Review: Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2002 – 2009)
Excellent range of refined engines. Comfortable long distance car. Superb ride quality. Models from 2006 are much improved and more reliable.
Too many quality problems prior to the 2006 facelift including electric faults. Slack manual gearbox. Brake pipe corrosion.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2002 – 2009): At A Glance
- On average it achieves 96% of the official MPG figure
Mercedes Benz used to an advertising slogan that said, "engineered like no other car in the world". Sadly this wasn't always the case and the some cars didn't live up to the promise. However with this E-Class, Mercedes-Benz returned to its core values with an all-new car that supposedly sets the standard for quality.
The big comparison is naturally with the BMW 5 Series but the two are very different cars. While the BMW focusses on handling and driver involvement, the Mercedes E-Class excels when it comes to long distance comfort and refinement. The ride is wonderfully forgiving and makes the E-Class a superb motorway cruiser, helped by impressive noise insulation.
There's a great range of diesel and petrol engines too, offering everything from amazing performance to outright economy. Most people choose one of the CDI diesels, with the E200 CDI and E220 CDI the most frugal while the E320 CDI is a wonderfully strong V6 engine.
Where the E-Class isn't as impressive is in corners, where the artificial steering and lack of body control in bends (compared to alternatives like the BMW) mean it's not as involving to drive. Early models also suffered from electrical problems but when the E-Class was revised in 2006, many of these issues were sorted out, making it a better car all round.
What does a Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2002 – 2009) cost?
Buy a used Mercedes-Benz E-Class from £15,495
Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2002 – 2009): What's It Like Inside?
- Boot space is 670–690 litres
Rear passengers are equally well defended by a progressively deforming (and huge) 540 litre luggage compartment which looked to me even bigger than that of the S Class. Yet the incredible strength and complexity of the structure, which is fully expected to achieve five NCAP stars (NCAP's top crash safety rating), has not been achieved at the expense of massive added weight.
The new W211 E Class weights virtually the same as the outgoing W210 E Class, largely due to extensive use of aluminium pressings for the bonnet, front wings, rear parcel shelf and boot lid. The other advantage, of course, is there's no way the new car's bootlid is going to start rusting around its number-plate as was sometimes the case with early examples of the W210 E Class.In a mercifully short presentation, MB engineers took us up to speed with the car's many other advances. Optional AIRMATIC Suspension allows the driver to select either soft or two levels of sporty ride and also provides more steering feedback.
Optional Dynamic Multicontour seats have a lumbar pulse to give you a an occasional massage at the base of your spine, which any osteopath will tell you is the best thing that could happen to it on a long journey. The sides of these seats also fall back flat or wrap themselves around you, adapting to your shape at the touch of a button. They are the most comfortable seats I have ever driven on, bar none.
The new optional new THERMOTRONIC air conditioning allows each of four front and rear seat passengers to select and maintain their own individual climate zones. And, if you specify the panoramic glass roof option (at £1,200) when you leave the car, a solar-powered fan circulates air through the upper part of the cabin to keep it as cool as possible without draining the battery.
Child seats that fit a Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2002 – 2009)Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.
What's the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2002 – 2009) like to drive?
So what's this paragon or engineering excellence like to drive? In a word, brilliant. Obviously, some models are better than others and a fully optioned-up E500 is a rather different animal from a Classic spec E220CDI six-speed. They are all damn good cars, only some are more damn good than others.
A high-spec E270CDI 5-speed automatic with optional AIRMATIC suspension and Dynamic seats was the first car we tried. It handled magnificently on the twisting smooth-surfaced roads inland of Valencia, had a wonderfully responsive manual override to the box, and enough poke to see 200kph a few times on the two lane blacktops, but it didn't quite have the punch of the same engine in the lighter C Class (see C Class Estate Road Test).
Next, the E320 petrol V6 with the same 5-speed automatic transmission and kit level. Unlike the C Class, I'd say this was definitely the nicer of the two to drive; plenty quick enough with more revs to play with and a top speed artificially limited to 155mph.
Now this is a very high top speed for a substantial 1,645 kg car with just 224bhp. After all, the slightly lighter 1,628kg S Type Jaguar 3.0 V6 with 240bhp will only pull 145mph even with a manual gearbox. The reason why the Merc goes so much faster is its very aerodynamic Cd 26 shape with smooth undertrays to prevent vortexes forming beneath the car. And, of course, if you don't want to go so fast, the benefit is significantly better economy.
Number three on the list was an E240 V6 automatic. A nice car, just a bit sweeter then the E320 with plenty enough power for most people. We also tried a six-speed manual of the same model without any extras and it, too, was fine and smooth if you like manuals, cruising happily at a natural gait of around 150kph with 25mph per 1,000 rpm in 5th. (This combination won't be coming to the UK.) Oddly, the official mpg figure for the E240 6-speed manual is worse than for the automatic, and both are worse than for the E320 automatic.
But finally, the car that spoils you for any other E Class: the E500. This is almost awesome, combining very nearly the wallop of a Porsche (0 - 60 in 5.8 seconds, and 164mph in the unlimited version) with superb, utterly viceless, totally foolproof handling and roadholding together with the limo-like attributes you expect from a Merc.
Make a mistake, whack this car too fast into a corner that tightens up on you, and a quick dab of the brakes solves the problem. You think you're driving fantastically, but the truth is that the ABS, SBS and ESP are so unobtrusive, they does the job for you without you even noticing.
The UK launch in June 2002 also gave me a chance to catch up with the E220CDI automatic which, besides being a very competent, very complete and very satisfying car in its own right, has to be the ultimate private hire taxi. Despite just 2.2 litres and 150bhp, it has a whopping 251 lb ft torque, which is more than enough to bowl along very pleasantly indeed with more than enough grunt in hand for most people.
So that's it for now. There will be a new supercharged 163bhp 1,795cc four along soon to power the E200K, a six cylinder 320CDI diesel and the awesome E55 AMG by the end of the year and, of course, estate cars next year.
|E200 Kompressor||32 mpg||9.5 s||212–217 g/km|
|E220 CDI||40 mpg||9.1 s||188 g/km|
Real MPG average for a Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2002 – 2009)
Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.
Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.
Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.
What have we been asked about the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2002 – 2009)?
Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.
What should I replace my ageing Mercedes-Benz E-Class with?
What Cars Are Similar To The Mercedes-Benz E-Class (2002 – 2009)?
Unclear on what your next car should be? Use our Car Chooser to pick something that suits your needs.
What do owners think?
Our view gives your our opinion, based on driving hundreds of cars every year, but you can't beat the views of someone who lives with a car day-in, day out.
- 5 star 50%
- 4 star 33%
- 3 star 17%
- 2 star
- 1 star