 cylinder turbodiesel160kW/500Nm4.66.6s$121,400
Jaguar XF3.0l 6 cylinder turbodiesel202kW/600Nm66.4s$115,000
Lexus GS300h2.5l petrol electric hybrid133kW/221Nm5.29.2s$114,900
HSV Senator6.2l V8 Supercharged400kW/671Nm15N/a$112,900
Mercedes Benz E220d1.9l 4 cylinder turbodiesel143kW/400Nm4.17.3s$102,900
Hyundai Genesis3.8l 6 cylinder Petrol232kW/397Nm11.2N/A$99,990
Chrysler 300 SRT6.4l V8 Petrol350kW/637Nm13N/A$98,990

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The pros and cons

ProsCons
  • Excellent quality
  • Smooth comfortable ride
  • Superb stereo system
  • Love the dash displays
  • Great seats
  • So much technology
  • Diesel stop/start pierces the quality bubble
  • COMAND system can be fiddly

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What we think

The E220d is a great package. It’s roomy, comfortable, and has a huge range of safety and comfort features. It can almost drive itself, which would make long trips much less stressful. And that stereo system is just sublime. There are a couple of things that stop it from being perfect, but it’s pretty close.

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Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5

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Vehicle TypeLarge Executive Sedan
Starting Price$102,900 + on-road costs
Tested Price$117,808 + on-road costs

Options:
Iridium Silver Paint $1,990

AMG Line Package $6,300

Vision Package $4,990

Heated Front Seats $900

Engine1950cc inline 4 cylinder turbo diesel
Transmission9 speed G-Tronic transmission
0 – 100 kph7.3 secoonds
Kerb Weight1680 kg
Length x Width x Height4923 x 1852 x 1468mm
Cargo Capacity540 Litres
Fuel Tank50 litres
Fuel Efficiency Advertised Spec – Combined – 4.1 L / 100km

Real World Test – Combined – 6.6 L / 100km

ANCAP Safety Ratings5 stars
Warranty3 years unlimited kilometres

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I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!

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