If you’re in the market for a luxurious Euro-cruiser, the new E-class diesel might be the one that makes the most sense. Comfort, technology, safety, efficiency and good looks – all can be found here in spades. As long as you’re not after a ‘Bahn-burner, because it seems to be wanting a little more sportiness.
Pricing: 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC 4MATIC
Base price: $57,800
Options: $800 Driving Assistance package; $1300 LED lighting system; $2700 Premium package; $1300 Sport package; $300 panoramic sunroof; $475 Sirius satellite radio
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $66,770
The 2014 E-class has evolved slightly. Some of those taut, angular lines have been softened, and the front end has seen the biggest change. Those polarizing headlight clusters have been replaced, and the new ones are spectacular. I love the organic shape of the LED driving light strips – they are eye-catching and look aggressive coming down the road. The grille has also changed, proudly jutting out now. The famous three-pointed star hood ornament? Gone. But have no fear, it’s there – as a plate-sized grille insert. It sounds gaudy but doesn’t come across that way. There are huge restyled lower intakes and a very noticeable, chromed lower splitter in front – which will happily get acquainted with any parking curb you want to nestle up to.
Otherwise, the dimensions remain the same, and the wedge-shaped side profile does too. It retains its compressed snout and gains volume as your eyes make their way toward the back of the car. I quite like the shape, but it’s certainly not one that will get a lot of second looks.
The rear end gets some updated, wrap-around LED tail lights and nicely integrated exhaust tips. Fenders are filled with 245/40-sized boots on 18-inch rims.
The E-class’ proportions are great. The car looks substantial, but never comes across as a big beast. There’s a nice balance between classy presence and liveable size.
The E250’s interior is beautifully crafted out of soft-touch plastics, black and grey wood trim and splashes of metal with lovely touches like a handsome analog clock. The fit and finish are spectacular but all the blacks and greys make it a bit of a dark, somber place to be.
The heated, power-adjustable leather seats are very comfortable and extremely well bolstered too. Both front seats have three memory settings. Speaking of heated and power-adjustable, the same goes for the steering wheel which has buttons for media, phone and the driver information screen. Behind it sits a 3-gauge cluster, the middle being a large speedometer with a circular, incredibly full-featured driver information screen in the centre. The column-mounted gear selector is weird, but it frees up real estate on the console.
The centre of the dash holds an average-sized screen that handles your media, phone, vehicle settings and acts as a monitor the cameras. I’ll get back to those. It’s managed by Mercedes’ COMAND, using a rotary joystick button on the console. It’s not the most user friendly interface, but once you learn its idiosyncrasies, it functions well. Of course, Mercedes is still hanging on the mess of hard buttons on the centre stack, including a hilarious and distracting full numerical keypad.
The console houses cupholders, an ashtray and a real honest-to-goodness lighter and an armrest. Overhead is a dual sunroof with a powered sunshade and there’s a powered sunshade for the rear window.
Driver assistance tech comes in the form of a blind-spot monitoring system, front and rear parking sensors and cameras all the way around the car, front collision sensor, active parking assist and lane departure warning.
There are three seats in the back, each with a headrest and a seatbelt. Head room is great – it feels even airier than it is back there, thanks to the second sunroof. Leg room is also good. The outboard positions are exceedingly comfortable but the middle one suffers greatly. It’s narrow, hard and straddles a huge, square drive shaft tunnel in the floor. The belt line slopes up toward the back of the car, which makes for a bit of a claustrophobic feeling in terms of your rear passengers’ view out of the car.
There is a set of genuinely awesome ISOFIX anchors for child seats. Width-wise, our three kids fit back there fine, but the floor tunnel was a problem even for little people legs. There are air vents, a 12V plug, an armrest with storage and cupholders, and a couple of seatback map pockets. And an ashtray. Of course.
In the front cabin, you’ll find a cooled glove compartment, door bins and a clamshell-lidded armrest (where you’ll find a bunch of dongles to attach media devices, as well as USB and 12V plugs). I love the bins that pop out from underneath the front of the seats.
The trunk is typical at 540 litres with a low load floor and quite a lip that you need to lift over. The rear seats fold down and there’s a pass-through in the middle seatback as well. I loved the power trunk closer – you can activate it from inside the car or from the trunk lid.
Under the Hood
The E-class is a model line with remarkable depth – six different sub-models are available – the 2.1-litre bi-turbo diesel 4-cylinder under the hood is what really sets the E250 apart from its stablemates. 195 horses eventually show up at 3800 RPM but as with every diesel, that’s not the story. The torque is. 369 lb.ft of it are at your disposal at a low 1600 RPM – more than enough to give this 1845 kg (4068 lb) sedan a shove in the right direction. The E250’s 7-speed automatic sends that torque to all four corners via Mercedes’ 4MATIC all-wheel drive system.
