Do luxury sedans still have a place in today’s market? Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi seem to think so, as they each have a good range of just such sedans for sale.
And so to the Mercedes-Benz E Class sedan. Stuck as the middle child between the C Class and the S Class, it seems to be an anomaly. Wouldn’t buyers either go straight to the S Class, or feel the C Class is big enough? We’ve found the C Class coupe, cabriolet, and estate to be excellent cars, perhaps making the E Class a bit pointless.
Mercedes-Benz sent us a base-model E200 Sedan for a week to see if it’s worthy to be between two great models in the C Class and S Class.
In the E Class range, there’s the E200, E220 and E300e which we’ll cover off here. All three are rear-wheel drive. After that, there are options of the E350, and E450.
The base E200 is powered by a 2-litre, turbocharged petrol engine managing 145kW of power and 320Nm of torque. It’s supposed to return 8.0L/100Km of petrol and gets to 100Km/h in 7.4 seconds. It runs a 9-speed automatic transmission, and it’s available in 4-door sedan or 2-door coupe body styles, while the E220 and E300 are both sedan only.
The E200 runs at $106,600 and our test car was fitted with a few options, like Graphite Grey Metallic Paint at $2,000, and the Vision Package at $6,600. This bought the price as tested up to $115,200.
While the E200 and E300 are petrol, the E220 is a diesel-power E Class car running a 1.9-litre turbo-diesel engine that puts out 143kW of power and 400Nm of torque, and uses the same 9-speed automatic as the E200. This car is $107,700 and does 4.4L/100km.
The E300e still has the same 2-litre turbo-petrol motor but now puts out 155kW of power, and 350Nm of torque. Add to this its hybrid system which is a 90kW electric motor, meaning total torque is now 440Nm. It’s rated at 2.2L/100km for fuel economy, still has the 9-speed automatic gearbox, is priced at $147,000 and gets to 100Km/h in 5.7 seconds.
As standard, the E200 and E220 are very well specced out. They have 19” alloy wheels, AMG Line exterior, Artico upholstery, Driver Assistance Package Plus, the MBUX multimedia system, auto-dimming interior mirror, heated front seats, LED interior lighting, illuminated front sills with Mercedes-Benz lettering at night, electric front seats including headrests and cushion length adjustment as well as 4-way electric lumbar adjustment. There’s also an electrically adjustable steering wheel, open-pore black ash wood trim, adaptive cruise control with Stop/Go, dual zone AC, Traffic Sign Assist, Agility Control suspension with selective damping, privacy glass, LED High Performance Headlamps with Adaptive Highbeam Assist and LED tail lights, keyless entry and start, Parking Package with Active Parking Assist, 2×12.3” digital screens, Mercedes Me connect system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, a 360-degree camera system, an Active Bonnet, Adaptive Brake Hold with Hill Start Assist, 9 airbags, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, and Evasive Steering Assist.
The 300e also gets leather upholstery, pre-entry climate control, Acoustic Ambient Protection for pedestrians and cyclists, AIR BODY CONTROL air suspension, metallic paint, and MULTIBEAM LED adaptive headlights.
You can read more about the E Class on Mercedes-Benz’ New Zealand’s website.
At first look, the E200 test car looked black, and that was fine with me. Who doesn’t love a black Mercedes-Benz sedan? But as I got closer I saw it was actually a dark grey. It was almost a kill-me-now moment, since grey and silver for me are the most boring and dangerous colours on the road. Still, the E200 did look good, and the new shape is nothing outlandish or too far distant from the previous model.
It doesn’t seem as crisp or as sharp as a BMW or Audi now is, but in many ways I’m glad about that. We’ve come to expect a Mercedes-Benz sedan to be a bit timeless, and sharper design lines can date quickly.
Around the back of the car, the E200 has been lifted to look more like the rest of the family, complete with fake exhaust tips that are completely blanked off just inside the tip itself. It amuses me that manufacturers do this, it feels like the general buying public can’t cope with a lack of exhaust tips.
