Driven - Mercedes-Benz E250 CDi Sedan & Wagon

The latest E-Class is an extremely competent car, encompassing all the latest technological features that Mercedes-Benz has. The car boasts a fine chassis, mixing sporty handling and excellent roadholding with a comfortable ride. The body feels taught and the fit and finish in all areas, are of high, Mercedes-Benz quality. The comfort and convenience features rate highly. But how do you choose which model to buy?

There's a pretty big range offered in Australia – and more still in other markets. To start at the bottom (which is actually a pretty high starting point), in the Petrol range – it begins with the 250CGI (with a high-tech turbocharged 1.8-litre, 4-cylinder), then the E350 (3.5-litre V6), followed up by the E500, with a strong 5.5-litre V8 and ultimately the stupendous E63 AMG (386kW 6.2-litre V8).

Then there are the diesel variants – E220 and E250, both with 4-cylinder 2.1-litre turbodiesels with differing power outputs (the 250 has 100Nm of extra torque), and the E350 CDi, with a 3-litre six-cylinder turbodiesel.

Then there are the four E-Class body styles – sedan, wagon, coupe and cabriolet, plus different trim levels… And an extensive options list.

At $98,400 the 250 CDI Elegance I tested recently offers a very complete car. It has the turbodiesel 2.1-litre engine, mated to a 5-speed automatic transmission. More powerful and with cleaner emissions while using less fuel than previous models, the engine is remarkable for its smoothness and flexibility – with an impressive 500Nm of torque being a big help. The 150kW (204bhp) engine offers plenty of low-down grunt, with an unusual deep thrumming noise – and none of the old fashioned diesel clatter.

The styling is always a matter of taste, and while I find some of the detailing a little fussy (like the nose), overall it's a very balanced shape – and the interior design is excellent, emphasising the spacious cabin with lots of horizontal shapes. Fortunately the car doesn't have the bland overtly rounded shape that many new cars share – it's quite a sharp looking thing.

Equipment? It's a comprehensively fitted out car, with the sorts of luxury and features you expect at that price point. But what the E-Class offers above its competitors is an extremely high level of safety items designed into the car. It's all there in the background ready to save you if necessary – probably the biggest clue to how clever are these many features, is how the seatbelts briefly pull gently against you after clipping in, as they measure your height and weight to work optimally.

Criticisms? Very few – it's a well thought out car. The navigation system struggled a few times, thinking we were driving through parks or on incorrect roads – but many systems do this. The buttons to release the centre console storage box lids are hidden and not ergonomically located. But if that's all I can find criticise, then it's a remarkably well executed design.

Would I have one? The answer is resoundingly YES. Especially a wagon... The E-Class is a very easy car to live with. It's quiet and comfortable, isn't too large and even with the 250 CDI engine, it has performance aplenty. And it's beautifully built. I'd be really tempted by the practicality of the wagon… and a 6.2 litre AMG V8 engine would be pretty appealing… Whichever way you go with a new E-Class you won't be disappointed.

Engine type: 4-cylinder 2.1-litre turbo diesel
Power: 150kW
Torque: 500Nm
Transmission: 5-speed automatic with two modes
Performance: 0-100km/h 7.2 seconds
Price: $98,400 at time of writing
Text & Photos - Paul Blank (copyright)