Mercedes-Benz E-Class Review: farewell long-term report

$101,500 Mrlp
  • Fuel Economy
    5.1L
  • Engine Power
    150kW
  • CO2 Emissions
    135g
  • ANCAP Rating
    5Stars

We farewell our long-term E-Class with a long trip down the Hume from Sydney to Melbourne.

December Update
David Zalstein

With our long-termer Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI doing the vast majority of its kilometres nestled within Sydney's notorious traffic, our editor asked if I would kindly mind putting some kays on it over the weekend and stretch its legs in an attempt to get a more balanced fuel consumption figure than the 10.2 litres per 100km currently displayed on the trip computer.

In kind, I respond the way any normal Melbourne boy living in Sydney who had just been handed the keys to a $114,405 Mercedes-Benz would; I pack a bag and get ready to drive to Melbourne.

Clocking up hundreds of kilometres in a dirty Mercedes-Benz simply isn’t right – particularly a black one – so a wash is the first port of call. Having the Obsidian Black metallic finish looking its best, the second box to tick is the tyres.

Tyre pressure is a vital detail often overlooked by most road users, yet can have a profound affect on tyre performance as well as wear and fuel economy. According to the Mercedes-Benz E250’s door panel tyre information, the German manufacturer recommends 33psi for the front tyres and 35psi for the rear (with three occupants and a small amount of luggage).

Our car had dropped only slightly to 32psi front and 34psi rear. Given the long highway drive ahead, and based on the sworn oath of some very experienced and well-trusted tyre fitters, we decide on an even 38psi for all four Pirelli P Zero tyres fitted to the Merc’s optional 18-inch five-spoke alloy wheels.

With these necessities completed we are ready to head south. The trip is a great opportunity to not only spend a fair chunk of time in the car over a few days, but also to drive the diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz E250 in its element, throwing out hundreds of kilometres across major highways.

As the big Merc's impressive attention to detail, features list, and technology have all been mentioned in the updates proceeding this one, this report, although they may be touched on, is more about the drive.

Leaving Sydney with a full tank of diesel, the trip computer for Trip A is zeroed, giving us a clean slate for the trek ahead. The starting stats read as follows: 3142km travelled, 124.43 hours of driving, an average speed of 25km/h, and the previously mentioned 10.2L/100km average fuel consumption.

Once you get past the E250's long start-up procedure – push the start button with your foot on the brake pedal; select drive from the column shifter; release the foot brake; then go – the diesel Benz is a damn good place to be and a properly good drive.

The super-comfortable ride is compliant over small and large road imperfections, but the engineers at Mercedes have excelled by not allowing this supple feeling to ever get in the way of driver feedback. Be it on highways or around suburban streets, the Mercedes-Benz E250 never feels sloppy or disconnected. The brakes can feel a little doughy but this is mostly forgivable as being part and parcel of driving a luxury four-door, five-seat baby limousine, where smoothness and comfort are the priority.

The E250's 150kW/500Nm 2.1-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel is torquey down low and is happy trundling along on the light side of 2000rpm, even up slight inclines and over crests. Despite the small capacity engine having to shove along 1735kg, power is delivered supremely easily and without fuss – particularly at highway cruising speeds or when overtaking proves necessary.

A quick stop 5hrs 42min in for a drink and an ‘un-drink’ sees 636km gone for the net result of 5.9L/100km and an average speed of 112km/h – far better numbers already. We keep on truckin' towards Melbourne with a renewed sense of environmentalism and a significantly lighter bladder.

There's a lot to like when sitting at the helm of the Mercedes. The look, feel and smell of the leather seats, the wall-to-wall (or door-to-door) wizz-bang techno-gadgetry that fills the car, the safety features, and that truly spectacular (albeit optional) Harman/Kardon audio system. But one thing that impresses even more is the car’s visibility.

The Mercedes-Benz E250 is not a small car, and yet the vision while driving is excellent. Even without relying on the optional lane keeping systems and reversing camera, and standard parking sensors, blind spots are limited and being aware of your place on the road is a doddle.

Up front the apparent space gives the impression of steering the car from a lounge room. It's got ample head, shoulder and leg room for two girthy executives in the rear – or three slightly slimmer civilians – and its boot is deep enough that if something slid to the back, a miners hat with attached light would prove useful.

