Mercedes E220 CDI SE Inverness

While the E220 CDI isn’t as sporty to drive as the 5-Series, its more compliant set-up is smoother and more comfortable. However, the controls are over-light, and the steering kicks back on rough surfaces. Plus, where the BMW requires a single input to negotiate long bends, the E-Class needs constant adjustment to maintain its line.

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Mercedes E220 CDI SE

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For some drivers, there’s no beating the appeal of the three-pointed star badge. And while recent versions of the Mercedes E-Class haven’t always shone as brightly as in the past, the firm is aiming to address that with its latest model.

On the outside, you can see where the designers took their inspiration from. The newcomer looks like a larger C-Class rather than a shrunken S-Class, although it’s not as neatly proportioned as its smaller stablemate.

Despite being much older, the BMW provides more visual interest and appears the younger of the two.

For existing E-Class owners, the newcomer is a logical progression, though, and its upright styling does have its benefits. Climb aboard and the cabin provides plenty of space and good visibility.

The angular dash and uninspiring switchgear echo the exterior lines, but everything is logically laid out, and SE trim comes with artificial leather upholstery.

Although the light grey trim of our test car won’t suit everyone, it does make the cabin bright and airy.

While the BMW’s interior is minimalist and sleek, the Mercedes is clearly aimed at a more mature audience. Unusually for such a large car, the base of the windscreen is very close, which makes forward visibility excellent, but taller drivers will find the rear view mirror unusually close by.

Start the four-cylinder diesel, and it doesn’t sound especially refined. But our noise meter readings revealed that it was quieter at idle than the BMW inside and out, at 42dB and 61dB respectively.

On the move, both engines recorded identical figures at 30mph (57dB) and 70mph (67dB) – but it’s the E-Class’s pace that impresses.

Helped by a smooth-shifting auto, our test model proved to be a capable cruiser. Accelerate hard and the transmission’s slow upchanges are apparent, yet the Merc still sprinted from 0-60mph in 8.4 seconds – only one-tenth behind the manual BMW.

While the E220 CDI isn’t as sporty to drive as the 5-Series, its more compliant set-up is smoother and more comfortable.

However, the controls are over-light, and the steering kicks back on rough surfaces. Plus, where the BMW requires a single input to negotiate long bends, the E-Class needs constant adjustment to maintain its line.

So the Merc is more comfortable, but it’s not as rewarding to drive. And that’s the main difference between these two – as they’re closely matched on price.

The E-Class is marginally cheaper and retains more of its value, yet there’s virtually nothing between them for company buyers.

If you want space, refinement and comfort with a prestige badge, the E220 CDI SE is perfect – but it plays safe by sticking to Merc’s traditional strengths.

The question is whether it’s good enough to take victory.

Mercedes E220 CDI SE