Mercedes E250 SE (2013) review

By Ben Pulman 13 February 2013

By Ben Pulman

13 February 2013

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This is Mercedes’s revised E-class, which ushers in new looks, new trim levels and new engines to take the fight to the BMW 5-series, Audi A6 and Jaguar XF.

What’s new on the new Mercedes E-class?

The most obvious change is the revised front, which ditches the outgoing car’s quad headlight arrangement for two more curvaceous lamps. The whole nose is much smoother and more cohesive, following on from the look set by the new A-class, and the grille seems to stand a little prouder too. The flanks have been tweaked too, with the pronounced rear wheelarches softened and swapped for creased rear doors. There are new rear lights and bumpers too.

Inside there’s now a three-spoke Nappa leather steering, the seats and dash are trimmed in Merc’s man-made ‘Artico’ leather, and the E-class has adopted the slimmer air vents of the CLS, all in a bid to make the cabin feel more special. Extra tech helps too, including now the standard fitment of Merc’s Comand sat-nav and multimedia system, which is a doddle to use.

So what about those all-important spec and trim levels?

In a bid to freshen up the slightly frumpy image of the E-class, Mercedes UK has ditched the middling Avantgarde trim level, and replaced Sport with AMG Sport. That means buyers can now only chose between SE and AMG Sport, and both come with a big star-emblazoned grille – you can no longer have a bonnet-mounted three-pointed star…

On SEs you get inch-bigger alloys (now 17s) along with 15mm lower suspension, part-LED lights, the aforementioned sat-nav, a DAB digital radio, Merc’s Collision Prevention Assist safety system, and its Active Park Assist tech which will reverse your car into a parking space. It’s more an Avantgarde by another name, but prices have increased by £2280.

AMG Sport models are another £2495 (with like-for-like prices up £575) and for that extra outlay you get the same kit as above, plus 18in wheels, sports seats, firmer suspension, uprated front brakes and an AMG bodykit.

Want more? Then you need the revised E63 AMG super-saloon, with up to 577bhp and nearly 600lb ft…

Presumably the majority of E-classes are sold with diesel engines?

They are in the UK, but alas there wasn’t a single oil-burning model on our international launch event. Which means we’ll have to wait until we can get hold of a revised E-class in the UK until we can judge whether Mercedes has sorted the noise and refinement issues that afflict the outgoing crop of diesel Es.

With that handicap in mind we tried an E250, the cleanest and most fuel-efficient model available on the launch. When the current E-class was launched the E250 replaced the E280, which used a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder in place of the outgoing car’s 3.0-litre V6. And now there’s been a change again, the revised E250 using a newer turbo’d 2.0-litre (which the E200 also uses in a lower state of tune).

For the E250, power has gone up from 201bhp to 208bhp (still at 5500rpm) while torque has increased from 229bhp at 2000-4300rpm to 258lb ft at 1200-4000rpm. Better yet, the outgoing E250’s 42.8mpg and 154g/km have been improved to 48.7mpg and 135g/km CO2. The 181bhp E200 achieves exactly the same fuel economy and emissions figures as its more powerful sibling.

With direct injection this small four-pot turbo is a little growly, and the throttle response isn’t as crisp as a naturally aspirated engine, and nor does it rev quite as high. And it can’t match the 295lb ft of lowly E220 CDI. The E250 has still got reasonable low-range urge, but it’s proof that diesel engines are a much more sensible choice in this sector.

A smooth and unobtrusive seven-speed automatic is standard, as it is across nearly the whole E-class range; only the E220 CDI comes mated to manual gearbox, and with the stick-shift it’s £2710 cheaper than the E250, and still undercuts it by £1190 if you opt for the 7G-Tronic transmission.

The lowered suspension has improved the E-class’s body control, and whether our car’s optional (£1455) Airmatic suspension was set to Comfort or Sport, the ride was always calm, composed and comfortable. Again, we need to drive a car on UK roads on steel springs to deliver a definitive verdict, as air suspension is hardly a must-have option for company car buyers.

Anything else?

We also tried the new E400 E-class. Unfortunately it’s not a model that’s coming to the UK, but it’d make an appealing alternative to the 302bhp and 295lb ft BMW 535i. The twin-turbo 3.0-litre V6 makes 328bhp and 354lb ft, hits 62mph in 5.3 seconds, and returns 37.6mpg. It doesn’t howl quite as sonorously as the BMW’s straight six, yet there’s no doubting it produces the power. But as with all non-AMG E-classes, it can’t excite or engage like a BMW 5-series or Jaguar XF.

Verdict

If it was private money we’d rather have the 5-series over an E-class saloon, as the BMW feels more special and remains a sweeter drive. But the Merc fights back in two ways: first, if you’re a company car driver the Merc’s lease rates are far cheaper; and secondly, if you’re in the market for an family wagon, then the E Estate’s cavernous 695-litre boot is comfortably bigger than anything offered up by BMW, Audi or Jag.

Statistics

How much? £35,110
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1991cc 16v turbocharged 4-cyl, 208bhp @ 5500rpm, 258lb ft @ 1200-4000rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 7.4sec 0-62mph, 152mph, 48.7mpg and 135g/km CO2
How heavy / made of? 1605kg/steel
How big (length/width/height in mm)? 4879/1854/1474

Ratings

Handling 3 out of 5
Performance 3 out of 5
Usability 4 out of 5
Feelgood factor 4 out of 5
CAR's Rating 4 out of 5

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  • Mercedes E250 SE (2013) review
  • Mercedes E250 SE (2013) review
  • Mercedes E250 SE (2013) review
  • Mercedes E250 SE (2013) review
  • Mercedes E250 SE (2013) review
  • Mercedes E250 SE (2013) review
  • Mercedes E250 SE (2013) review
  • Mercedes E250 SE (2013) review
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