Day one: Has someone ordered a taxi? No, wait, the E-class is here. At least, I think it is. These days you get your intermediate level car spotting badge by identifying if an an oncoming Jag is an XE or XF. But correctly spotting the difference between Mercs C and E is some full on car nerd ninja shit. Even more so from the rear three-quarter where you could even mistake either for an S-class that’s a bit further away. Anyway, on its own the E is quite a nice looking thing. The interior is even more impressive, appearing to be of very high quality and a pleasant design. Only two things let it down. One is the mad stripey wood of this press demonstrator, and the other is the horizontal central section of the dash, which looks a bit like it’s melting, or collapsing into an unseen void behind. Otherwise, a top job. It’s slick, sophisticated and comfortable. And on first impressions, the E-class is like that to drive too.
Day two: My wife says the stripey wood makes her eyes go funny. She’s right. It’s very odd and a £645 option you can do without, especially since it needlessly distracts you from the general niceness of being inside such a quiet and pleasant car. The all-new 2-litre diesel engine is smooth, much smoother than the miserable old 2.1 unit which sounded like it was chewing oily rocks. The steering is of well-judged weight and ratio. The ride is really rather excellent. This particular E-class is on the optional Airmatic suspension which is fine until it does that funny air suspension thing of getting caught out by crossways ridges in the road and stumbling with a faint thump. Otherwise, if there’s a more comfortable way to get across a city, it’s because you’ve accidentally climbed into someone else’s S-class.
Day three: As if to fulfil the E-class’s destiny, this morning I drive it to an airport. This is because I’m going on a short trip away. By curious coincidence, when I land at the other end I’m picked up in a brand new, boggo-spec E diesel. Stripped of the mad wood and the TFT instruments, the butt-basic interior is actually a bit nicer because it’s simpler. And, in places, not idiotically stripy. Stranger yet, I think the ride on the standard steel springs is even better than on air. Which means it really is tremendously good indeed. Rolls Phantom good. Rover 75 good. Yes, really, THAT good.
Day four: Sorry, I’m still away. It’s quite hard to review a car when you’re not in it or near it so, um, bear with me.
Day five: Right, back home again. The E-class is waiting… no, hang on, that’s a C-class. The E-class is over there behind that S-class. Or is that my car? I don’t know. I’m not sure why Mercedes has gone mad for the Russian doll effect in its saloon car range. You can’t deny that they’re all good looking, but there’s something odd about how identical they are. In that respect, the modern Merc range is a bit like The Corrs.
Day six: A day of trundling about. There is a palpably high quality feeling to this E-class that would make you feel warm and fuzzy if you owned it. The switches work with tight precision, the main controls feel well-oiled and solid, as if there’s careful and expensive engineering behind them. The whole car moves down the road with a calm, cool sense of well being. It’s not especially exciting, but it’s very satisfying in a way you’d smugly keep to yourself, like a well loaded dishwasher or a really good poo.
Day seven: This E-class has some semi-autonomous trickery on it which I’ve not bothered with until today. If you set the cruise control, it will not only maintain your speed, it’ll speed up and slow down in concert with traffic ahead and attempt to keep you within your lane for short periods before reminding you to put your hands on the wheel. On a smooth, wide Germanic road I’m sure it works fine but on the dismal and sometimes wiggly North Circular around London it seems nervous and jerky and so completely unrelaxing that you’d rather do the driving yourself. Although that’s also because the E-class is a very relaxing car anyway and, if anything, the semi auto stuff just tarnishes that nice atmos and takes away some of the quiet, polished pleasure.
Goodbye: Unless you run a posh private hire company, it’s hard to imagine that you’d dream of owning an E-class. In fact, it’s very hard to conceive of anyone spending their own money on an E-class saloon, unless it’s been AMG-ised. Between the sportier C and the more luxo S, the E is the forgotten middle child, cursed to spend its days charging towards a six figure odo reading as it completes yet another run to Heathrow. Which is a shame because it’s actually more enjoyable than either, being more comfortable and relaxing than the C-class but less pompous and overbearing than an S-class. If you prize comfort, calmness, discretion, and sense of wellbeing, and if you don’t mind occasionally trying to get into your neighbour’s C-class by mistake, this is the car for you.
The car talked about here is a Mercedes-Benz E220d AMG Line. It has a 2-litre, 192 horsepower, four cylinder turbo diesel engine. It has a top speed of 149mph and can go from 0-62 in 7.3 seconds. It costs £38,430.