It’s (almost) all standard Mercedes-Benz when you open the door of the E200, and that’s a good thing. It all feels nicely familiar and on the whole, ergonomics are excellent. When you open the door, there’s the illuminated sills to greet you, complete with Mercedes-Benz lettering glowing blue.
Under a cover on the central console is a Qi wireless phone charger, along with a single USB-C port and a 12-volt socket for your radar detector or dashcam. It is nice being able to cover up your phone while it’s charging, removing the temptation to look at it.
The centre console cubby has two USB-C ports and can just take an SLR camera in it, so it’s a reasonable size.
Above everyone is a huge panoramic sunroof, a tilt/slide unit with an electric blind. It goes right past the back seats, but there is a bar about 80% of the way down, so it does look a little strange to have a full opening sunroof, then a bar, then a smaller piece of glass. Still, it lets in a huge amount of natural light, and I love that.
Up front is a lot of black, open-pore wood finishing on the dash, console and doors. I know having a natural wood colour is not trendy, but having it black doesn’t feel right to me. In saying that, there’s plenty of options here for a different finish when you order your E Class.
Thankfully, for the E Class, Mercedes-Benz have moved away from the tacked-on display, and it’s now far more integrated into the dash, and also there’s now a large cowl over the whole dashboard to make the two 12.3” displays more readable, and to reduce that tacked-on look even more. It looks so much better than before.
Right in front of the driver, the ‘old’ and excellent steering wheel has been replaced with a new one, now with haptic controls. More on this later.
Back seat passengers are well looked after for space; there is plenty of leg and shoulder room back there, and seat comfort is as good as the front. Roominess overall is a plus on the E200, showing you don’t need to have an SUV to have plenty of space.
At the rear, the boot is spacious at 540 litres, and you can release the rear seats from boot using levers. There’s extra storage space under the floor, but no spare tyre.
Since the drive is all about getting behind the steering wheel, let’s talk about those haptic controls first. I’ve got to say, the previous steering wheel was brilliant. It was an example of how to do steering wheel controls, and a lesson to others. Volume for audio was a thumbwheel – perfect. You didn’t need to look down to find or use it, and that’s how steering wheel controls should be. Other controls too were excellent, with superb tactile feel and placement. So I was keen to see how MB has improved on this.
They haven’t. The haptic controls are not as easy to use, and you need to look down often to see what button you are pressing, since they are all pretty much the same now. It’s an example of when change hasn’t worked. Over my week, I did get used to them more, but since they are all mostly the same, the car’s steering wheel has gone from being one of the best in the business, to one of confusion. For example, to adjust the audio volume is now a slider. I’m not sure what research was done on this, but having such controls in a car – especially on its steering wheel – is not the easiest way to actually control something like volume when on the move. Honda used to do a volume slider too, but they are moving away from this now. It doesn’t work.
Thankfully, there’s still a thumbwheel volume control on the centre console, and I ended up using this instead for media volume.
The slider on the other side of the wheel is for adjusting cruise control speed. Again, not easy to adjust while moving, which is when you need to adjust it. I won’t go on about it any more, but I wish that Mercedes-Benz had the old steering wheel as an option, at least.
You would think people’s experience with the touchpad that many Mercedes-Benz models have had for years, would have given them an indication that haptic controls don’t work well in a car. The touchpad is still in the E200, and I rarely used it. While driving, it’s too difficult to try and accurately use a touchpad to control anything, even after making adjustments to it to make it less sensitive.
That’s that out of the road, because the rest of the E200 is pretty bloody good. Yet again, it’s one of those cars that’s hard to fault.
The whole car is so refined and quiet, it borders on incredible. Even my wife thought it was a hybrid when we went for a drive; it’s that quiet in general. Under load, say up some of Wellington’s hills, the engine does make a noise, but it’s never obtrusive. At a gentle throttle opening, there’s very little engine, wind or road noise. You do get some tyre noise on coarse chip seal, but this is likely because the rest of the car is simply so quiet.
