The idea of a four-cylinder diesel in a Mercedes E-class sedan might seem a little heretical to dedicated aficionados of the Benz chronicles. If you ignore the GLK250 BlueTec introduced for 2013, Mercedes hasn’t offered a four-cylinder diesel in the U.S. since the 1985 190D. And that car was the predecessor of the smaller C-class, whereas the E is a mid-sizer accustomed to propulsion supplied by sixes. The
But as speeds rise, torque gives way to horsepower, and like all turbo-diesels, the E250’s 2.1-liter doesn’t make a lot of it compared with gasoline engines. With 195 horsepower on tap, acceleration tends to be leisurely, with 0 to 60 taking 7.8 seconds and the quarter-mile arriving in 16.1 at 86 mph. However, once the E is rolling, the action of the sequential twin turbochargers summons up plenty of speed, and because the car is quiet, it’s easy—too easy, really—to look down and find you’re motoring blissfully along at a pace that exceeds most posted speed limits. Be warned.
Although the E250 isn’t exactly a sports sedan, it comports itself well at high speeds. Body motions are nicely controlled, and responses to orders from the helm are prompt, whether you’re bending the Benz into a fast sweeper or rapid transients. The electric power steering is reasonably quick and more accurate than many similar systems, and the paddle shifters lend a sporty element. And whereas there’s enough roll stiffness in the suspension to limit body lean in corners, ride quality won’t make owners unhappy. Let’s call it Euro firm, but all-day comfortable—although really sharp bumps can use up all the suspension travel.
Of course, the E250 BlueTec isn’t the only mid-luxury German sedan in the compression-ignition game. For a few thousand dollars more, Audi (in the A6/A7 TDI) and BMW (535d) offer 3.0-liter six-cylinder turbo-diesels with considerably more power and torque, as well as acceleration that slices more than two seconds off the E250’s measured 0-to-60 sprint. It really boils down to the car’s personality, whether you prefer the Audi’s designer/tech vibe, BMW’s sportiness, or the Merc’s luxo-cushy stress relief.