It’s probably on the top of a very short list for those looking for a chauffeur-driven executive saloon and with India getting the long-wheelbase since the launch, the current-gen Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been a mainstay for the brand.
The fact that I also find it to be the most unexciting design in Mercedes’ current portfolio doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s the one car that embodies the brand’s beliefs best. Its blend of comfort and luxury is further heightened by this 2020 update that gets a new, BS6 compliant diesel engine and added kit that makes it even more closely specced to the flagship 350d.
The 220d sits in the middle of the range but now gets the Mercedes Me Connect suite of apps that let you use your smartphone to keep a track on the cars vitals, twin screens that just elevate the look of the cabin along with the open-pore wood trim and the brilliant sounding 590W, 13-speaker Burmester Hi-Fi system. There are tons of smaller niceties that you might get used to without even realising, like the soft-closing doors or the rear seat recline. But the thing that you will realise the most is the utter comfort that the E220d provides its occupants. The suspension, even without the S-Class’ Airmatic option is supple and cosseting, but show it a set of corners and the E220d won’t mind doing a little dance either. The 4cyl engine churns out 194hp and 40Nm which is adequate if not G-force challenging. It pulls strongly all the way to its 5000rpm redline after a brief initial hesitation but it’s the smoothness and refinement of the drivetrain that impresses, without ever letting you know what’s under the hood. It just shifts through the 9G-tronic transmission effortlessly and you could be seated on the fantastic seats all day and not come out tired at all. Of course, it doesn’t feel as light as the C-class on its feet but neither does it feel like a walrus on wheels. The steering, like all modern Mercs is sharp and direct and the suspension perfectly judged for our bombed-out roads, thanks to Metro construction in, under and over Mumbai.
It’s easy to forget about the bustle outside with the insulation this cabin provides and especially when you kick the Burmester audio system into action, it engulfs you in sound that is spacious yet superbly defined and authoritative, not diffused. There’s plenty of power but more importantly, there is no sign of distortion, allowing you to behave like a teenager in your dad’s prized possession. Apple CarPlay, wireless charging and a touchscreen for the rear passengers makes sure all the connectivity needs are covered but it does miss out on the current-gen MBUX infotainment system that also gets a haptic touchpad on the centre console. Instead, the E220d makes do with the rotary dial/trackpad from the C-Class. Still, the quality of the twin screens is faultless, with crisp resolution, quick responses and an intuitive layout that seems logical once you get the hang of it. The twin thumb pads on the steering wheel are a great touch where the left side thumbpad controls the functions on the central infotainment screen while the right thumbpad controls the digital instrument cluster, including three different views.
The most impressive feat of design in the cabin of the E-Class though is its phenomenal ambient lighting that showers the entire cabin in a myriad of colours that can be set-up in two different zones or one consistent colour all through. The dashboard design lends itself well to this sort of ambient lighting since it curves towards the door panels, creating a seamless strip of colour that isn’t much different than a modern business-class private jet. Along with the pristine music delivery, it really does elevate your mood and relaxes your senses, something the founding members of the German brand would be proud of, considering it’s still the benchmark for luxury for most of the civilised world.
The E220d might not be cheap, especially in this Exclusive trim variant but if you were prepared to aim for the S-Class, one drive (and being driven) in this LWB E-class suddenly makes it look like good value for money! You may miss out on autonomous driving aids and the even higher-end Burmester 3D surround system, but for most people, space, comfort and luxury provided by the E220d is a fine tribute to your hard-working years.