At 7hrs 57min we arrive at my Melbourne destination: 871km, 110km/h average speed, and 6.0L/100km average fuel consumption. Leg one is done leaving us with dead-on a quarter of a tank of fuel still on board.

After two days driving around Melbourne it’s time to return back to the land of the bridge and the Opera House. Another refuel to the brim and we are away. Figures: 4210km travelled, 136.27 hours, 31km/h average speed, and average fuel consumption has already dropped a full litre from when we left Sydney to 9.2L/100km.

A slightly slower, more conservative run back – with more vehicles to contend with – nets us a return trip equalling 862km over 8hrs 23min with an average speed of 103km/h for a very impressive fuel consumption figure of 5.1L/100km.

This second trip also leaves us with more than a quarter of a tank worth of fuel left, leaving us pondering the idea of not only Melbourne to Sydney on one tank of fuel, but there and back on one tank – a challenge no doubt.

Final figures for the Benz: 5072km travelled, 144.51 hours, 35km/h average speed, and average fuel consumption almost dropping another litre finishing on 8.5L/100km.

For a comfortable long-haul vehicle packed with entertainment, safety and technology, that's easy to drive and easy to live with, the $114k-plus Mercedes-Benz E250 is a terrific example of why the Germans have been dominating this market for so many years.

July Update
David Holmes

It's more than two months since I first became acquainted with our Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI long-termer, so it's time for an update on how the driving experience is going. And just a reminder that, as the CEO of CarAdvice, I'm reviewing this from an executive's perspective rather than a road tester's.

I have to admit I was sceptical when my editor told me this rather sizeable luxury car was powered firstly by a diesel, and secondly by one only 2.1 litres in size. Yet there’s plenty of torque that will get you out of the blocks briskly when needed and allow for easy cruising.

The handling is precise but is a little heavy if cornering hard and best suited to a more relaxed steer than an aggressive line. If you enjoy driving more enthusiastically then this is probably not the car for you. If on the other hand you like to feel safe, even at highway speeds, this car should be on your shortlist.

At 110km/h it feels like you are driving to the local shops, there is virtually no road noise, the suspension is perfectly tuned for highway cruising and all the interior functions are easily accessible from the steering wheel controls.

For me, the cruise control function could replace the shift paddles as changing cruise control settings is a little laboured due to the position of the control lever and the diesel automatic gearbox, in my view, doesn’t need a sports paddle option.

While the diesel configuration in this E-Class isn't the most powerful in its segment, it does mean you can feel you are doing your part for the environment. The Mercedes-Benz E250 CDI has a 4-star Green Rating (8.0/10 Green House), which is not common in the large luxury car segment.

Daily commutes aren’t helping fuel consumption, however, with the E250 CDI’s trip computer revealing that our average 10.2L/100km is exactly double the model’s official rating of 5.1L/100km. I must point, however, that I have had the engine stop/start system disengaged as, while it can save some fuel, I'm not yet convinced by such systems. There are many times in traffic when you are stationary for only a moment or two, and it seems pointless for the engine to switch off for those occasions.

The key feeling for me while driving this car is the sense of safety. That’s helped by the intelligent headlights, that adjust when you are turning corners to illuminate the peripheral field of vision, and the lane change warning indicators. These combine with the not so obvious safety features to provide an exceptional command of the road.

The driving visibility is also very good with no really evident blind spots.

As you would (and should) expect these days, this Mercedes-Benz has many safety features including ABS (anti-lock braking), Brake Assist, Emergency Braking Display, and electronic stability control to help stabilise the vehicle under critical handling situations. There are even headrests that adjust in the case of an accident to reduce head and neck injury.

That attention to safety detail can be found throughout the E-Class line-up that ranges from $80,000 all the way to $250,000 for the top-of-the-range E63 AMG. So there are multiple configurations within the E-series to suit all driving styles.

The E250 CDI is one of the more sedate models, but after 2296km I’m still appreciating its blend of luxurious interior and pleasant road manners.


May Update
David Holmes

Having read Alborz's Mercedes-Benz E250 review I jumped at the chance when our editor asked if I would like to cover this E-Class diesel from an executive perspective. The brief: to look at what it is actually like to own a Mercedes-Benz luxury car that's powered by a small, four-cylinder engine.

