Mercedes-Benz E-Class E500 Sport
New E-Class is clearly modern but also recalls older E-Class models
- Very high levels of build quality
- Clever and efficient design much in evidence
- Powerful V8 is discreet yet provides excellent performance
- Sport package is a good compromise between comfort and dynamism
- Exterior design is sensitive to wheel and colour choice
- E500 does without Blue Efficiency package
- Bigger boot aperture would aid loading
- E500's thirst may point buyers towards diesel models
To any car manufacturer, getting the car that is the heartland of your business right is absolutely crucial, and for Mercedes-Benz it is the E-Class saloon. Often seen as a leader of the brand around the world, the E-Class in various forms has been the car that has kept people coming back to Mercedes-Benz and on some occasions even pushing them away. The latest generation aims to build on past successes while responding to the demands of modern drivers.
As expected for a car of this importance, the new E-Class is made up of many new or heavily revised features. The most striking aspect on first glance is the exterior design. As with many previous E-Class models, it is a relatively conservative and, although it borrows some elements of the smaller and sportier C-Class, it is unlikely to offend buyers. The most unusual aspect is the twin headlight design which is neatly incorporated around the traditional grille.
Underneath the skin the E-Class benefits from a stronger bodyshell and all models apart from the E500 and E53AMG come with the Blue Efficiency package. A combination of honed aerodynamics, low rolling-resistance tyres and on-demand operation of components such as power steering, air-conditioning, fuel pump and alternator. This combination of features brings remarkable efficiency improvements, with both petrol and diesel versions being capable of excellent fuel economy figures.
At the other end of the range the E500 is the sporting stepping-stone to the high performance. The 5.0-litre V8 engine delivers 388hp and a generous 391lb.ft of torque, powering the rear wheels through the renowned seven-speed automatic gearbox. Although the powertrain is biased towards performance, improvements in efficiency have led to a small reduction in fuel consumption over the outgoing car.
The Sport package as tested here adds a number of important specification items, with a discreet bodykit and 18-inch wheels on the outside, alongside paddle shifters for the gearbox, aluminium trim, sports seats and a sports steering wheel on the inside. There are mechanical changes too, with the Direct Steering system, while the brakes and suspension are also uprated in Sport guise.
Our verdict on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class E500 Sport
The E-Class has always targeted the highest levels of comfort, design, usability and luxury and the latest version succeeds on all counts. Aside from the potentially divisive styling, the overall level of competence in so many areas is truly impressive. The E500 Sport is more focused than most and requires a bigger financial commitment to run, but as a sporty version of the E-Class it is also an impressive machine.
With a 5.5-litre V8 engine, running costs are bound to be high, but those on a tighter budget can opt for one of the more efficient engine options and achieve fuel consumption figures on a par with much smaller cars.
Space and practicality
The E-Class makes good use of its footprint with generous head and legroom for passengers front and rear. The boot offers a good load space too, although the aperture would benefit from being a little taller to aid loading. The cabin has a number of useful storage areas but the glovebox is quite limited in its space if the handbook ispresent.
Controls and display
The layout of the E-Class may seem a little confusing to those who are unfamiliar with recent Mercedes-Benz products, but a little familiarisation allows the user to access the full range of impressive features. The instrument layout is a particular plus point, offering a lot of information and control but in a simple and accessible manner.
Even with its sporting bent, the E500 is a relaxing and comfortable car. The clever multi-mode climate control system, excellent sound insulation and general high level of refinement makes journeys of any length easy on the mind and body. A non-Sport model would offer even greater comfort and the E500 can be specified in Avantgarde trim.
A standard alarm and immobiliser means that the E500 should be free from all but the most determined car thieves, although adding a tracking device might be advised in a car approaching GBP50,000 in value.
The peerless Mercedes-Benz safety record continues with the E-Class, as a large increase in the amount of high-tensile steel within the bodyshell leads to a 30 per cent improvement in body stiffness over the previous generation model. Add to that innovative features such as Attention Assist, fitted as standard to all models, and the E-Class demonstrates an attention to safety issues that is currently unmatched.
The E500 stands apart from the rest of the E-Class range (bar the full-house AMG version) in offering a genuinely sporty performance as well as comfort. The altered suspension and bigger wheels do have an effect on ride quality, but the overall competence still means the E500 can cruise as well as hustle. The standard air suspension on this model does an excellent job, while the rest of the controls strike an excellent balance by being responsive but not nervous. The performance is also very satisfying, with strong acceleration available in an instant, yet ordinary driving can be undertaken without fuss.
Family car appeal
The E500 could perform family duties quite happily, particularly with the optional rear-seat entertainment package fitted. Although the boot may not take bigger pushchairs, there is sufficient space for all the family and a lot of the baggage that goes with it.
First car appeal
The E500 is too fast and expensive for new drivers, as well as appealing to an older audience than the under 25s.
Quality and image
Mercedes' reputation is such that buyers expect high quality when they slide behind the wheel, and the E-Class does not disappoint. There is a feeling of solidity and strength throughout the car and the quality of the materials brings a feeling of well-being to its occupants. The image of the E-Class is somewhat reserved compared to its rivals, but not in a negative way - it comes across as a car owned by individuals who are seeking discretion over flashiness.
Getting access to the E-Class is no problem at all, with generous doors and a boot that opens fully with a button push on the key fob. Models with electric steering adjustment also retract the column to aid entry and exit.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
The standard audio system is decent enough, compromising of an MP3-enabled CD player and a radio offering the full range of frequencies. Better yet are the upgraded versions, offering auxiliary device connection, a DVD changer and even DAB radio. With steering-wheel controls, a useful display in the instrument panel and strong sound quality, it's more than adequate.
Colours and trim
All models are fitted with either man-made or genuine leather, which alongside choices of matching trims gives the E-Class cabin a tasteful and luxurious feel. As for exterior colours, sober hues always work best with Mercedes saloons and, even in Sport guise darker metallics are the way to go.
For a relatively large saloon, the E-Class is easy to park. Visibility is good, while models such as the E500 have Direct Steering which gives a higher ratio at parking speeds and options such as parking sensors and reversing cameras make short work of getting into a space.
Space saver spare wheel fitted beneath the boot floor.
Petrol engine options - 1.8-litre (184bhp and 204bhp); 3.5-litre (292bhp); 5.5-litre (388bhp); 6.2-litre (525bhp). Diesel engine options - 2.1-litre (136bhp, 170bhp and 204bhp); 3.0-litre (231bhp)
BMW 5 Series Smart and good to drive but soon to be replaced
Lexus GS Comfortable and well-specified, lacks genuine driving pleasure
Audi A6 Very competent and handsome, best in Quattro four-wheel drive guise
Jaguar XF Beautiful design, sharp to drive, big on luxury feel, too