Granted, on first appearance, this revolution of the tenth generation of E-Class may seem a little on the tame side. Then again, the E-Class is hugely important for the Stuttgart massive – 13 million units sold to date – so they were unlikely to take it too far left of centre.
Mercedes are sending out a message though; they want this car to set the benchmark that all executive saloons should aim for. The undisputed class-leader, if you like.
Fighting talk indeed. Yet Mercedes may have overlooked one small fact: in the same market segment there are plenty of other cars to choose from, and they too are pretty darn good at what they do – think Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XE.
So then, if this car is not going to get lost in the melee of other mid-size luxury saloons it needs to be nothing short of extraordinarily epic in everything it does. To that end, Mercedes has thrown everything it knows into this E-Class. The results, I hasten to add, are nothing short of astounding.
The main headline-grabber will undoubtedly be the E-Class’s semi-autonomous driving capability; closely followed by the changes applied to the interior, mechanics, and abundance of safety features. Its restyled super-slippery bodywork may not warrant quite as many column inches, yet nonetheless, it’s still worthy of a paragraph or two.
Cynics may suggest the architecture of this E-Class seems to mirror that of its bigger brother, the S-Class. For sure there are certain family similarities, but I can’t see that as cause for complaint. Creased shoulder-lines cohesively connect together bonnet, grille and LED headlights with its short overhangs and a tapered rear-end. Look really carefully, and around the edges it’s actually quite sexy.
It’s longer too, by 65mm, which affords backseat passengers more legroom and allows 540-litres of boot capacity.
Whilst the exterior may appear slightly samey (not a complaint, merely an observation), the cabin really is the E-Class’s piece de resistance. Set in skilfully worked leather, metal and wood, the flowing dash with its four centre air vents and changeable ambient mood lighting are a blatant rip-off of the S-Class interior layout. Yet despite this, the cabin feels as though it has been allowed to evolve and show a sense of its true identity. It really is quite beautiful, both in design and build execution.
Two trim levels will be available from launch, with SE cars starting at £35,959. The sportier AMG Line costs £2,495 more. Equipped to the gunnels, both models offer parking sensors, a reversing camera, leather seats and a self-parking system, as well as SatNav and LED headlamps.
The more basic models get conventional instruments with an 8.4” central screen, but the big development is the twin–tablet facia which butts two 12.3” screens together using the driver’s side as an instrument binnacle. The twin screens are a £2000 optional extra on the 220d, standard on the 350d.
Mercedes are making a big noise about how this car is the closest thing on the market to being a fully-autonomous self-driving car. True, once you’ve handed over control it will adjust the speed according to traffic conditions, even steer itself around a corner.
Ask it to overtake the car in front, and it’ll do that too. Nevertheless, you are reliant on computer wizardry to all make this happen safely, which takes a massive leap of faith to trust it will be a better pilot than you (I’m still undecided if this will become a short-lived novelty or an essential piece of driver-aid kit).
Switch off the autopilot, take back control, and this new E-Class will handle just as accurately under human guidance. In the ride department it’s more than a match for most of its rivals (only the Beema does it better around corners, but only just). Opt for the £1,495 air suspension (fitted to our test cars), and you’d be hard pressed to find any car, even those costing twice as much money, which would eat-up long-distance miles so effortlessly.
By taking the best bits of their brand – styling, safety, comfort, fuel-efficiencies, refinement and ride – Mercedes has insured no other car currently on the market can surpass the new E-Class.
Price: £35,935 – £47,425
Fuel: 65.7mpg – 72.4mpg
On Sale Date: May