Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor (2004) Driving Impression

Mercedes Benz E Class 2004

Although the rise of the premium SUV has somewhat eroded the appeal of the traditional luxury sedan, there remains something innately appealing about a large Mercedes-Benz sedan that is not terribly difficult to explain. Take the new Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor as an example. With a few carefully selected options, this elegant sedan can fool most people into thinking it costs twice as much as it actually does. And even today, there’s nothing that makes the neighbours’ curtains twitch with as much envy as the sight of a large, obviously luxurious, Mercedes-Benz sedan pulling into the driveway…

Elegance in spades for Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor

By now the current E-Class is a familiar sight on South Africa’s roads, and this test unit, boasting the standard “Elegance” trim level, is essentially the entry level version. But you’d never say it by looking at it. Boasting comprehensive colour-coding, chrome detailing here and there, smart 16-inch alloy wheels and fog lamps, there’s precious little to distinguish it from its more expensive siblings. Mercedes also offers an Avantgarde trim level, which makes the stately E-Class look a bit sportier, through different alloy wheels and a lowered ride height, among other small details.

While the exterior will impress the neighbours, the interior also succeeds in stroking the driver’s ego. Featuring a curvy design theme that is somewhat at odds with Mercedes’s traditional conservatism, the facia is attractive to look at and, boasting top-quality finishes, also nice to touch. The wood inlays and leather inserts on the doors elevate the ambience even further. Base model?  Not really… The Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor feels like a proper, full-fat E-Class from behind the wheel, an impression that has as much to do with the inherent build quality as it does the surprisingly comprehensively specification sheet. Included are; climate control, a superb audio system, multi-function steering wheel, cruise control, automatic headlamps and a full package of airbags – including curtains.

A focus on comfort

Mercedes is currently working hard to change its image from staid and predictable, to something sportier and youthful. The AMG models therefore catch a lot of shine. This Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor, however, is a typical old-school Mercedes in the way it drives. And that’s a good thing. The driving position is superb, with generous adjustment on offer from the seats (partial electric) and steering wheel. Rear legroom is excellent, and the seats are shaped and padded for long-distance comfort. The boot can accommodate 540-litres worth of luggage, which makes the Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor a great family car, but Mercedes charges extra for folding rear seats – somewhat cheeky!

Just enough power for Mercedes-Benz E200

The Mercedes-Benz E200 badge is misleading as the engine is actually the same 1,8-litre, supercharged unit that does duty in other, smaller Mercedes models. The power outputs look rather small for such a big car (weighing in at 1 570 kg), with Mercedes claiming 120 kW and 240 Nm of torque. Power goes to the rear wheels via a five-speed automatic transmission that offers a manual-shift function. Although the performance can’t be described as being “energetic”, the Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor is swift enough for most, with a 0-100 km/h time of just under 10 seconds and a 227 km/h top speed. In fact, the engine does an admirable job of hauling the big sedan around at a decent pace, but what is most impressive is the refinement and quietness. The engine never feels like its working too hard, and that’s quite an achievement. It’s also economical, with a consumption figure of around 9 litres/100 km being a realistic target.

Overall, the engine fits the character of the E200K perfectly. Unlike some top-end E-Class models, the E200K doesn’t ride on air-suspension, but a traditional set-up of MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear. Stabiliser bars are fitted at both ends. The set-up is certainly biased towards offering exceptional ride comfort and refinement, which will please most customers. Cruising at the national speed limit, the E200K’s cabin is an exceptionally quiet, comfortable place to be. Road irregularities are dealt with easily, with only a distant thud to remind occupants that they haven’t in fact boarded a Rolls-Royce. The superb aerodynamics and slippery shape undoubtedly play a big role in the impressive NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) showing. Of course, dynamically the E-Class can’t quite match a BMW 5 Series, but we suspect that in this Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor's case, that’s unlikely to be a priority for most of the target audience.

Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor - Verdict

There’s simply nothing “entry level” about the Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor. Yes, the engine doesn’t deliver a lot of power, but if ultimate performance is not a requirement, you won’t notice the deficit because the refinement is so impressive. The interior is superb, boasting all the comfort, space, quality and luxury that have made Mercedes sedans so popular all over the world. And once you hit the long road, you’ll be very impressed by the cruising refinement and comfort levels. At the price, the Mercedes-Benz E200 Kompressor could be described as something of a bargain.

We like:

  • Classy design
  • Cabin fit and finish
  • Comfort
  • Ride quality
  • Performance & economy balance
We don’t like:
  • Lack of standard fold-down rear seats
Fast facts

Engine: 1,8-litre, four-cylinder, supercharged petrol

Power: 120 kW @ 5 500 rpm

Torque: 240 Nm @ 3 000 rpm

Transmission: Five-speed automatic

Wheels: 16-inch alloy

Top speed: 227 km/h

0-100 km/h: 9,9 seconds

Fuel economy: 8,7 litres/100 km


Also consider:

  • BMW 525i Steptronic: A fair bit more expensive than this entry level Mercedes, but if you can afford it, the BMW arguably currently represents the pinnacle of the executive sedan pile. Beautifully made inside and out, and with excellent dynamics.
  • Audi A6 2,4 Multitronic: The A6 continues to improve and continues to be ignored by the public. Perhaps the forthcoming all-new model will be more desirable. As it stands, the Audi is somewhat outdated and also makes use of a CVT gearbox, which is not universally liked. Try first.
  • Volvo S80 2,5T: Something a bit different. Always underestimated, the big Volvo is supremely comfortable so worth considering if dynamic sharpness is not a priority. But it’s pricey, and the resale will be woeful.