Terrific refinement, class-leading technology, genius engines
BMW 5 Series is just as plush, but also drives with some panache
What is it?
If the S-Class is the car that defines Mercedes as a purveyor of very clever, safe and refined luxury cars, then the E-Class is the lucky little brother that comes along shortly afterwards and gets most – if not all – of the S-Class’s tricks and toys, in a smaller, cheaper package.
It’s bigger than a C-Class, more upright and businesslike than the open-neck CLS, and nothing like as nouveau-riche as its SUV cousin, the GLE. The E-Class is here to fight the likes of the BMW 5 Series, Jaguar XF, Volvo S90 in Europe, plus the likes of Cadillac, Lexus, Infiniti and Genesis in sunnier parts of the world. It’s a very important car, then. Worldwide sales of the current model have just rocketed past 1.2 million with everyone from politicians to grime artists signing up for an E.
The current E-Class has been on sale since 2017, and had a pretty thorough update in the early part of 2021. The styling was overhauled inoffensively, Mercedes rebooted its engine line-up with several plug-in hybrid variants, overhauled the active safety systems, and introduced a touch-sensitive steering wheel button philosophy to match the new touchpad MBUX screen controller. What a relief.
Not because it’s any good, you understand. We’re just happy there’s something controversial to get our teeth into. Otherwise the E-Class is designed to fly under the radar, whether it’s a faithfully discreet company car, an airport taxi, a suspiciously clinically-smelling UberLux or a hitman’s getaway ride. You probably saw two or three Es today. But did you notice them? Exactly.
We’ve been testing the deeply sensible E220d and the AMG E53 to get an idea on the bookends of the E-Class range. If you’re hunting for a blood’n’thunder supersaloon and want to learn all about the rampant, wonderfully loony AMG E63 S, then check out our bespoke review for 600bhp tyre-shredders by tapping here. If not, then be reassured the E-Class doesn’t necessarily need a Drift Mode to impress the likes of us…
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The E-Class is an extremely well-executed piece of kit. It exudes a mature attitude. It feels grown-up and dignified. The engine range is superb, and it’s a hugely comfortable and stressless mode of long-distance transport.
Its chief problem is that the BMW 5 Series in particular is pretty much as spacious and well-mannered these days, but it enjoys an extra verve and sense of poise about its chassis that leaves the Mercedes a little flat-footed.
If that’s not a concern, or you just happen to prefer the slightly more subtle presence of the Benz, you can’t really go wrong here. After decades of experience, Mercedes has distilled everything it knows about executive saloons into a deeply sorted car.