The Mercedes-Benz E 250 is about as comfortable and cruisy as a luxury sedan can get.
Not many would believe it, but a small 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine powers this large luxury family sedan, producing 150kW and 310Nm. However, because it’s a German-engineered engine, power delivery and acceleration are equivalent to or supersede engines twice its capacity.
Here is the thing about owning a Mercedes-Benz: it’s not just another car. Despite the mass production of modern cars (this one included), the Mercs do have a special feel to them. Something we’ve come to expect from the company that invented the automobile.
From the outside the distinctive shape of the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been growing on us since 2009 and as good things do, it’s gotten better with a few years under its belt.
Like the new BMW 5 Series and Audi A6, the E-Class is going for a subtle look of conservative elegance. Although it’s hard to beat the Jaguar XF in the looks department, the E-Class is a beautiful car in its own right.
Some find the front end a tad overdone but in the flesh it’s a good looker, particularly with the LED daytime running lamps. From the back it’s pretty much a case of absolute subtlety as Mercedes-Benz has gone for a moderately conservative rear design.
If you want to get technical about it, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class name has only been around since 1993 but its origins date back to the 1930s, which means the current model is now the 9th generation.
Through nine generations of continuous improvement the Germans have enhanced what is essentially a large family sedan into a comfortable, efficient and ultra-safe cruiser. Throughout its existence the E-Class has managed to maintain its reputation as a solid, well-built saloon. Simply opening and closing the doors of our Mercedes-Benz E250 test car was a pleasant experience.
Sit in the driver’s seat and you’ll quickly notice the interior is spacious and very refined. The rectangular-looking front seats provide ample support for long journeys without being too floaty. Soft-touch plastics and high quality trims are apparent throughout the cabin, so is the general ‘this-looks-expensive’ ambience.
Despite the general consensus that the options list is what makes a modern Merc, our Mercedes-Benz E 250 Avantgarde test car came with almost no options (bar a Vision Package and metallic paint). So for a manufacturer's list price of $97,780, the E 250 is well priced against a BMW 528i ($99,990) and an Audi A6 2.8 FSI Quattro ($93,900).
Given it had no options it also lacked some basic features that we were expecting, such as electric seats and a reversing camera. There is something strange about a being in a brand new E-Class and having to manually adjust your seat. The Memory package is definitely a must tick.
Even so, one of the many reasons we admire Mercedes-Benz vehicles here at CarAdvice is the level of interior quality. While the BMW 5 Series is without doubt a sportier drive, the E-Class is just a nicer place to spend some time in and frankly, as much as we love the sportier feel of a 5 Series, unless it was a 535i or an BMW M5, the interior quality and cosy nature of the E-Class wins every time.
The rear seats are also very practical and as we found out, can easily fit two adults and a child without any issues. Given the average height of a German male is about 181cm and Australian blokes are on average 26mm shorter, there is plenty of head and leg room for front- and rear-seat passengers.
The mechanical changes to the upgraded Mercedes-Benz E-Class include the addition of a 7G-Tronic Plus transmission (replacing a five-speed) and a 'DIRECT-SELECT' gear lever located on the steering column (now available on four-cylinder models). This meant we spent the week changing between Drive, Park and Reverse by nudging a selector on the steering column.
Although this method of gear changes is nothing new (indeed, it’s relatively old-school), the actual workings of the gear lever are all transmitted electronically via a cable. Interestingly, it became the first car we’ve ever driven to have a steering column mounted gear lever but also to include gearshift paddles. It’s a great way to save interior space but with the added option of having full control via the paddles, if needed.
The standard COMAND system is pretty good but this one doesn’t have the internet-capability found in the new C-Class, not that you really need it. It does have full Bluetooth audio streaming (for music) and phone connectivity as well as a 6GB hard drive you can use to store a whole heap of music on. The optioned Vision pack adds a Harman/Kardon LOGIC 7 surround sound system, which for lack of better words, is insanely good. With extreme clarity and bass even at deafening volume, it’s one of the better sound systems we’ve heard in a sub-$300,000 car to date (definitely worth the money if you love your music).
As mentioned in our previous Mercedes-Benz reviews, the COMAND system is not as intuitive as BMW’s iDrive, meaning it can take a little getting used to. The satellite navigation system is also a generation behind that found in the 5 Series. Another feature we would like to see included in the E-Class is the very useful head-up display technology which projects speed and other information to the windscreen.
Behind the wheel it’s hard to overlook the prominent three-pointed star proudly broadcasting on the bonnet. Mercedes-Benz has a certain credibility and reputation that no amount of advertising can buy. There really is something unique about owning a Benz, unmatched by its German rivals, which is always a nice feeling when piloting one.
The E 250’s steering is best described as light. It can feel so cruisy that at times you might forget you’re actually connected to the front wheels. There is almost no feedback and turning-feel is more like an S-Class than a C-Class, which is a good thing for an E 250. If you want feedback, go for a 5 Series and if you want something in the middle, the Audi A6 is worth a look.
Although the E 250 is not a sports car, in any sort or way, the enthusiastic 1.8-litre engine did see us conquer some twisty roads with relative ease. The suspension is certainly best suited to normal driving but when push comes to shove the E 250 behaves much better than expected around tight corners and in sudden direction-change scenarios.
That's not to say Mercedes has no sporty E-Class offerings, as an Mercedes-Benz E500 or Mercedes-Benz E 63 AMG makes for compelling all-around awesome sports sedan.
Driving around town or being stuck in peak hour traffic is made all that more pleasant in an E 250 as hardly any road noise penetrates Merc's sound-proofing system.
The new seven-speed automatic has helped bring fuel economy down to 7.6L/100km (officially) and after a whole week of driving (and we weren’t shy with the right foot), our E 250 managed a very commendable 7.8L/100km. Gear changes are generally smooth and unnoticeable.
While BMW is making use of an eight-speed auto (Audi and Merc sticking with seven-speed), the real question isn’t the number of gears, but whether to go for petrol or diesel. More precisely in this case, the choice between the E 250 CGI (tested here) and E 250 CDI.
The price increase of $3225 for the diesel is pretty reasonable and for that you get a 2.1-litre diesel with the same 150kW of power but a massive 500Nm of torque. Better still, fuel economy is rated at an unbelievably low 5.1L/100km. That’s 0.9L/100km less than the much-hyped and lighter Toyota Hybrid Camry and even less than a petrol Corolla.
In our humble opinion, you'd be better off to pick the diesel for the extra torque, better efficiency and overall superior driving experience.
The majority of safety systems are standard across the E-Class range. Some highlights include the PRE-SAFE system which not only tightens the seatbelts right before an unavoidable accident, but can also automatically close windows, sunroofs, fill up the air cushions on the multicontour seats and even move the front seats to a safer position in the crucial moments before an accident (in order to minimise injury). Lets not forget the 11 airbags either! (front airbags for driver and passenger, side airbags for front and rear passengers, pelvisbag and full length windowbags for driver and front passenger and kneebag for driver).
This is only a brief sample of the safety technology you get when you buy a Mercedes. You could sell an E-Class on its safety merits alone, let alone the competence of the package as a whole.
Overall, the Mercedes-Benz E 250 is hard to beat if you're looking for a comfortable, spacious, efficient and ultra-safe large family sedan. Its only real competition in that regard comes from the E 250 CDI, which for the slightly higher asking price, makes much more sense.