Even the suspension feels like it’s disconnected from the car, as no suspension noise whatsoever comes into the cabin. Ride refinement is another highlight. As you’d expect and want, the car glides over most bumps, and can be driven very smoothly indeed.
That’s not to say the E200 doesn’t handle; being rear-wheel drive, it’s a bit of fun to drive, and you can hang the tail out if you really try. Pushing on very hard will see the tyres start to scrub as understeer kicks in, but it’s all very controllable. It does feel extremely forgiving, and on one off-camber bend I shoved the brakes on hard just to see what happened. It was all a ‘meh’ moment, and the E200 didn’t freak out, and simply carried on with little drama.
Turn-in is very good for a luxury sedan, and if you want to motor along you could always pick one of the sportier drive modes. In the E200, you get to select from Eco, Comfort, Sport, Sport+, and Individual. Individual lets you select what changes you want the car to make if you pick this drive mode. I was surprised using Sport or Sport+ mode; while the car’s performance went up a notch, the ride remained quite supple. You can certainly feel the engine wanting to ‘go’ more, but overall you could drive the car in Sport or Sport+ all the time.
Eco mode too was a doddle. With plenty of torque, I cruised around in Eco mode quite a lot, and barely noticed it. A shame though that the car doesn’t remember your drive mode when you get out. You’ll have to reset it when you get back into the car. I wish manufacturers would make this an option in the menu system.
Performance-wise, the 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol motor is perfectly suited to the E200. It’s no powerhouse or AMG, but it will get off the line quickly enough for daily use, getting to 100Km/h in 7.5 seconds. That should be enough for most people, and it gets to 100Km/h on full throttle acceleration without drama, or much noise.
But hey, this isn’t what this car is about. I spent most of my time driving like a chauffer; the car almost begs to be driven sedately, the car doing most of the work but expecting the driver to use the throttle correctly to get the smoothest possible drive. For me, this was where the E200 shines, and your passengers will feel better and perhaps more important if they are in the back seat.
So comfort levels as far as smoothness are top of the class, and there’s other things to help your journey to be as refined as possible. The seats assist here, with both fronts being electric (including the headrests), electric cushion length adjustment, and 4-way electric lumbar adjust. The side support front and rear is excellent too, and overall seat comfort is superb. While massaging seats are not standard in the base model, you can select ‘Seat Kinetics’ for either front seat on a long drive. Essentially this operates some of the electric seat motors to move your back forward or backwards a little, lifts the seat cushion then lowers it, etc. It’s designed to keep your body moving a little while on that long-haul to Auckland. You can also adjust the seat heating balance in this car, giving yourself more heat to your lower back for example, when you have the 3-stage seat heater on. This is adjustable for both front seats.
The E200’s adaptive cruise control also helps in making your drive smooth. It’s always been one of the best in the business, and now that it has Stop/Go, it’s even better. Stop/Go means that if the adaptive cruise control stops the car because of traffic, and then that traffic moves off, Stop/Go will start the car moving ahead for you. It sounds a bit too easy, like the driver is not doing much, but in a traffic jam, it’s a huge bonus to sit back and let the car do the driving for you.
Part of that ‘self driving’ is the steering assist. This has come a long way in a short time, and the self steering in the E200 was one of the best I’d seen, second and perhaps equal to Tesla. It was almost faultless, assisting the car around corners and making life a lot easier on the motorway. Of course you still have to hold the steering wheel – you’ll get a visual and then audible alert if you don’t – but at speeds under around 10km/h, there’s no alert at all. You should always hold the steering wheel of course, but in a traffic jam under 10km/h, I dare say the car could steer itself easily, not that I condone that driving behaviour.
While the steering assist on the car is excellent, I was surprised that the button to turn it on or off has gone from the steering wheel. You now need to go into the car’s menus to do this. I ended up programming the ‘favourite’ button on the centre console to go to the exact menu I wanted, then could tap the on-screen button to turn off steering assist if I wanted to.
