New & Used Mercedes-Benz E Class: In Depth
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The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a large luxury car sold as a sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible, with a wide range of powertrains and performance levels available among them. The E-Class has long been, and remains today, a benchmark for rivals seeking to rise into the luxury ranks. Heavily updated for 2014, the E-Class carries into 2015 with some new powertrains and plenty of features to compete against the BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, and Audi A6.
See our 2015 Mercedes-Benz E-Class review for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings
As part of larger efforts to downsize powertrains and reduce fuel consumption in mainstream Mercedes-Benz models, the E-Class has recently seen several engine changes. For 2014, the BlueTEC diesel went from a 3.0-liter V-6 in the E350 to a 2.0-liter turbodiesel four in the E250 BlueTEC. The 2015 model year brought a twin-turbocharged gas V-6 in a new E400 model to replace either the twin-turbo V-8 (in the E-Class sedan) or the base V-6 (in coupes and convertibles).
At present, the Mercedes E-Class family in the U.S. includes the six-cylinder-powered E350 two-door luxury coupe; an E350 cabriolet; an E350 four-door luxury sedan; an E350 wagon; a high-powered E63 AMG performance sedan; an E250 BlueTEC sedan with turbodiesel power; an E400 Hybrid sedan; the E400 coupe, E400 sedan, and E400 cabriolet, all with a powerful twin-turbocharged V-6 engine; and E550 versions of the coupe and convertible, which retain their V-8 engines.
Tracing its roots, if not its name, back to just after World War II, the E-Class has established itself as one of the leaders in the large/mid-size luxury segment, competing with cars like the BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, and Lexus ES range. Priced between $48,000 and $65,000 base excluding the AMG range, the E-Class is competitive in its segment on value as well as features.
Eight generations of E-Class cars have graced the road, starting with the Mercedes 'Ponton' or W120, its internal designation. Built from 1953-1962, this car set the stage for the models to follow, its abundant interior space and mid-size exterior dimensions. Power ramped up over the model run, and a roadster was introduced in 1955. The second generation 'Fintail' or W110, saw the introduction of tail fins, but more importantly, a six-cylinder engine (up from four), front disc brakes and an automatic transmission. Again engine sizes grew, up to 2.3-liters in the 230, as did power and performance. Next came the 'Stroke-8', or W114/W115, which included both four- and six-cylinder engines, a new, elegantly simple exterior design that canned the tailfins, and an all-new chassis. It ran from 1968-1976.
In 1977, the 'Wedge' or W123 hit the streets, bringing a hint of the larger Mercedes 450SEL to the design, along with safety improvements such as a more protected fuel-tank location. The W123 was also the first E-Class to get fuel injection, then a relatively new technology. When the Wedge ended its run in 1986, the W124 arrived, sporting the 'E' name for the first time. Models were badged with numbers reflecting engine displacement, followed by the letter 'E', i.e. the 3.0-liter 300E. In 1994, toward the end of the W124's run, the E was switched to the front of the name, officially creating the E-Class. The 'Four-Eyed' W210 followed in 1996, bringing with it the seeds of the next two generations of E-Class styling. Safety, performance, and size all increased with this generation, which also saw the first high-performance AMG-tuned and -branded E-Class, the E55, in 1999. The seventh-generation E-Class, the 2003 W211, saw a rounder, more aerodynamic theme introduced to the styling, with a range of V-6 and V-8 engines powering the lineup. A new station wagon was introduced in 2004, and 4Matic all-wheel drive was once again available.
The W211 was replaced in 2009 with today's W212, which gained sharper, more modern styling, advanced safety features including Night View Assist, Attention Assist, Adaptive Main Beam Assist, seven standard airbags, and automatic emergency braking. A more rigid unibody, up-rated engines, improved fuel efficiency thanks to direct injection, and automatically adjusting shock absorbers all add up to a refined and capable luxury sedan. Coupe, cabriolet, wagon, and sedan models are all available, each offered initially with a choice between an E350 V-6-powered version or an E550 V-8-powered model.
A range of engine upgrades has filtered through the current E-Class lineup since. The E350's 3.5-liter V-6 engine delivers 302 horsepower and fuel efficiency in the 21/32 mpg city/highway range. The E550's 4.6-liter V-8 engine generates a stout 402 horsepower, with fuel efficiency in the 20/30 mpg city/highway range. All cars are available with a seven-speed automatic. The E63 AMG's previous 451-horsepower, 6.2-liter V-8 engine was replaced by a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 initially rated at 518 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, but is still mated to a seven-speed SpeedShift Plus MCT transmission. All E63 AMG models get a more capable suspension package, while appearance upgrades lend the E63 AMG a more aggressive, distinguished look. Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is available on most models.
A new E400 Hybrid Sport Sedan model also made its debut in 2012 as a 2013 model, featuring a 302-horsepower gasoline V-6 engine paired with a 27-horsepower hybrid unit.
For 2013, the E-Class moves forward with no other major mechanical changes, though upgrades to the new mbrace2 infotainment system, a new selection of alloy wheels, and upgraded features and options packages, as well as enhanced standard equipment levels, keep the car fresh until the 2014 model-year E-Class arrives with a more thorough refresh.
In 2014, the E-Class benefitted from myriad changes, including a new nose with cleaner headlamp styling, a new hood, and a choice of grilles--one with the three-pointed star logo, one with simple chrome bars, as Benz does with its C Class. The creases stamped into the rear fenders of the sedan were wiped clean, made more simple, though coupes retain the distinctive look. AMG models carried over, with newly standard all-wheel drive and "S" trim that boost power from the twin-turbo V-8 to 577 horsepower, and all-wheel drive standard.
Among the safety updates are a front-mounted stereo camera system that enables three-dimensional imaging of road obstacles and traffic at distances up to 55 yards, with overall system effectiveness stretching out to 550 yards. Together with driver drowsiness detection systems, forward-collision mitigation systems, braking assistance, radar cruise control, and several flavors of lane-keeping assist, the E-Class is primed to be one of the safest luxury sedans on the road.
The 2015 E-Class sees some engines shuffled around with the introduction of a gas-only E400 model that uses a twin-turbocharged V-6. Depending on body style, the E400 either replaces the E550 (sedan) or E350 (coupe and convertible) model; the wagon remains available only as an E350 or E63 S-model and with standard all-wheel drive in either version.