You may have noticed that Mercedes has been ‘jazzing’ up its image in recent times, firstly with the exquisite S-Class and the stylish C-Class and Sport Coupe. Well one car that hasn’t caught up with the Merc revolution is the machine that is reviewed here. Mercedes may have beaten BMW’s 7 and 3 Series hands down but it is a few miles back down the road with it’s M and E Class cars. That’s not to say that the E isn’t a good car, because it is a superb car. The problem is that the BMW 5 Series is so much better in every way. It is better looking, better handling, more enjoyable to drive, better equipment et cetera. The Audi A6 may even have the better of the E Class, certainly in terms of styling, although I have never driven a variant of the Audi. But back to the main focus of this review… The E240 should not be underestimated, because it is a great car, smoother than a baby’s bottom and classier a dinner party with servants offering Fererro Rocher. It may not have the sexy good looks of its Bavarian rival, but it has the has the edge for sheer refinement. This car is not as slab-like as the Mercs of old but not as coupe-like as the newer models. With it’s almost squared looking dimensions (especially at the rear) and its twinned rounded headlamps it is somewhere in between. This car looks solid, if not spectacular, strong, if not baring its muscles. Inside it feels roomier than a Dutch plain. Sit in the back seat and you feel you may need to phone the driver to have a conversation (the driver has a hands-free kit, obviously). The seats feel comfier and more snug than an inviting settee with football on the telly and of course clad in leather, it feels genuinely posh. Sitting in the front seat and you will not need to reach very far to get at the controls because they’re all on the steering wheel. You can turn up the superb stereo up via the wheel if you like or
change the disk in the CD Changer. The dash is the quality you’d expect from a large executive machine although it lacks the style of the bigger S Class or even the 5 Series in this respect. Other than that you can have little complaint. The only complaint you might afford about the boot is that it if you push your luggage in far enough you may need a search party in to find it. The Elegance trim is decidedly refined looking adding an air of drawing room chic to the interior. On the road is where the BMW beats it hands down, but the reason for this is not because the Merc is bad, the BMW is just so wonderful (Oh! When will I drive one again?). The auto ‘box is without question the most consistently excellent component of any Mercedes and the E240 does not have any problems in this respect. Put your foot down and it responds immediately. The 2498cc engine offers plenty of punch and there is plenty of that for motorway overtaking manoeuvres or the more risky A road moves on the car ahead. This car sticks to the road like glue, but to sit in one could be a bad thing. Do the Irish government all drive E Classes? If they do, the superb ride has probably fooled them into thinking that all roads in Ireland are silky smooth and that there is no need for investment. But the Merc doesn’t involve the driver anything like the BMW does. This car is a motorway cruiser and while it is perfectly capable of tackling the lower classification of carriageway it simply does not have a sporty feel to it. It does not invite you to drive it with any real zeal or enthusiasm. This is a car for the calm, relaxed driver. Maybe your chauffer if you’re rich enough? Given how complementary I’ve been in this review, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I love this car. The truth is that I don’t. There are cars I have affection for, like the Peugeot 205 I learnt to drive in, the VW Passat that has so much fa
mily sentimental value and happy memories and the BMW M5 that drives me to make enough money to buy one (just £51,910 ciao earnings needed). The Mercedes is good because it sits in a class of car that is greater than almost all takers, but I know that as it is due replacement in a couple of years it is not ahead of the pack. Maybe I’d like one if I was older, it is certainly targetted at the more mature driver. So for those who would now rather have a nice pair of slippers than a pair of Nikes I highly recommend the car (but you should probably wait for the replacement. For now, however, my dreams at night are of that navy M5.