Mercedes-Benz E350 d And E220 d: Review
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We let the E-Class diesel twins spoil us with luxury, in a bid to figure out how much of a difference the “extended wheelbase” makes.
The 2017 Mercedes E-Class came as a godsend for all buyers who aspired for the S-Class experience on a tighter budget. In its long-wheelbase avatar, the E-Class has more room at the rear than ever before. Introduced with both fuel options, the diesel (E350 d) comes in at a whopping Rs 13 lakh more than the petrol (E200) variant!
However, for those looking for a more affordable diesel, Mercedes-Benz does offer the E-Class in a small displacement variant in the form of the E220d. Apart from costing Rs 13 lakh less than the E350d and employing a smaller engine, it loses out on a few features, the biggest of which, is the air suspension. So does the lower price point make the 220 better value without compromising on the sense of luxury and just how much more of an opulent experience does the 350 afford? A few days spent with both these cars helped us answer those questions.
|Name||Engine||Power / Torque||Price (ex-Delhi)|
|Mercedes-Benz E220 d||2-Litre, 4-Cylinder Diesel||194PS / 400Nm||Rs 57.47 Lakh|
|Mercedes-Benz E350 d||3-Litre, 4-Cylinder Diesel||258PS / 620Nm||Rs 70.27 Lakh|
The first thing you notice is that the E-Class is l-o-n-g! In fact, with an overall length of over five metres, its wheelbase is even longer than that of the standard wheelbase S-Class. And designed with similar proportions to those of the S, there’s no denying that there’s a lot more road presence to this new E.
The most striking element of its design has to be the front fascia with LED projector headlights, two bright DRLs and a protruding two-slat grill which wears a large three-pointed star. Even the rear end is distinctive courtesy of LED crystal-look tail lights. With the roof flowing smoothly into the long boot, it does have the profile of a traditional limousine.
But while the boot is well sized (540-litres), the spare wheel renders most of the space unusable. So you end up with room for just a few small bags or one suitcase at most.
Overall, the design doesn’t scream for attention but the little subtle styling details surprisingly do make it a bit of a head-turner. The two variants get minor design differences too. The bigger diesel gets 10-spoke alloys whereas the base 220d gets 5-spoke alloy wheels; both 17-inchers. This, apart from the boot badge, is the only way to tell the two apart from the outside.
Open the door and the first thing that strikes you is the high quality plastic finish and delectable wood trim. Open pore wood, light-brown in the E220d and black in the E350d, runs along the dashboard and into the doors, amplifying the sense of car’s width. The experience is made even better with the ambient lightning hidden under the dashboard wood panels, on the door trims, centre console and even in the rear footwell. At night, this really amps up the luxury factor and gives the cabin an extremely futuristic feel.
Adding to the premium aura is soft-touch leather on the steering wheel which makes it great to grip, as well as the soft carpeting on the floor. These carpets are beige, complemented by vertical stitching in the E350d, while they’re black with horizontal seat stitching in the E220d.
Cars like these are all about backseat comfort, and the E doesn’t disappoint in this department. The rear bench gets excellent cushioning and its contoured shape really holds you in nicely. Furthermore, factors like the well scooped out back which can recline up to 37 degree, acres of legroom and the super-soft head-cushion make it an ideal place to spend long durations in.
The master seat (rear left) also has a chauffeur function by which you can adjust the co-passenger seat for even more legroom. There’s 3-zone climate control as well, with centre and B-pillar mounted vents for both rear passengers. You can even electrically control the sunshades for the windows, rear windscreen and the sunroof from the rear left passenger's console.
The back seats even get smart touches like rear vanity mirrors, but one thing that they utterly miss out on is the provision of cup holders. Odd, given that the target customer of this car is someone who’d be seated at the back most of the times with a chauffeur handling driving duties. Also, while the rear bench is designed to accommodate three abreast, the middle passenger won’t exactly have a great time thanks to the big transmission tunnel in the centre of the floor.
That said, even with three in the back, it’s far from cramped, and the large rear windows, rear quarter glass and the panoramic sunroof really enhance the sense of airiness in the E-Class, no matter what variant you choose.
The tech package in this E-Class deserves a story of its own, and the highlight here is the 12.3-inch infotainment display. It can be used to manage functions such as navigation and display a plethora of vehicle settings. There’s a good chance you will end up spending most of your time playing with the various drive modes and the ambient lightning setting which, by the way, has 64-colour options.
The E350d additionally comes with a 360 degree camera which uses the centre screen as a display. This makes not only makes parking, but also navigating through tight spaces, an absolute breeze in this long-wheelbase sedan. Another difference in the two models is the audio system. If you are a critique of music quality, the E220 d might not impress you too much, but the E350 d’s 590 watt, 13-speaker Burmester is a real audiophile’s delight.
You can navigate through the infotainment menus via the left touchpad on the steering or the centre touchpad/rotary knob, both of which are fairly simple to operate. But connect your phone through Apple CarPlay or Android Auto and the lack of a touchscreen detracts from the functionality of these apps.
The driver’s display, controlled by the right steering touchpad, consists of round analogue dials for the speedometer and tachometer, and a digital screen sitting between them which displays everything from the drive information, to media playback, to navigation.
The E350d even comes with a memory function, which remembers and adjusts everything from the steering position to the seating position (front and back) for up to three different users. However, the E220d only offers seat position memory for the rear seats.