Part of that diesel’s story is the fuel efficiency. Rated at 7.4 L/100 km (32 mpg) in the city and an astounding, hybrid-like 4.6 L/100 km (51 mpg) on the highway, it bests any of the gasoline-powered E-class models by a wide margin. I averaged a very impressive 9.0 L/100 km (26 mpg) during a cold week of slower city commuting, while slugging my way through Edmonton’s winter snow – it also hit the freeway a number of times, and had a decent highway jog.
There’s an 80 litre tank – which I appreciate, since this car is just begging to be your road trip chariot.
Driving the E250 is definitely a luxurious experience, and in many ways, the diesel power plant augments that. Its somewhat lazier disposition compels the driver to take it easy. It’s not excited about revving up and even when it does, it redlines significantly earlier than any gasoline engine at just a hair over 4000 RPM. The fact that it serves up prodigious amounts of torque at such low revs helps lug it around town without even breaking a sweat.
Mercedes gives you a heads-up right in the marketing materials with the byline: “For those who wish to temper their adrenaline rush with incredible fuel efficiency”. Am I saying it’s slow? Not really. It will do the 0-100 km/h run in 7.9 seconds. It’s definitely not quick though. Unless you’ve got it in Sport mode, there’s a noticeable lag off the line – that doesn’t matter in the least during everyday driving. The next “slowest” E-class – the gasoline-powered E300 – will do the same acceleration run in 7.4 seconds. Half a second is noticeable, but if that’s what matters, the E250 simply isn’t the car for you.
But I have to say, even when I see one of the mighty E63s with their 500-plus horsepower drivetrains driving around, I never see the drivers really getting on the gas. Though I fully understand the allure of owning an AMG E-class, I often wonder why they bother. Suffice it to say, the torque that motivates the E250 is enough to satisfy 99% of our driving needs around town. It’s a bit slower to get a move on when you’re on the open road – passing on the highway is a matter of giving it a couple of seconds to build up steam and then you’re off in a hurry.
The transmission is smooth, but will rarely see you passing 2500 RPM – it hunts for the highest gear possible. It often takes its sweet time to downshift when you step on it , but I found Sport mode to be an excellent compromise for my driving style. I like to have power available to me at a moment’s notice – in Sport mode, the revs stay just a tad higher and right in the fat of the torque curve and it made for a perfect drive for my tastes. The tranny can also be shifted manually (and not particularly quickly) using paddles.
The ride is luxurious and as one expects from an E-class, soaks up absolutely anything that comes your way. It isn’t just plush, it’s well-controlled and the whole chassis feels solid, as if it’s carved from one piece. Handling is very capable, and in line with what an E-class should do. It can take on any curve you throw at it. It leans a bit, which is just fine. On the highway, it feels like you could drive across the country – that’s how comfortable and composed the E is.
The E250’s Achilles heel while driving is the steering. Feeling somewhat overboosted at all speeds, it makes for easy parking and low-speed manoeuvring but the steering ratio is a bit too eager to move things in one direction or another when you’re driving around town, especially when you want to pick up the pace a bit. I caught myself having to correct my steering more than a few times as it had turned the wheels more than I anticipated around a corner. Things get back on track at highway speeds.
I found the all-wheel drive to be impeccable. Invisible during normal driving, excellent for traction in the snow during acceleration and cornering.
Sound levels are incredibly well dampened. There’s a tiny bit of diesel chatter on cold mornings, which is only noticeable from inside if you turn the radio down and you listen carefully. Otherwise, engine, road and wind noise are simply never factors, even at highway speeds.
Braking is powerful and easy to modulate. Visibility out of the E250 is quite good.
I should note that there is an ECO mode with start-stop technology. I wasn’t a fan, and turned it off most of the time.
There’s no question that this new E-class is in keeping with its mission. A luxurious, solid-feeling, techno-laden Euro-cruiser that is at once a nod to where the E-class has been in the past, as well as a nice solid step into the future.
Evolutionary styling with some modern touches continues to make this a very handsome sedan, inside and out. And the addition of an efficient little diesel to the line-up just makes sense.
I give the Mercedes-Benz E250 a 7.5 out of 10, docking it a bit for the steering that really takes the wind out of your sails if you’re wishing for some sporty driving. I think a German sedan should have some sportiness to it, and the E’s steering really doesn’t work that way.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was high. She really liked the car and said she felt very secure and stable in the car, even while negotiating our crappy winter roads. The interior and exterior styling made her happy, but the dash was a little button-heavy for her.
I could sit here and tell you all day long that this car is the right one for most people shopping in this class, but sales figures are what really matters. All the positive reviews in the world won’t translate into sold cars. Here’s hoping that we continue to buy more and more diesels in North America – the Mercedes-Benz E250 is another great example of why diesels make sense in nearly any application.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Mercedes-Benz Canada.
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