New & Used Mercedes-Benz E-Class: In Depth
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The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a mid-size luxury car sold as a sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible, with a wide range of powertrains and performance levels available among them.
With the E-Class, Mercedes has an established benchmark for rivals seeking to rise in the luxury ranks. Those rivals include vehicles like the BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, Jaguar XF, and Audi A6.
MORE: Read our 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class review and our 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class preview
The 2016 Mercedes E-Class family in the U.S. includes the six-cylinder-powered E350 four-door luxury sedan; an E350 wagon; a high-powered E63 AMG performance sedan and wagon; an E250 BlueTec sedan with turbodiesel power; the E400 coupe, sedan, and cabriolet, all with a powerful twin-turbocharged V-6 engine; and E550 versions of the coupe and convertible, which retain their V-8 engines.
Among the safety features 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 one of the safest luxury sedans on the road.
A new version of the E-Class makes its debut for the 2017 model year. With a longer body styled like the new S-Class and E-Class, the latest E-Class bows in the U.S. in the summer of 2016, powered by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, and outfitted with the very latest in autonomous-driving and safety technology.
Tracing its roots, if not its name, back to just after World War II, the E-Class has traditionally been one of the leaders in the mid-size luxury segment. 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, with 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 tail fins, and an all-new chassis. It ran from 1968 to 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 better 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 styling theme, 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.
The current generation
When it launched, this generation gained sharper, more modern styling, and 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 added up to a refined and capable luxury car eventually offered as a coupe, cabriolet, wagon, and sedan. Initial engine offerings were a choice between the V-6-powered E350 and V-8-powered E550.
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 with fuel efficiency in the 20/29 mpg city/highway range. The E550's 4.6-liter V-8 engine generates a stout 402 horsepower with fuel efficiency as high as 18/26 mpg. 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. Those numbers are now up to 577 hp and 590 lb-ft. The transmission remains a seven-speed SpeedShift Plus MCT. All E63 AMG models have a more capable suspension package, while appearance upgrades lend the E63 AMG a more aggressive, distinguished look. Mercedes's 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. That model has since been discontinued.
For 2013, the E-Class moved forward with upgrades to the mbrace2 infotainment system, a new selection of alloy wheels, and upgraded features and options packages, as well as enhanced standard equipment levels.
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, though coupes retain the distinctive look. AMG models carried over, with newly standard all-wheel drive and an available S trim that boosted the twin-turbo V-8 to 577 horsepower.
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. The 2015 model year brought a twin-turbocharged gas V-6 in a new E400 model to replace both the twin-turbo V-8 (in the E-Class sedan) and the base V-6 (in coupes and convertibles).
Depending on body style, the E400 either replaced the E550 (sedan) or E350 (coupe and convertible) model; the wagon remained available only as an E350 or E63 S-model and with standard all-wheel drive in either version.
Updates for 2016 were minimal. They included a new Night Package, increased offerings for the mbrace connected car services, and streamlined options packages. The E400 Hybrid was dropped, and all AMG models were outfitted with higher-performance S equipment.