Classy and comfortable as the older E350, the new Mercedes-Benz E250 is more fuel-efficient and affordable, writes Christopher Chaves

If the popular pastry shop around the corner flashed a reduced price-tag on the hottest selling item on its menu, you'd think that the item would sell like… well, hot cakes. That's what the bakers at Mercedes-Benz India had in mind when they came up with the latest E250.

Many potential buyers considered owning the E350 (that debuted last October), but the price-tag that came with it seemingly numbed the reach-for-the-chequebook nerves of a respectable number of people. Seeing the want for owning and running a more affordable E, Merc came up with the new E250, which is basically the 350 with a heart transplant (the same motor as the C250).

From the exterior, the new E250 is very much like the E350 — its bold lines tip downward in aggression from the toned rear to the sophisticated crystal-shaped headlights up front. The visible differences here are the design of the alloy wheels and the obvious rear badging, which now tells of the smaller 2497cc V6 under the hood.

Though not as powerful as the E350, the petrol-friendly 250 enjoys being revved. The sprightly engine is complemented by a sporty dual exhaust. Yes, it's refined at idle with no vibration and noise, but on reaching higher revs the engine begins to sound abrasive.

Having a smaller heart doesn't mean that this E-class is an underperformer in any way. From a standstill, the 100kph mark is breached in a quick 10.72sec (2.5sec adrift of the E350). As expected, the E250's 204bhp engine has a comparatively weak bottom end but the mid- and top-end performance that follows packs a wallop. Pumping out 24.9kgm of torque at 5500rpm, the engine is more than comfortable working incessantly at around 80 per cent of its capacity.

Unlike the diesel E250 that uses a five-speed gearbox, the petrol employs a 7G-Tronic gearbox that makes good of the engine. The box is worked by the gear stalk and paddle shifts, both features which are not available with the diesel version. You get two settings — ‘comfort' and ‘sport' — with this gearbox. The ‘comfort' mode will do for most of your day-to-day driving.

When looking to pick up the pace, the gearbox shifts through gears in a smooth and linear manner and doesn't drastically require you to work the paddle shift. But on slowing down, it hesitates before downshifting and finding the gear that gets you back up to speed. Thankfully, a tap on the left paddle shift allows you to rejuvenate momentum and power your way out of dicey situations. Use the ‘sport' mode only when you want the gearbox to respond quicker and rev longer. This mode lets you downshift more aggressively too.

The ‘direct control' speed-sensitive steering works well and is directionally precise at all speeds. The steering is light at low speeds, which helps in city traffic. As speed increases it weights up a bit, but lacks the feedback that you would expect. It doesn't take much effort to flick the 1735kg E250 around. This gives you one more reason to drive the car yourself rather than being chauffeured around.

The suspension doesn't give in to flaws in the tarmac easily and remains very composed when carrying speed through corners. With road and tyre noise kept at an all-time low, you can whisper through an entire conversation when seated in the cabin. Just the air-con vents at the rear, which seem to wheeze breeze when fully opened, tend to disturb the peace a bit. The seats, which are quite literally stitches apart from the diesel variant, offer loads of comfy support.

The E250 does well in flaunting the classy, executive in-cabin look and feel just as well as the 350 does, with not many tell-tale signs separating the classmates. And, by being Rs. 5.72 lakh cheaper than the E350, it has limbo-danced under the Rs. 50-lakh bar, making it even more tantalising to Indian eyes.