The flagship Mercedes-Benz sedan, the S-Class, is synonymous with setting new standards for the limousine class with each generation, debuting new high-end technologies, ever more opulent interiors, and greater levels of comfort and refinement. Now the all-conquering S has a new challenger in its smaller E-Class sibling.
The E-Class will never replace the interior space the S can offer - nor the larger sedan’s grand presence, but with the latest generation Mercedes-Benz hasn’t been afraid to borrow heavily from the S-Class playbook, as well as debuting some new high-end wow factor in the interior and safety departments.
No, not every aspect of the E 200 rivals an S-Class, but with a starting price just a whisker under $90k compared to the cheapest S-Class at $199k that saving buys you a lot of value - or alternatively more than enough options to split the difference.
Vehicle Style: Prestige large sedan
Price: $89,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 135kW/300Nm 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol | 9sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 6.4 l/100km | Tested: 8.6 l/100km
As the entry point to the E-Class range the E 200 pairs a modest 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a fairly large body - meaning it’s no powerhouse - but a nine-speed automatic, widescreen dual-panel instrument display, and impressive list of safety features are all standard meaning the E 200 is hardly a bare-bones price special.
On the outside the latest E-Class wears the same suit as the larger S-Class and smaller C-Class just trimmed to a different size - from some angles that can make it hard to discern which model is which.
Despite that, a roomy interior, comfortable ride, and high-quality fittings mean the E-Class will still impress, and while driver thrills may not be at the top of the E 200’s priority list, unquestionable luxury certainly is.
- Standard Equipment: Artificial leather trim, power adjustable front seats and steering column with memory, Nappa leather steering wheel with touch controls, dual-screen Widescreen Cockpit instrument cluster, 64 colour LED ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, open pore black ash wood trim, Keyless Go proximity entry and push-button start, 18-inch alloy wheels
- Infotainment: 12.3-inch display, central touch and scrollwheel controller, satellite navigation, DAB+ digital radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, online features,
- Options Fitted: Vision Package (panoramic roof, 13-speaker premium audio, head-up display) $4990
- Cargo Volume: 540 litres, expandable via 40:20:40 folding rear seat
In terms of exterior dimensions the E-class falls within millimetres of key rivals, the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6, with a wheelbase that splits the difference between the two, and it’s also a touch bigger than the model it replaces.
On the inside that translates to an interior suitable for four or five adults, though four ideally, not for lack of width in the rear, but to avoid having to straddle the transmission tunnel in the centre.
Space in the rear is in no way short, though legroom isn’t as palatial as an S-Class - you still need a reason to step-up after all.
Space isn’t the thing that will sell you on the E 200 though, it’s the interior presentation that’s sure to woo, with a design that adheres closely to the template set by the S-Class, including circular air vents, huge swathes of wood panelling in open-pore black ash, and hundreds of embedded LEDs emitting 64-colour ambient light from almost every possible surface.
Superbly precise fit and finish abounds throughout the cabin, with a rich mechanically weighted feel to the way the air vents roll, and a solid click-feel to buttons and controls.
A new operating principle for the Comand infotainment system and connected dual-screen instrument cluster that spans almost two-thirds of the dash makes operation much easier than before, with touch-operated steering wheel controls providing access to commonly used functions.
Although the interior is of the highest quality and finish, Mercedes’ own man-made Artico interior trim, otherwise known as vinyl is used here, and though it tries its best to imitate real cowhide the feel and look doesn’t quite fool the senses as convincingly as it should.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 135kW/300Nm 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder
- Transmission: Nine-speed automatic, rear wheel drive
- Suspension: Wishbone front, multi-link independent rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, solid rear discs
- Steering: Electrically assisted power steering, 11.6m turning circle
- Towing Capacity: 1900kg braked, 750kg unbraked
It’s safe to say that the E 200, though comprehensively decked out inside, may not be the vehicle for performance fans to aspire to with a rather sedate 135kW of power and 300Nm of torque.
