Refined, luxurious, even green. We try to find what the catch is

 
Ryan Borroff
When you’re looking at buying a car as large and luxurious as the Mercedes-Benz E220 CDI, the last thing you’re expecting it to offer is exceptional fuel-efficiency. A comfortable ride, yes, an interior that you can lounge in, probably, and a decent amount of high-tech bells and whistles, surely. But fuel-economy that will rival a car half its size? I know, I was taken aback too.

But that’s the promise. The E220 CDI will be as attractive to responsible parents as it will to fleet managers because, despite it’s size, it can return 56.5mpg on a combined cycle and 45.6mpg around town. That’s impressive in it’s own right, but when you consider the amount of safety, comfort and communication technology it’s packed with, it’s positively alchemic. Because, make no mistake, this is an everyday Mercedes limousine.

The new E220 CDI has been built to be as green as possible so it uses the whole raft of Mercedes’ BlueEFFICIENCY technologies. Aerodynamics are improved, while low rolling-resistance tyres and stop/start technology contribute to the impressive fuel economy figures and low CO2 emissions. And despite the emphasis on economy, the vast E220 CDI can still dash from 0-60mph in just 8.7 seconds, so it’s no slouch either.

Yet Mercedes-Benz appears to have achieved this with the minimum of compromise. The car’s performance is reassuringly smooth and comfortable. The E220 CDI absorbs bumps easily, yet at the same time it’s pretty perky in the corners too, especially for a car that’s so big. The overall impression is how effortless it is to drive. You couldn’t really ask for much more if you are looking for a relaxing and economical car for long distance motoring.

There are some gripes. Despite Mercedes-Benz’s attempts to give this car a more youthful exterior, the E-Class does retains a stuffy image. It still looks like a conservative executive saloon for men of a certain age. It offers earnestly dependable styling rather than a cutting-edge design, though it’s attractive enough.

Inside, the luxurious black ash and leather-trimmed interior is roomy, though you sit rather lower than I would have liked. The rear feels even more spacious and there’s no doubt this is a car that can ferry five adults in comfort over long distances. The complete absence of a right hand column stalk to control the usual functions like windscreen wipers felt very strange and took an awful lot of getting used to. That said, many of the functions can be operated from within and around the steering wheel area.

I was driving a six-speed manual and it felt quick. The manual gearbox was straightforward enough but I can’t help feeling that the automatic transmission is better suited to the personality of the car. My only serious gripe was the noise of that four-cylinder 2.2-litre diesel engine. It is surprisingly loud. Surely more of its rumbling noise, which is most apparent at start-up and when accelerating hard, could have been removed from the cabin? This is a Mercedes-Benz after all and it detracts from the overall feeling of refinement. But the biggest problem of all is that the faster (by one second) and more powerful (by 34hp) E250 CDI returns the same economy and emits the same amount of CO2. So unless you cannot stretch to the additional £1,300, I can’t think of a reason not to get the E-Class with the slightly bigger engine.

But maybe I’m missing the point? Mercedes-Benz has delivered a large, comfortable, safe, efficient – even green – E-Class. Despite being a car that has more in common with the bigger S-Class than it’s smaller C-Class sibling, this is a competitive car that targets fleet managers and people who value efficiency and economy above all else. I found I liked it more the more I drove it. Maybe I’m becoming a man of a “certain age”. Now where did I put my slippers?

THE FACTS:
MERCEDES-BENZ E220 CDI

PRICE: £30,995
0-62MPH: 8.7SEC
TOP SPEED: 142MPH
CO2 G/KM: 130G/KM
MPG COMBINED: 56.5MPG

THE VERDICT:

DESIGN ***
PERFORMANCE ****
PRACTICALITY ****
VALUE FOR MONEY ***