They may only have 1bhp, but that's all these angry little cars need...
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The Top Gear car review:Mercedes-Benz E-Class
For:Terrific refinement, class-leading technology, interior quality
Against:Accomplished rather than inspirational
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What we say:
Mercedes' core model is all-new for 2016. It's another big step on
What is it?
It’s the fifth generation of the car Mercedes bigwigs acknowledge as the heart of the company. No pressure here, then. Although it looks very much like a larger C-Class or smaller S-Class, worryingly so depending on your point of view, the latest E-Class is a stellar technological statement.
It’s also bigger and roomier than the previous model, but uses high-strength steel and aluminium in its structure to reduce weight. The big-selling axis of the range, the 220d, also gets a radical new all-alloy four-cylinder diesel engine, the upshot being a car that weighs 100kg less than the model it replaces. There’s also a 350d, with further versions to come.
Mercedes has somehow managed to create something soothingly familiar while comprehensively rearranging the goalposts. The 220d majors on rolling comfort, with a supple ride and fluent body control; this is not a car you corner on its doorhandles, although it doesn’t lack agility. The four-pot diesel is a bit vocal during start-up and at low speeds, but impressively hushed at motorway speeds.
The 220d runs steel springs and passive damping as standard; Dynamic Body Control is an option, as is air suspension. Elsewhere on the vast options list you’ll find Drive Pilot, which marries the car’s adaptive cruise control with active steering to serve up the most authentic self-driving experience so far. Merc wants to be the industry leader with this autonomous tech and will no doubt succeed: we’d say it’s a work-in-progress.
On the inside
The entry-level 220d makes do with conventional dials and an 8.4-inch central screen, but the big step forward is the twin-tablet display of posher models, which conjoins two 12.3-inch screens for a dramatic panorama of in-car connectivity. The steering wheel also features a pair of thumb-sized touch-sensitive pads, a novel alternative to the central rotary controller. In terms of the interfaces, graphics and overall quality, Mercedes has dramatically raised the bar with this car. Just don’t run riot with the online configurator…
As for housekeeping – space, ergonomics, user-friendliness, all the everyday stuff that matters – Merc of course gets it spot on. It’s an E-Class: we’d expect nothing else, really.
The E 220d costs £35,935 in SE form, £38,430 in AMG line spec; the 350d starts at £44,745. We prefer the extra welly of the bigger-engined car, but run the numbers on the 220d and it makes a startling case for itself: not many cars can top 149mph and hit 62mph in 7.3 seconds while emitting just 102g/km of CO2. Mercedes claims a combined average of 72.4mpg; rather improbably, we managed an indicated 60mpg during a reasonably vigorous test drive. Cake taken and eaten. You won’t need to worry about reliability, safety or RVs either.