The 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder is frugal, smooth, and quiet and in a premium package that’s everything it needs to be - however an authoritative stamp on the accelerator will only ever be met with a casual engine response.
In its standard specification the E 200 rides on fixed-rate dampers with steel springs, once again getting the comfort balance spot-on, apart from the occasional thump over large hits when unladen, but the option exists to upgrade to variable air suspension.
On 18-inch alloy wheels the E-Class rides out road surface imperfections with calm grace - something that the slightly tauter-riding BMW 5 Series just misses out on (only by a whisker though). Again, larger wheels are offered, and they look a treat but for comfort the 18-inch package is the Goldilocks choice.
Working away almost imperceptibly, Mercedes-Benz had tied the engine to its latest automatic transmission, which boasts nine forward ratios - though at a steady 100km/h the transmission will usually venture no higher than eighth gear.
The advanced automatic is one of the reasons why the E 200 doesn't feel particularly cumbersome, with a broad ratio spread to keep the engine in its sweet zone and swift, smooth kickdown response for when conditions demand.
In fact the whole package is so well resolved that apart from its relaxed acceleration the only other blemish on its report card is tyre noise. Though not ear-splittingly loud, there’s enough tyre rumble (really the only noise that filters through to the cabin) for it to sounds at odds with the rest of the refinement package.
ANCAP Rating: 5 Stars - The E-Class scored the maximum available rating when tested in 2016, based on information gathered by Euro NCAP.
Safety Features: Nine airbags (dual front, front seat side, rear seat side, curtain, and driver’s knee), fatigue detection, pedestrian-protecting pop-up bonnet, tyre pressure monitoring, 360-degree camera, electronic stability and traction control, and ABS brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution.
All E-Class models also come standard with Mercedes’ Drive Assistance Plus package including adaptive cruise control with active lane keeping (Drive Pilot), active brake assist with cross-traffic function, evasive steering assist, active blind spot assist, and Pre-Safe accident preparation including Pre-Safe Impulse Side, which adjusts seat bolsters to move occupants away from a side impact.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres
Servicing: Service intervals are set at 25,000km or 12 months (whichever comes first) with Mercedes-Benz offering both pre-paid service plans, and capped price servicing for the new E-Class with servicing for the E 200 priced at $536 for the first service, and $1072 per service for the second and third services. Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply, consult your Mercedes-Benz dealer for full details.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Fast approaching retirement, the BMW 5 Series comes well equipped, but its interior can’t match the wow-factor of the flashy Benz. In dynamic terms though the 5 Series still does very well in is class.
Though the engine may be a slightly smaller 1.8 litre, a basic Audi A6 package provides more power and torque than either Benz or BMW, though front wheel drive is somewhat unusual for the vehicle class, but at least pricing is more affordable.
Jaguar steps the XF sedan up slightly with a more powerful petrol engine, though a cheaper diesel is available, In some areas the Jag lacks the refinement of the E-Class (but again only fractionally) however dynamically it excels.
If having something different from your neighbours is key, the Lexus GS range starts at a significantly lower price point with a more powerful engine, but by comparison the interior of the Lexus just can’t muster the opulence and class of the big Benz
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
In a blindfolded test, if you were taken to an E-Class, seated inside it, then asked to look around and guess which car you were in it would be hard to imagine the answer wouldn’t be S-Class.
Mercedes-Benz has put so much of its might behind making the E-Class properly luxurious that it truly does impress - and while the design may not be to all tastes the quality impression is hard to debate.
Integrating modern touches like the super-wide dual-screen display and seemingly endless LED ambient lighting also gives a high-tech feel and balances out some of the E’s old-world wood and leather charm - or at least it would if there was real leather on the seats.
Demanding drivers may find the E 200 lacking the punch of a more potent engine, but if that’s what you’re after Benz has that covered higher up the range as well, and while the price may be slightly higher than competitors, the high level of standard equipment makes the E 200 strong value in this premium segment.
MORE: Mercedes-Benz News and Reviews
VISIT THE SHOWROOM: Mercedes-Benz E 200 - Price, Features, and Specifications