Engine And Performance
Both diesel engines are extremely refined with barely any engine noise or vibrations creeping into the cabin. This smoothness is even more pronounced on the 2.0-litre engine, as the only time you realise it’s running is when the auto start/stop system engages with just a subtle vibration.
Another shared trait of the engines is that they offer adequate performance for the city as well highways. Both cars are available with 5 drive-modes which make a significant amount of difference in the steering, gearbox and throttle response.
In the 220d, Eco mode feels a bit sluggish to drive. Floor the throttle for a quick manoeuvre and the kickdown takes its own sweet time as the 9-speed automatic gearbox feels lazy in the downshift. The throttle inputs are also tuned for city driving requiring larger throttle inputs to get a noticeable response. Of course, this complaint holds true if you’re in the driver’s seat, because as soon as you move to the back, all you will see is that this is the smoothest and most efficient mode. In our city test, we were able to manage 10.24kmpl. On the highways, this mode does well while cruising and the car returned 16.13kmpl.
Shifting to Comfort makes the car a little more responsive to throttle inputs. Overtakes become easier and the downshifts become quicker, but there’s still a slight hint of laziness. To get a quick move on, the best mode to be in is Sport. This makes throttle inputs a lot more sensitive with the gearbox dialing in much faster up and downshifts. Even light throttle inputs make the car leap ahead, so you need to monitor what your right foot is doing to avoid a jerky drive. Bury the throttle and you realise just how much torque the car has (400Nm to be precise), and it all kicks in from as low as 1,600rpm. There is hardly any turbo lag and even if you’re already at triple digit speeds, the car pulls ahead at an alarming pace, thanks to the 194PS of peak power on tap.
Slot the E200d into Sport+ mode makes the car even angrier. All its performance aspects are sharpened even further. If you are in the mood to have fun, the Sports+ mode will really put a smile on your face. That said, the steering doesn't weigh up quite as well as you’d like and you will be left longing for more feedback. Finally, the Individual mode allows drivers to tailor the car’s behaviour to their personal preference by choosing individual attributes from each of the driving modes and combining them together. When it comes to dropping the anchors, the brakes offer great feedback and ample bite - pulling the car to a stop from 100kmph in 3.07 seconds covering 38.15 metres in the process.
As great as the E220d is to drive, its larger engined twin really up the ante. It gets a strong recommendation from us if you plan to spend more time behind the wheel rather than lounging in the back. E350d makes an additional 64PS/220Nm over the 220d, but it gets two thumbs up from us not just because it makes more power, but also because of the way that power is delivered. Figures aside, the extra thrust is very noticeable at any point in the rev range.
With a stomach-churning 620Nm of torque produced from as low as 1,600rpm, the 350d can get to 100kmph from a standstill in just 7.08seconds; about a second quicker than the E220 d. You really have to be careful and keep one eye on the speedometer to ensure that you don’t accidentally wind up at illegal speeds. One big plus point for this larger motor is that all this additional power doesn't affect fuel efficiency, as our test revealed similar mileage figures for the both engines.
One issue we faced with the E220d’s drive modes was that it was a bit tricky to find an ideal setting for city use. Comfort mode makes the transmission a little slow to respond, while Sport mode makes it jumpy. This problem however is solved with the E350d as the increased torque gives you plenty of pull even in Comfort mode, without wasting time in downshifts.
Ride And Handling
This is where the two models really stand apart. The air suspension on the E350 d makes it float on the road with a cushion of air absorbing all the undulations without breaking a sweat. This makes a world of a difference in passenger comfort.
The E220 d has adequate damping, but feels slightly stiffer as compared the E350 d. Drive the cars back to back, and it feels like settling for the coil springed 220 d could be a bit hard (pun intended). The difference in ride is even more pronounced in the E350 d as the drive modes alter suspension settings as well. However, thanks to its softer suspension setting, the E350 d has a knack for scraping its belly on tall speed breakers in Comfort and Eco modes. Yes, the suspension can lift the car up by 25mm to increase ground clearance on bad patches, but it's something that you will have to do so manually. In that sense, the E220 d can be driven hassle free.
As speeds increase, the difference in the two suspensions also becomes more apparent. Where the 220 d starts to get some bouncy vertical movement on uneven roads, the 350 d’s air suspension stays stable. For long highway stints, the latter is definitely the more comfortable drive. However, don’t take its high speed stability as a licence to call it a driver’s car. Take a fast corner and you can feel the E-Class’ size. It is more straight line stallion than corner carver. While it is fairly capable and reasonably sure-footed, being thrown around winding roads simply isn’t something this car was designed for.
The E-Class has come a long way, literally! With this kind of backseat focus, it’s difficult to look elsewhere for those looking for a great chauffeur-driven experience. Plus having a size quotient that none of its rivals have is certainly going to be strong motivation for many potential buyers to pick one up.
If it’s a true limousine experience you crave, then the E350d is the natural choice. It’s not just because of the more mature ride it offers thanks to the air suspension, but also because of the tremendously torquey engine that handles this behemoth’s weight better. That said, the E 220d isn’t a slouch by any means, and offers a properly luxurious experience for considerably lesser money. As rich as the 350d’s experience is, the E220d doesn’t feel like much of a compromise given the sheer amount of savings it promises.