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Car Review

Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2016-2023) review

Published: 25 Mar 2021


What is it like on the inside?

At first you’d be forgiven for not noticing a whole lot is new inside here. But in fact, there’s been a comprehensive technological evolution. You still sit facing twin 12.3-inch screens resting atop the dash, but the sharply rendered central display is now a touchscreen, and features a more up-to-date MBUX interface. It operates without a glitch or hesitation in our experience. Meanwhile, you’re bathed in different 64 colours of ambient light. But not all at the same time.

If you’d like to avoid more fingerprints than a shop demo iPad – and who could blame you – then Mercedes lets you operate the nav/media/menu maze with the new touchpad on the centre console, or new touch-sensitive buttons on the steering wheel in higher end models. Mercifully, tactile physical buttons remain Sport-spec cars, and are much easier to use on the move.

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Climate controls are still handled with a line of metal switches that look a little fiddly but are a doddle to use once you’ve spent a few minutes in the car. Seat controls, if you’ve got electric adjustment, are on the door inserts, oddly. The transmission, as is usual for Mercedes these days, is operated with a stalk behind the steering wheel. Nope, Tesla didn’t think of that brainwave – they borrowed that idea from Mercedes.

This haphazard control layout sounds weird and confusing and dangerously French, but it works. And because there’s no bulky transmission selector on the centre console, the E-Class has lots of stowage, next to plenty of charging ports for your devices, and a wireless phone charging pad that can be safely covered when underway to avoid notification distraction-related mayhem.

The basics – i.e. the non-digital stuff – are as well sorted as you’d expect. Comfortable seats. Expensive-feeling touchpoints. Lots of cubbyholes for your litter and important business things. It may be a mobile office, but there’s a sense of wellbeing inside an E-Class that’s lacking in the BMW 5 Series or Audi A6. Only the Volvo S90’s lodge-on-wheels cabin outdoes it for ambience.

Rear space is generous, as you’d hope for a car that’s now as big as an S-Class was two generations ago. And though you don’t get an electronic bootlid as standard on all models, the spring-loaded mechanism is so lively it’ll deliver a fiendish uppercut to innocent bystanders if you plip the key from a distance. Plenty of room for ice packs and smelling salts in the 540-litre boot.

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There’s just one thing that might irk you. See, the E-Class gets all the S-Class hand-me-downs. But this E-Class followed on from an S-Class that’s now been replaced. And Mercedes has now junked the twin-landscape screen concept for a huge central Tesla-like display that’s raked back, vertically against the dashboard. We’re not sure it’s better – no physical climate controls and so much ‘minimalism’ has tripped up the likes of VW and Audi of late.

But if you’re buying a Mercedes-Benz because you want to be seen to have done well for yourself and got hold of the latest, greatest thing from Germany, well, you won’t find it here. Maybe have a look at the new C-Class instead – every inch the mini-me S-Class.

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