- Three petrol and two diesel engines to choose from
- Impressive economy from the four-cylinder diesel
- Massive performance from the AMG cars
There’s a decent range of powertrains in the E-Class Saloon, from frugal diesels to 600hp petrol V8s.
The bulk of the line-up goes to diesel, unsurprisingly, with a four-cylinder 2.0-litre motor that made its debut in the E-Class kicking things off.
It’s much smoother and quieter than its predecessor and is available in 194hp E 220 d form. It's good for 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds and has a top speed of 149mph. Torque comes in at a healthy 400Nm.
For those wanting more power, there’s an E 400 d powered by a 340hp six-cylinder engine. With an extra 146hp over the E 220 d, plus two additional cylinders, it can cover 0-62mph in 4.9sec and has a more relaxed character thanks to 700Nm of torque - at the expense of the E 220 d’s superbly low running costs – expect 48.7mpg.
Mercedes did offer an E 350 e plug-in hybrid, but it was killed off in the summer of 2018 with a replacement due later in the year.
It's 286hp and 550Nm of torque meant it could sprint from 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds but still promised 134.5mpg. You were unlikely to see that figure, but sub 50g/km of CO2 makes it an attractive choice for company car drivers. It offers potent performance - 286hp and 550Nm of torque.
Taking its place in the line-up is a 184hp 2.0-litre petrol named the E 200. Offering up 300Nm of torque, it's capable of hitting 62mph in 7.7 seconds and a top speed of 149mph.
At the other end of the E-Class spectrum are the Mercedes-AMG E 53 (formerly E43) and E 63 performance models, powered by a V6 and V8 engine respectively.
The E 53 packs 435hp and 520Nm of torque for a 0-62mph time of 4.5 seconds. It makes a great, if slightly synthetic, noise full of six-cylinder howl at the top end and menacing burble at the bottom.
It’s a great mix of performance and everyday usability, offering great performance when you want it and the ability to make laid back, wafty progress when you don’t. Its fuel economy isn’t much off the V8 car though, with 33.6mpg on offer.
The top AMG E-Class comes in two variants, the ‘standard’ E 63 and the E 63 S. The normal E 63 offers up a slightly bonkers 571hp and 750Nm of torque, racing from 0-62mph in 3.5 seconds.
Upgrade to the E 63 S and those figure climb to 612hp and 850Nm, meaning serious muscle at any time you choose to deploy it. This car shaves a tenth off the E 63’s 0-62mph and offers identical fuel economy of 26.2mpg.
Characterful doesn’t quite cover the barrel-chested V8 squeezed into the engine bay – it’s not the most tuneful noise in the world but it’s certainly loud and exciting to listen to.
Despite packing a pair of turbos the E 63 S offers razor sharp throttle response and hardly any lag when you press the throttle pedal. The super quick nine-speed automatic gearbox helps here, which has a spooky ability to be in the right gear at all times.
Our engine choice
Of the three we’d go for the E 220 d for its incredible blend of strong performance, excellent refinement and low purchase and running costs. But be aware that the 122g/km CO2 figure only applies to cars with the smallest available wheels. Stepping up from 17-inch to 20-inch diameter alloys adds 5g/km to the CO2 output.
- A good steer but better handling rivals available
- High grip from two-wheel drive, even more from 4Matic
- AMG cars are a real blast on a twisty road
The new E-Class is very competent in the corners, but like the C-Class, its priorities are skewed more towards comfort than handling. A Jaguar XF is more fun to drive.
The steering is precise, feels pleasingly light at parking speeds and weights up nicely the faster you go, but it never really tells you much about what the front tyres are up to.
The E 220 d comes as standard with conventional coil springs but air springs - a technology normally only found on high-end luxury cars - are available as an option, and are standard on higher-spec versions.
Toggling through the drive mode selector on the console changes the stiffness of the air springs. If you want to get anywhere remotely quickly you’ll need to engage Sport mode to get rid of unwelcome body roll.
The two-wheel drive models’ traction is excellent and this is only improved in all-wheel drive 4Matic cars.
Mercedes-AMG models noticeably sharper
For the ultimate in E-Class handling you’ll want either of the AMG-prepared cars, the E 53 and E 63.
The former sits halfway between the standard car and the V8 super saloon and as a result its handling can feel a little confused.
While the steering is very reactive it doesn’t offer much in the way of communication, and in the softer driving modes there is still a degree of bodyroll to contend with. The 4Matic all-wheel drive system also favours understeer when the limits of grip are reached.
The E 63 however is much less of a compromise, with quick and accurate steering and flat handling even when pushed hard. Its all-wheel drive system feels considerably more rear wheel-biased, with a balanced feel in corners than slips in controllable oversteer when pushed.
This model also features a controversial Drift Mode which sends more power to the rear wheels for massive slides when conditions allow. Really you want to save this for a controlled, off-road environment, where the consequences of getting it wrong can be removed, or at least mitigated.
Regardless, the E 63 is a seriously impressive car even on narrow twisting roads. At times during our test it felt like a much smaller and lighter C 63, with all the agility and turn-in ability of a sports car, rather than a near-two-tonne saloon.