Along with the new generation of E-Class, Mercedes-Benz introduced the OM 654 which would ultimately replace its predecessor the OM 651, as the new four-cylinder diesel engine. After a first test drive with the new E-Class Saloon back in May 2016, I decided to withhold my humble opinion on the latest diesel engine until I could put it to test properly. And since then I have driven the E 220d every now and then in a while in Berlin and the surrounding regions, for grocery shopping sprees, photo projects, and the daily drive back and forth to university at temperatures ranging from 30°C to -10°C. With the successor of the OM 651, Mercedes-Benz reduced capacity by 0.193 liters and decreased fuel consumption and CO2 emissions thanks to various optimizations like an all-aluminum construction, making it the first of its kind coming from the Swabian car-manufacturer, NANOSLIDE coating of the cylinders and an overall weight reduction of 35.4kg. On paper, the 220d has a maximum output of 143 kW (194 hp) at 3700 rpm and 400 Nm of torque (available between 1500 rpm and 3000 rpm) with a fuel consumption of 3.9 liters/100km.
Being paired with the 9G-Tronic automatic transmission (comes as a standard) the 220d offers an immense spread in driving behavior for the driving modes ranging from Eco to Sport+. Personally, I find the engine’s performance too dull for stop & go traffic in both Eco and Comfort mode. However, this sluggish behavior is easily compensated by the automatic transmission thanks to quick reactivity to shifts on the steering wheel pedals. In driving modes, Sport and Sport+ the car has a more responsive and dynamic behavior so it only takes mediocre footwork to properly accelerate the vehicle in traffic. It is, however, noticeable that the transmission tends to take unduly long to shift up even after the car is being put into cruise control.
The 220d handles quick sprints on the highway very subtle and despite not being a torque monster as its three-liter-counterpart the 350d, it performs well enough to keep up the fast pace on the left lane. However, the engine noticeably runs out of breath at speeds around 170 km/h. But that doesn’t mean that a maximum speed of 240 km/h is utopian.
Rear-wheel driven vs. all-wheel driven
Over the course of my drives with the 220d I noticed that, under maximum footwork, the car has a swaying gait. Even more serious is the behavior on icy roads and other low-grip surfaces, where the car quickly fails to deliver torque, even when handled very gently. This, of course, makes me curious to find out how the all-wheel driven version of the two-liter diesel will perform under similar conditions. Sadly, one hardly comes across the E 220d 4Matic.
Comparison to predecessor
Despite being decreased in capacity the OM 654 (1.95 liter) has an increased output (143 kW instead of 125 kW) compared to its direct predecessor the OM 651 (2.14 liter). The new four-cylinder diesel has a slightly more nervous character and it can be observed that the 220d often reacts to mediocre footwork with (seemingly) higher engine speed when in driving modes Sport and Sport+. But since I’ve only driven the predecessor as AWD (ML and GLK) and FWD (CLA Shooting Brake, GLA) variants, I can’t make an accurate comparison to the rear-wheel driven E 220d.
The engine has enormous potential and, if paired with an all-wheel drive, it could be a tremendous machine for a great daily driver such as the E-Class Station Wagon. To me, it is unclear why one would forgo the 4Matic version of this engine in the first place but apparently, these things are very rare at car rentals…
Personally, I believe the spread in shifting behavior between Comfort and Sport mode is too large. While in [C] the engine response is rather slow, yet sturdy, while it is prompt and forceful in [S] mode. I find that for most situations I simply need the transmission to be quicker than in Comfort handling mode but without forced downshifts that bring agitation to the vehicle. A greater distinction between handling modes Sport and Sport+ would allow a much better balance throughout the whole Dynamic Select program. Nevertheless, the engine might by terribly well balanced for your needs and style of driving.
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Article by Simon Laslo | @simonlaslo
Photos by Daimler AG and Simon Laslo