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The Top Gear car review:Mercedes-Benz E-Class
For:Impeccable solidity, excellent economy, a return to form for the E-Class
Against:The 5-Series is still that bit better all round
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What we say:
One of the pillars of the Mercedes range, the E-Class is a very compelling exec choice
What is it?
Mercedes says the latest E-Class is the most comprehensive mid-life facelift it’s ever carried out. For a company as old as Merc, that’s some claim, and shows the extent of the revisions this latest model sports. It certainly looks sharper, losing the stick-up three-pointed star for a much more dynamic coupe-style nose; throw in smoother sides that have lost those pontoon-style rear arches, and you’ve a much more able car that’s better able to compete with the BMW 5-Series. It’s better built inside too, and there’s a whole host of anti-crash safety gear, including road-scanning radars that will even tell you if you’re about to drive up a one-way street.
The old car wasn’t lacking, of course. It’s just that with this one, Mercedes has given its buyers even less reason to look elsewhere – and hopefully the opportunity to bring a few new ones in, too.
As you would expect from a Mercedes, the E-Class is more relaxed than rivals such as the 5-Series, but isn’t as sporty to drive, even in the latest sport-look facelift guise. Don’t be mistaken though, for this isn’t the Mercedes of old: it doesn’t degenerate into a soggy mess at the first hint of a corner. The ride is the star draw though, proving absorbent and fluid over virtually any surface.
Given this driving attitude, it’s best to stick to the diesel engines and let their high torque levels waft you along. Mercedes has focused the range for 2013, ditching the poverty-spec 136bhp base four-cylinder unit and focusing efforts on 170bhp and 204bhp motors. There’s a more powerful 3.0-litre V6 diesel and, if you like the idea of pace and economy, Mercedes now offers a clever diesel hybrid. Petrol engines have been rationalised for 2013 to two turbo four-pots, alongside the fire-breathing 5.5-litre twin-turbo V8 AMG motor.
On the inside
Mercedes quality really is back on form and there are few better demonstrations of this than the E-Class. It feels incredibly solid and sturdy, oozing solidity that’s well complemented by some detail revisions for 2013. Tactile and bombproof, it’s more than a match for an Audi A6. It really is huge inside, both front and rear (and the seats are superb), while the boot offers a 540-litre capacity.
The vast majority of E-Class’ sold – that’s over 90 per cent – are diesel-powered. With conventional models now offering up to 58.9mpg, it’s not hard to see why. The diesel hybrid does a remarkable 68.9mpg and even the four-pot petrols do 47.9mpg. Trims have been focused to SE and AMG Sport, and while prices are up, added value more than offsets this.