Tested: Mercedes-Benz E220d

I’m partial to Mercedes-Benz E-Classes, I have to admit that upfront. In fact, I’m privileged to own a ’99-model E430. Consequently, I’m either about to give the latest E-Class a very biased review, or I’m very well positioned to give my opinion on Merc’s latest release. You may choose.

Now, the new E220d which we recently tested differs in many aspects from its predecessor which graces our garage. Suffice to say some obvious differences include age and fuel type, a thirsty petrol engine versus a more economical diesel, as well as engine size (naturally aspirated V8 versus turbo-charged four cylinder).

Three generations apart: the author’s E430 parked next to Merc’s new E220d

So much for the obvious differences. It’s the similarities that current or past E-Class drivers will want to hear about. Great news is that the E-class is still a really stylish executive sedan. It offers supreme comfort, it still handles like a dream and quite frankly, Mercedes-Benz has done something very smart to that small 2-litre diesel engine because it’s so quiet and smooth that it surprised me several times with its precise and dependable power delivery.

It must be noted that this 4-cylinder diesel is a brand new engine for Mercedes-Benz and claimed consumption levels are at 3.9l/100km. While we didn’t get anywhere near this on testing, we still experienced exceptional fuel economy hovering around the 5.5l/100km range.

Furthermore, the 9-speed automatic transmission is silky smooth and suits the E220d beautifully. Cruising along the highway was a pleasure and the commute into town was made so much more pleasurable cocooned in the stillness of the sumptuous cabin interior with its leather seats and fantastic Burmester surround sound system (a N$15,000 extra).

But what is really exciting to hear about are the innovations that are available with Mercedes-Benz’s latest offering.

First and foremost is the Driver Assist package. In a nutshell, this optional extra (N$41,000) offers a semi-autonomous drive experience. Now, I’m not sure how many of you would be willing and comfortable with handing over a large proportion of control to your vehicle (especially at speed) but that’s exactly what it is designed for.

Imagine engaging a set distance, speed and lane-keeping device (a further 12,000 extra) that manages steering and, with a modicum of assistance, even handles lane changing and cornering based on radar, camera and GPS positioning. The era of purely autonomous vehicles available to the everyday public just took a giant leap forward.

I’m aware of purely autonomous cars in San Francisco and other places and the race is on big time between Tesla, Google and others but actually experiencing something close to this on home shores from an established luxury brand is eye-opening. I have to admit I was not fully comfortable with the whole concept especially given the erratic driving on our roads… So I took control again.

This system does require some input and you can’t completely shut off as you are required to place your hands on the steering wheel at regular intervals and the car issues warnings about this. Failure to do so will result in the vehicle coming to a halt…. Can you imagine the drama then?

So, while not fully prepared to forego full control over my drive, there are a host of other features worth mentioning on the new E-class. Not least of which is the styling. Most critics have remarked that it looks too similar to the C-Class.

From a distance yes, a few times I’ve even had to double check the rear badges myself but there are subtle differences; including a more coupe-like rear. Also on offer are larger wheels, ours thankfully had the comfort of 17-inch rims and my back responded with eternal gratitude, as well as a slightly longer body.

There are many tasty options to choose which feels as though you’re faced with a menu of all your favourite meals at once; and you want them all. Notable highlights I would choose include the above-mentioned sound system,  LED high performance headlights (N$15,000) and the exclusive spec interior (N$24,500) but only because I think the combination in our test car of blue-ish silver exterior with dark leather interior and ash wood inserts on the dash was so stylish. This may not go down well with some people so skip this box on the configurator if this is not your thing.

Needless to say, something which will appeal to many an executive is the opportunity to really and truly personalize your new E-Class to your individual standards using Merc’s configurator tool.

This is something I could really identify with and if you’re going to be spending upwards of N$759,000 on your next executive sedan, why not splash out a little more and make it truly desirable. After all, an E-Class is made to be enjoyed. And this new version from Mercedes-Benz is unlikely to disappoint.

The E220d is available from N$759,100 with a six year, 100 000km maintenance plan.


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