THE last Mercedes I drove was responsive, great to drive and remarkably comfortable.
But, it was a 40-tonne articulated truck so, as you can imagine, I was looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the new Mercedes E-Class.
I wasn't disappointed. It's a contradiction in terms but this is a car which says you've arrived as soon as you get in - sumptuous, high-tech and a beaut to drive.
Of course, it's not a top of the range S-Class, but in many ways it is. Mercedes has somehow taken the S-Class and shrunk it down for ‘normal' people - those who work hard but perhaps will never join the truly wealthy. It's not ‘phenomenal' but it is a stupendous car.
It might not be as sporty as Jaguar's XF or BMW's excellent 5-Series but, it's not far off. It comes down really to what you want from an executive saloon and the E-Class wears its pinstripes on its sleeve.
There's a range of petrol, diesel and hybrid engines, all connected to a slick and intelligent nine-speed automatic. The 220d, which will make up the majority of sales in the UK, is powered by Mercedes' new 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel.
It has 192bhp and with 400Nm of torque offers plenty of smooth pulling power. Officially, it also returns 72.4mpg.
On the outside, it's plain the E-Class styling takes inspiration from the S-Class, with lots of sleek and sensuous curves. There's an elongated bonnet coupled with a coupe-esque roof. The new E-Class is also characterised by short overhangs and taut well-defined flanks.
The AMG line - adds a sportier - and to my mind better - look with bigger 19-inch alloy wheels, perforated front brake discs, unique bumpers and side skirts. It has plenty of kerb appeal.
That kerb appeal is helped by its 6.5cm longer wheelbase and a body which is very slightly narrower and longer. The extra length means there's plenty of space for rear-seat passengers and headroom for all. The enlarged body also caters for a cavernous 540-litre boot so there's loads of space for luggage.
The sumptuous leather-lined interior has already been mentioned and this is matched to hugely comfortable seats and a high-quality fit and finish including open-pore woods. It simply oozes class.
And while the 220d SE might be the so-called ‘entry level' model, it is loaded with all the kit you could ever need. Though Premium and Premium Plus packages are offered in case you decide you want more.
The steering wheel feature touch-sensitive controls. Like a smartphone interface, they respond precisely to horizontal and vertical swiping movements, allowing you to control the entire infotainment system using your fingers without taking hands off the wheel.
Self-parking is standard, as is a reversing camera, sat-nav, LED headlights, autonomous emergency braking, climate and cruise control, keyless go, DAB radio, heated seats, and an 8.4-inch infotainment screen set in the centre of the dash. Safety is strong with nine airbags as standard.
Steel springs with adaptive dampers are standard on the E-Class so it certainly delivers when it comes to comfort - and that's without the optional air suspension which provides a magic carpet level of ride. At motorway speeds there's simply no noise to speak of from the mighty diesel but overtaking is a cinch due to that plentiful supply of torque.
It's superbly supple, even in Sport mode. The focus may be on comfort but the E-Class is no slouch. It's no 5-Series but there's a planted feel and reassuring amounts of grip so you can throw it around a bit if you so desire.
Agile handling is aided by an increased track width - an extra 20 millimetres at the front, an extra seven millimetres at the rear - and the fact that it's 100kg lighter than its predecessor, but it doesn't really lend itself to that though. It would rather cruise serenely.