Over the next few months I will be providing a different perspective on this $101,005 luxury car rather than our usual expert-based review. This is deliberately less technical as I am not an expert motoring journalist like the rest of the CarAdvice team; I am an average driver and will review this car from a potential owners' perspective.

First Impressions
Me: This is a big car, much larger than my regular car and its familiar Mercedes shape is a little intimidating at first glance. You can trace the E-Class origins back nearly a century to the 1930s so this famous German manufacturer has had plenty of time to refine this car with the engineering excellence you would expect. I can remember driving in my grandfather's W123 Diesel (240D, I think it was) when I was a kid, and while the exterior design on this E250 is definitely modern, the family resemblance is still evident.

After a few days in the car all the technology that is jammed in changes from being daunting to being part of the driver's DNA. How did I ever live without parking sensors, lane change alerts, a pristine sound system and automated everything. It's the little things, the attention to detail, that makes this car special.

For example, the lighting system, from the Intelligent headlight system that senses your environment (country, city, cornering, parking) and adjusts the beam angle and width accordingly through to the subtle low light accents in the cabin and right down to the sidesteps to make it easy to find your way around the car in the dark.

The kids: This is a massive car. The boys struggle to reach the seat in front (awesome news for dad - no more kicks in the back), but they love the space. In fact, my eldest has told everyone about the new car and seems to know more about the technology than I do. Dad, use the voice assist to call mum. (Me: the voice-a-what?). The little button on the wheel, he tells me.

The wife: There's so much room! Love the grey leather interior, reversing camera and how quiet it is.

The in-laws: Who did you kill to get this?

Well, if you were that way inclined you could fit three full-size adults in the boot, or four golf bags which is more likely in my case.

Once inside the E250 you are in motoring heaven. I expected everything that opens and shuts, and I wasn't disappointed. The shopping list of features was well and truly covered off: sat-nav, Bluetooth phone and music integration, reversing camera, Parktronic system, Proximity Control (advanced braking in dangerous situations) plus lane change warning, sunroof, leather (heated and cooled) seats, Attention Assist (detects drowsy drivers) and the amazing Harman Kardon surround sound system.

This is a German luxury car, so of course many of the aforementioned features are optional. The Harman Kardon audio, glass electric sunroof and keyless start are part of a $6200 'Vision' package, while the reverse-view camera costs $1100, the lane keep system $2100, and the 18-inch alloy wheels add $1800. With $2100 for our long-term car's 'Obsidian Black' metallic paint, the total cost of our E250 CDI is $114,405 before on-road costs are added.

In a past life I was a professional musician so I am always overly focused on the sound system. So in my first installment I'm going to focus on the optional audio system.

Entertainment (Multimedia) System
For me, the sound system can either make or break the experience of driving a car. The test is when your favourite song is playing and you pull up at work you sit and listen until the end of the song. The Harman Kardon® Logic 7® surround sound system with Dolby Digital 5.1 and an output of 610 watts actually makes you want to stay for the entire album. Simply put, this is the best car audio system I've heard in years.
Whether it's Usher, U2 or Ultimate Symphony, this Entertainment System provides a similar level of clarity as a world class recording studio.

Aside from the sound, the system has every conceivable input;

  • Aux-In socket and USB port
  • Bluetooth interface with hands-free function (worked seamlessly with my iPhone 4.0)
  • DVD drive, MP3-compatible, for video and audio DVDs/CDs
  • Colour display with TFT technology and 17.8 cm screen
  • Hard-drive navigation with topographic and 3D map display (city models, tourist attractions)
  • Hard-drive with 10 GB storage for compressed audio files (MP3, WMA, AAC)
  • Radio with equaliser and speed-sensitive volume control
  • Voice-operated control system
  • Automatic traffic alerts (TMC Pro)
  • Slot for SD memory cards

With all this tech crammed in the challenge is how to create a user-friendly interface that a four-year-old can navigate. Well, I have a four-year-old, so I put it to the test. He found everything with very little prompting. This is very important as the driver has more important things to do than navigating to the next song. Such as paying attention to the road.

For me, the E250 is definitely five stars in terms of multimedia technology and features.

On the road, the drive is refined and extremely comfortable, but I will leave this component of my review until I've had more time behind the wheel.