Driven - Mercedes-Benz E220 CDi

One of Mercedes-Benzes volume sellers for decades has been their E-Class model. It's existed in various guises for several automotive generations. I've owned a few of them myself and driven many more - and always found them to be decent, straightforward machines. How does the latest version, with a relatively small turbo-diesel engine shape up?

While a few years ago the famous Mercedes-Benz quality became a little bit shaky, the steps the factory has taken to counter this really show. This car exhibits Mercedes-Benz quality like we expect. It's beautifully built, with a great deal of attention to detail in fit and finish. No disappointing sharp edges inside, no ill-fitting plastic mouldings. And to drive, it feels solid, and beautifully crafted.

There's a vast array of engines available in the E-Class body, not all of them offered in Australia. They span four-cylinder engines through to the thundering 6.2-litre V8 AMG models. So handling all these powerplant options means the E-Class body has a tough ask... There's an expectation that the high performance models will be exemplary in handling, braking and roadholding, but does that mean the lower-spec cars will feel under-equipped? Not with this car. When pushing it hard, the pedigree of its high performance siblings shine through with very impressive, confidence inspiring on-road characteristics.

The engine, a 2.2-litre turbocharged, 4-cylinder diesel is from the new generation of Mercedes-Benz oil-burners. At idle it isn't as quiet as the best in the marketplace, but the performance (and of course, economy) are impressive. If you rely on the strong torque the motor produces, acceleration in the mid-range is surprisingly good. It's not completely out of line to say this car's a bit sporty - not how you'd really expect to describe a small diesel E-Class.

The styling tales a little getting used to. There's nothing radical about it, and while it's easily recognised as a Merc, there's a lot of fussy detail, especially at the front. It's nice that the car doesn't have an excessive front overhang (typical of front-wheel-drive cars). It's just a bit too try-hard in the styling. Look at the radical angle side slashes, the uncomfortably bulging rear wheelarches and the compromised headlight detailing... Cleaner, more confident detailing would have resulted in a more impressive machine.

Inside, there's good space, front and rear. And it's a very comfortable place to be, even on a long drive. The equipment level is quite acceptable for a car of its price, and of course Mercedes offers a lengthy list of options...

Possibly the most impressive aspect of the E220 CDi is, perhaps surprisingly, the price. Starting at a smidge over $80,000, this car is excellent value for money.

Engine type: 2143cc 4-cylinder turbo-diesel
Power: 125kW
Torque: 400Nm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic
Price: $80,900 at time of review
Text & photos - Paul Blank (copyright)