In the right spec the E-Class is swift and relaxing, if short on thrills
Comfortable for most, but confusing on-screen menus and too many idiosyncrasies
Packed with safety features, with yet more on the options list
Previous model rated highly by owners
Loads of room for four and their luggage, but centre rear seat is unappealing and it's a cost option to fold the rear seats down
Luxuriously equipped, with plenty more gadgets available
Choose the softer suspension of SE-trim cars and the E-Class feels generally smooth and supple, although it can get jittery over bigger road ruts. The car's body stays well composed, too, and the steering feels reassuringly well-weighted, even if it's a touch slow to respond. AMG Sport cars come with lowered, firmer suspension. The optional air-suspension irons out more imperfections in the road, but it is expensive. Of the engines on offer our pick is the six-cylinder E350 BlueTec diesel, which is stronger, smoother and much quieter than the four-cylinder E220 CDI though the latter gives a good performance for such an efficient car. The diesel-electric car is also worth considering if you're a company car driver, and there are several petrol versions of the E-Class available too. Unfortunately, all E-Class models suffer from too much road noise, making it considerably less refined than its best rivals.
The E-Class's cabin feels every bit the premium product, with plenty of smart and attractive materials, although the quality becomes less impressive in more hidden reaches of the car. The infotainment system, which is controlled with a central dial, looks impressive at first glance but the on-screen menus can be confusing and distracting, while the foot-operated parking brake and the combined stalk for the indicators and wipers take some getting used. There's loads of room for four in the E-Class, particularly in the rear, though a fifth passenger on the centre rear seat doesn't get such a good deal as they have to straddle a large hump in the middle of the floor (which houses the car's transmission tunnel). The boot is big with a square-shaped floor but, unlike most rivals, you have to pay extra if you want folding rear seats so you can expand the load bay to take particularly long items. There are plenty of other features as standard, however, including sat-nav, Bluetooth, DAB radio, headed and electrically adjustable front seats, and automatic lights and wipers in every E-Class. AMG Sport adds various fancy finishes while the super-fast E63 AMG models comes with more flashy cosmetic features plus an array of additional equipment including a sunroof and upgraded stereo. There are plenty of items on the options list, too. These include a Mercedes-branded baby seat fitted with a transponder that automatically deactivates the front passenger airbag if you put the seat up front; without the branded seat you won't be able to put a rear-facing child seat here as there is no other way to switch off the front passenger airbag.
It's too soon to say how reliable this latest E-Class is, but the previous model was rated 'excellent' by owners in the 2013 JD Power customer survey. The E-Class comes packed with safety aids: stability control and an impressive nine airbags are standard, as is a driver-drowsiness detector and an automatic parking system. The options list includes a city-braking system that stops the car before a likely collision, and full-beam lights that won't dazzle other drivers. There are also plenty of features to help prevent the E-Class car being broken into or stolen.
The Mercedes E-Class isn't cheap but it has more standard equipment than its rivals and you should get back a good proportion of what you paid for it when you come to sell on. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions aren't particularly competitive on some models but for company car drivers, in particular, there's always the E300 diesel hybrid, which impresses on both levels. Overall, however, the E-Class is bettered by rivals in too may ways.