Last Jedi: Mercedes E 220 d vs BMW 520d. Cleanest diesels in the world?

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Just like the Last Jedi, Mercedes BMW are still confident their diesels are the cleanest and the best in the world. Auto motor und sport made a 2,500 km test with 520d and E 220 d, the diesels with the lowest NOX emissions in real driving. It’s all about diesel and AdBlue consumption.

BMW 520d and Mercedes E 220d raise questions when traveling with them. Questions that are all about what you could use the enormous long-distance competence of the two diesel and perfection-driven sedans. But not about whether the diesel has a future. Because these are the cleanest and most future-proof diesels ever.

Why are we so sure? We measured their exhaust gas purity – first, and not on the test bench, but on the road. The E 220 d undercut the limit values ​​for the Euro 6d standard of 168 milligrams of nitric oxide per kilometer, which will be valid from 2019, by 75 percent. The 520d set a new record with 28 mg NOX / km: 83 percent below the future limit. While the 220 d achieves this with an SCR system, the 520d combines urea injection with a NOX storage catalyst. Both prove how clean diesel can be, if manufacturers do not set lax standard, but use real traffic best values ​​as a goal.

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In this special comparison test we drive more with the two test cars than usual: around 2,500 km to measure fuel consumption and AdBlue consumption. In this way we can increase long-distance consumption and focus even more on the strengths and weaknesses of long-haul routes. Because that’s what these limousines are all about: the big, long journey, every day, on every street.

So get in, have the seats whir in the optimum position, pair the phone with the infotainment. That works, like the whole operation, in the BMW a little easier. Because of the enormous amount of functionality, the iDrive system despite the touchscreen and additional voice and gesture operation reaches the limits of clarity. But it still works more intuitive and faster than the Mercedes Command. The redundancy of the input options is confusing in the E-Class. What now? Rotary lever, touchpad or the small touch sensitive touch surfaces on the steering wheel spokes? It takes longer to get around in the deep and not so well-organized menus. For important assistance systems, however, the Mercedes has its own button bar. In the BMW this is buried deeper in the infotainment menu (for example, to adjust the head-up display) or concentrated on the small buttons on the steering wheel.

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Both turbo diesel engines set off, both with 400 Nm, with determination and manners for which 50 percent more cylinder and displacement was normal than the two-liter four-cylinders in this test. The small performance advantage of the E-class is offset by its greater weight disadvantage of 106 kilos. But the Mercedes also has a more soft, accurate automatic gearbox with nine gears than the no less excellent transmission of the BMW.

After construction speed limits, both cars accelerate again urgently on the travel speed. A bit louder is the BMW, as the wind gets tangled on the A-pillar. The Mercedes flows quieter. The BMW has more comfortable seats, with its optional comfort seats (2,290 euros), while the upper part of the backrest can be adjusted separately. The seats in the Mercedes remain comfortable for hours, but do not offer so much support.

On the highway, both cars are at the same high level of suspension comfort. Even on wrinkled highways flooded the adaptively damped (1,190 euros) and steel-sprung 5 Series is just as good as the air-sprung Mercedes (two-chamber springs front, three-chamber springs rear, 2,261 euros) even over harsh bumps. With the all-wheel steering (1,250 euros), the BMW ensures high driving stability, increasing handling and maneuverability. In Sport mode, the steering sharpens precision and feedback. Thus, the 5 Series drives more agile, neutral and dynamic through curves than the E 220 d.

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In its tenth generation, Mercedes’ mid-range has developed a curve enthusiasm that you hardly expect in all the comfort. Yes, the E understeer earlier, the ESP leaves a bigger cushion between engagement and limit. But as he climbs up the mountain, with the sleek, precise, feedback-sensitive, but relaxed steering – that’s really close to the 5 Series, without the handling ever pushed into the foreground.

After 2,500 km we are back, expect everything: consumption on the long haul are both almost equal, 6.7 l / 100 km in the Mercedes, 6.8 l in the BMW. And AdBlue? The BMW comes with the combination of urea injection and NOx storage catalyst with 1.3 liters per 1,000 km. Because it only has one SCR system, the E 220 d has to inject more urea for cleaning – 1.7 l / 1,000 km. The costs for AdBlue, which would be enough in the 520d for 16,530 km and the E 220 d for 14,700 km, amount to 260 euros (BMW) and 340 euros (Mercedes) for 100,000 km – rather not so relevant in this price range.

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It’s the realization that solidifies with each additional kilometer: The 5 Series is a 5 Series, and the E-Class is an E-Class. Both models retain their character and their distinctiveness. But both have expanded their capabilities, the BMW in comfort and the Mercedes in handling. But in both cases, the new talents do not cover the old strengths – the Mercedes ensures excellent comfort despite agile handling. And the BMW gives up nothing of its rousing dynamics for the fine comfort. As tight as they are in space and trunk volume, in safety equipment and optional lighting equipment (the Mercedes actually offers only halogen headlights in series), braking distances and accelerations lie together: both are practically equally good, but in different ways.

And, given their abilities and prices, the 520d and E 220 d are the best sedans in the world. You have to have a very strong speed, space or status requirement to opt for more powerful engines or even the 7 Series or S-Class.

Technical Data
BMW 520d Luxury Line Mercedes E 220 d Exclusive
Base price 52.650 € 51.563 €
Lenght x Width x Height 4936 x 1868 x 1479 mm 4923 x 1852 x 1468 mm
Trunk volume VDA 530 l 540 l
Engine 1995 cm³ / 4-Cylinder 1950 cm³ / 4-Cylinder
Power 190 PS at 4000 rpm 194 PS at 3800 rpm
Top speed 235 km/h 240 km/h
0-100 km/h 7,7 s 7,6 s
Consumption 4,1 l/100 km 3,9 l/100 km
Test consumption 7,3 l/100 km 6,9 l/100 km