What is it?
Why will I buy the Mercedes-Benz E220d
For rear seat comfort - It's by far the most comfortable and spacious in its class.
Why will I avoid the Mercedes-Benz E220d
Not particularly sporty to drive. The added length has dampened agility and lightness of the old E.
In many ways, the new Mercedes E-Class has managed to disguise itself as a smaller S-Class. It’s a good thing, given that the E350d, as we proved in our road test, set new benchmarks in its segment for luxury and comfort, but at Rs 73 lakhs (ex-showroom), it is pricey for a mid-size executive sedan. Fortunately, the same cannot be said for the lower spec but equally impressive E220d – a car that will inevitably form the backbone of the E-Class range. Simply put, the E220d is for those who want the new E and would happily trade the big V6 motor under its hood and some niceties for efficiency and a lower price tag.
What you end up with, then, is a limo-like mid-size sedan which costs considerably less (At Rs 60 lakh ex-showroom) and features Mercedes’ new 2-litre four-cylinder diesel engine that will eventually replace the 2.1-litre motor.
Design wise, the only visual difference between the E220d and the bigger E350d is apparent when you look at the alloy wheels (and the badge, of course). The five-spoke design on this car is more traditional-looking compared to the bigger E. In every other respect, the E220d retains that S-Class-like low-slung, classically handsome stance. Measuring over 5m (5063mm, in fact) in length and with a wheelbase stretching up to 3079mm, there is no hiding the sheer length of the new E-Class.
How is it on the inside?
Never mind the slightly restrained look of the exterior; it’s the interior where the new E really shines. Even in its stripped down form, the E220d’s cabin is more sumptuous and spacious than the Audi A6 and the BMW 5 Series. The latter will be replaced with an entirely new model by the time you read this. Nevertheless, the S-Class style wraparound dash is more elegant than sporty and the materials covering the upper and lower dash and even the door pads are all soft touch while the double panoramic sunroof shining light over the cabin is a big plus when it comes to the overall ambience.
That ambience is further enhanced by the new 12.3-inch display that takes pride of place on the dash. It’s for the COMMAND infotainment system which now gets Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Oddly enough, the display isn’t a touchscreen unit, thus defeating the whole purpose of having smartphone mirroring tech as it works best with touch inputs.
Despite being over Rs 10 lakhs cheaper than the E350d, the E220d scores well on equipment. You get full LED headlights and taillights, rain-sensing wipers, 64-color ambient lighting, key-less go, panoramic roof, electric sun blinds for rear windows, a three zone climate control, 7 airbags, ESP, ABS, tyre pressure sensor and adaptive brake lights. That being said, there are quite a few features missing as well. Things like electric adjustment for the steering column, 360 degree camera view and the Burmester premium audio system are missing on the E220d.
Mercedes’ new age cabin design appears good and it feels even better once you are seated and settled in. Upfront, the driving position is excellent, with seats that offer immense lateral support and are beautifully trimmed. Although they lack some support under the thigh, they are good for long-distance driving. We cannot comment on how good the new 5 Series is going to fare but at present, the E-Class is the best mid-size luxury offering simply because of the tremendous amount of legroom. The rear seats are unashamedly super-plush with more than enough thigh support and just about perfect cushioning. Then there’s the electrically adjustable backrest and the seat base, for those wanting tailor-made levels of comfort. Like the E350d, this car gets pillow-like extensions to the rear headrests that we really like – they help a great deal in reducing fatigue over long-distance trips. The only thing missing in here is cup holders – a big miss considering how focused this car is in pampering its rear seat occupants.
Cabin space, then, is predictably strong, with limo-like legroom and it’s safe to say the E22d is apt for both business meets and weekend escapades, especially for those who are always chauffeur driven.
How does it drive?
What’s perhaps the most impressive aspect of the new 2-litre diesel motor is that it's much quieter under regular driving. Whereas the old 2.1-litre unit suffers from some vibration and a lot of that typical diesel clatter under hard throttle, the new all-aluminium 1,950cc motor is noticeably smoother across the revs. All in all, the refinement of this new engine is a big step forward. Other than being quieter, the new engine has also lost some of the peaky power delivery of its predecessor. Putting out 194bhp at 3,800rpm and 400Nm of torque between 1,600 and 2,800rpm, there’s a strong albeit linear surge of pull right from 1,800rpm. Sure, the E220d doesn’t have the gusto down the rev range of its V6 sibling but it’s linear and responsive enough. The new 9-speed auto, again, shifts decisively which is necessary to keep the engine in its torque band. The gear changes aren’t as slick as Audi’s dual clutch unit but around town, the E is also less prone to hesitancy.
When strapped to our timing gear, the E220d recorded a 0-100kmph sprint time of 7.81 seconds and 150kmph in an equally impressive 17.45 seconds. Now these are surprisingly good figures for a four-cylinder limo, aided no doubt by the slick-shifting gearbox which remains smooth and rarely hunts between gears despite so many ratios. Speaking of which, 9-speeds and strong reserves of torque turn the E220 into a relaxing, long-distance express. If anything, this smaller engined model is also deceptively quick even above triple digit speeds. In fact, you would have to be well above the legal speed limits to use the 9th gear.
Mechanically, the other major reductions have also been done to the suspension. Instead of a fancy air suspension all around, like in the 350, the E220d gets traditional steel springs which rob you off the convenience of raising the ground clearance to tackle speed bumps. You also don’t get adjustable damping however it’s something you wouldn’t miss as the standard setup exhibits decent body control and ride quality that tows the line between comfort and sportiness. The outgoing 5 Series or even the S90 may offer a more fluid steering feel, but there’s no beating the E220’s ride – it soaks up road corrugations and uneven surfaces at slow speeds quite well although it is slightly stiffer than the E350. Interestingly, at highway speeds the E220 shows more composure over the E350d which ever so slightly floats over large dips and bumps. The E220’s steel springs, on the other hand, settle down quickly over the same surface but they can be somewhat jittery over road joints and sharp edged ruts.
Why should I buy one?
The new E-Class range is a vast improvement over its predecessor, one that packs plenty more space and comfort, better refinement and in the lower E220d guise, a lot of car for the money. The unassuming design and lack of some essential premium features might be bothersome for a few buyers but there is plenty to like about this long wheelbase executive sedan. The sense of comfort and opulence and the sold build quality that Mercedes is synonymous with is all there, after all.
Where does it fit in?
The new E-Class range costs anywhere between Rs 59.02 lakh and Rs 73.10 lakh (ex-showroom) depending on the version. The E220d, meanwhile, comes in at Rs 60.06 lakh and competes with the Volvo S90, the BMW 5 Series and the Audi A6. While the Audi has been around for years now, the S90 is relatively fresh while BMW India is ready with an entirely new 5 Series that will replace the F10-gen car.
Pictures by Kapil Angane
Click here to read our road test of the Mercedes-Benz E350d