Richard Aucock
15/08/2007 00:00 | By Richard Aucock, contributor, MSN Cars

Mercedes-Benz E220 CDI review (2007-2009)



Mercedes E Class (© Mercedes)


Model: Mercedes-Benz E 220 CDI
Bodystyle: Four-door saloon
Engine: 2.2-litre turbodiesel
Transmission: 5-speed auto


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What is it?

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Where does it fit?

The E-Class closely mirrors its German arch-rivals in terms of size, target clientele and aspirational allure. But it does so while costing a decent chunk more than the equivalent Audi A6 or BMW 5-Series, in the usual Mercedes manner. It’s almost like hierarchy; Audi’s the cheapest, then BMW, then the Benz. The E 220 CDI is the business-focused E (the company even sells a fleet-special ‘Executive’ trim) but, if you want it with posh trimmings yet capped running costs, also comes in as-tested Avantgarde guise. The E-Class was facelifted in 2006, but it was a mild one: only a Benz-spotter would ring the changes.

Is it for you?

If the Audi is sophisticated, and the BMW dynamic, then the Mercedes is traditional. We’d wager the average age of an E-Class buyer is higher than the other two – that’s not a bad thing, just a pointer to the things it does well. Namely, waft you along in unflurried elegance and dignity, remaining timeless and presentable whatever its age. It doesn’t ‘say’ anything too controversial about you, unlike the BMW. And, with a 30-year anti-breakdown warranty, it’s also the ideal car for keeps. With the facelift, Mercedes overhauled the build process, ensuring it has the rock-solid longevity to mean you may want to.

What does it do well?

It displays well-oiled, cushioned absorbency that oozes expensive class. In town, the ride is generally genteel and pillowy, at speed it’s damped like a huge ocean liner. Stability is immense and controls have an expensive, precision-made feel. The engine also surprises, with genuine refinement in regular use, plus a lack of vibration and four-cylinder unpleasantry. It’s responsive and pacy, but what’s most impressive is the big-engine torque; 295lb/ft at 2,000rpm. The thirsty E 350 V6 petrol? Just 258lb/ft (and a whole deal more fuss to go with it). It may lack the seven-speed automatic of the higher end models but with the torque on offer the five-speed self-shifter is just fine.

What doesn’t it do well?

It’s hardly the sporting choice. Stable steering means a lack of bite, plus a strange combination of heft and absent self-centring at low speed, rubbery over-assisted remoteness at speed. Press-on motoring sees it keel into corners, with switchback-sequences yanking passengers in response to this body roll. The admirable refinement of the engine is spoiled by perceptible tickover vibrations, while the ride feels aged in its thuddery response to single-wheel inputs. On gristly countryside carriageways, it can jostle occupants as it patters along; the Avantgarde’s lowered suspension is only to blame in part. This age also pegs the famous Benz retained values, too.

What’s it like to live with?

It soothes. Suffer from blood pressure? Get one of these: road rage will never again blight your life. Such evident quality helps here – from the close of the doors to the action of the brake pedal, it feels granite-hewn (bulletproof Benzes are back). Mercedes’ usual very firm seats feature up front (they’re made for 6 non-stop hours behind the wheel), as does a dash that’s dating but otherwise feels special to use. The Avantgarde’s white-lit dials look fantastic at night. Up back, the cabin is reasonably spacious and comfortable (albeit trounced by the massive A6), while the 540-litre boot is as sensible as you’d expect.

How green is it?

Here’s where you will be surprised. Think a big Benz means big fuel bills? Not with the latest-generation 2.2-litre four-pot diesel. The combined figure is 44.8mpg and we had no trouble easing into the 40s during a 200-mile round trip. Indeed, through average speed zones on the motorway, 50mpg flashed up on the trip computer for a period; pretty impressive. But is it enough to offset the heady list price and eye-watering options costs? For instance, before you even start, you need to add £1,480 for an auto gearbox, meaning the sub-£30k E-Class is an impossibility. Economical to run, not to buy.

Would we buy it?

In the executive car sector, we have a rare choice to buy a car to fit perfectly with our driving style and desires. The Mercedes ticks all the comfort/quality/refinement boxes; the 220 CDI may be the entry-level diesel, but it still manages to feel surprisingly expensive. Good job, as it is. The equivalent base-spec A6 costs £3,500 less. Of course, it’s not dynamic like a BMW, and far more ‘trad’ than the Audi. But the very impressive engine proves that even in most basic guise, it’s still a very satisfying car. We’d go for the 5-Series; yet, the Mercedes still earns our respect.

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