Going back to the car’s adaptive cruise control, they’ve brought into the E Class the ability to double-tap the resume button to set the car to the current speed limit. For this reason, I used cruise control a whole lot more; it was so easy in this respect – pass a change of speed limit sign, double-tap the resume button, and cruise control would be set to the new speed limit. Awesome. This also applies to the speed limiter, something else I used quite a bit this time, since having this functionality makes it so simple.
As per other Mercedes-Benz models, the E Class now has route-based guidance for the adaptive cruise control. This means the car will slow for a corner, if you are using cruise control at the time. We saw this first demoed at the latest S Class launch, and it’s filtered down to nearly all other models. It used to be a bit too cautious, and at times I wanted the car to go faster around a corner, but on the whole it works well, and it does save that freak-out moment when the car is hurtling around a corner at 100km/h, when that’s too fast. I can see a lot of drivers not knowing that the car is doing this for them, but feeling better about using adaptive cruise on roads other than motorways.
Still on that making the drive easy side of things, as standard, the E200 comes not only with self parking capability, but also with Active Parking Assist. This means that not only will the E200 find and automatically park in a parallel or angle park for you, it will also do the gears and brakes. You sit back, let it park the car for you, then simply turn the engine off when it’s done. Could be much simpler than that.
Visibility out of the car is generally excellent, with relatively large side windows helping things along. The B pillar is on the chunky side, blocking head checks some, but there’s active lane change assist and active blind spot monitoring for you to use. Active lane change assist means that if you are using adaptive cruise control and want to change lanes, you simply indicate the direction you want to change lanes to, and the car will do it for you. It will wait for a gap first, of course. Active blind spot monitoring will give you an audible alert if you try and change lanes into one that has a car/motorbike already there.
As always, the Burmeister sound system was excellent. It is truly one of the best I have heard, end of story.
Fuel economy is not likely to be an issue for someone buying the E200, but the car does okay. Over 500Km of mixed driving, I managed to get 8.9 litres/100Km out of the car; for a 2-litre petrol turbo, this is more than acceptable, and compares to the Audi Q5 (2-litre, petrol-turbo) we had on test last month, at 9.0L/100Km. The factory suggests 8.0 so we were pretty close.
|Seats||Cargo capacity, litres (third row down)||Fuel|
|Base Price – High to Low|
|Audi A6 TFSI Sedan AWD||3.0-litre, V6 turbo-petrol||250/500||5||530||6.9||$112,500|
|Jaguar XF Chequered Flag Sedan RWD||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol||184/365||5||NA||6.8||$109,900|
|Mercedes-Benz E200 Sedan RWD||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol||145/320||5||540||8.0||$106,600|
|BMW 520i Sedan RWD||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol||135/290||5||530||6.8||$99,900|
|Lexus ES300h Limited Sedan FWD||2.5-litre, 4-cylinder petrol-hybrid||131/221||5||NA||8.2||$93,400|
|Volvo S60 T5 R-Design Sedan AWD||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol||192/400||5||NA||7.3||$79,900|
The Pros and Cons
Adaptive cruise control functionality
Integrated dual displays
Quality of finish
Automatic parking functionality
Seats – comfort, adjustability
Haptic steering wheel controls
|Vehicle Type||4-door luxury sedan|
|Price as Tested||$115,200|
|Engine||2-litre, 4-cylinder turbo-petrol|
|Transmission||9-speed TRONIC automatic|
|Spare Wheel||Pump only|
|Kerb Weight, Kg||1,715|
|Length x Width x Height, mm||4935x1852x1460|
|Cargo Capacity, litres||540|
|Fuel capacity, litres||66|
|Fuel Efficiency, L/100Km||Advertised Spec – combined – 8.0|
Real World Test – combined – 8.9
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
|Towing CapacityKg, unbraked/braked||NA|
|Turning circle, metres||11.6|
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
|Warranty||3 years, unlimited kilometres|
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||5 Star|