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.
New for the 2017 model year is a revamped E-Class sedan, built on a new platform and tooled up with just a single powertrain for the new model year. Other body styles are expected to carry over for a model year as the new E-Class rolls out worldwide.
With the E-Class, Mercedes has an established benchmark for rivals seeking to rise in the luxury ranks. Those rivals include vehicles such as the BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS, Jaguar XF, and Audi A6.
MORE: Read our 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class review
The new E-Class brings a familiar look to the table, but it's not a carry-over design. Instead it owes a lot to the current C-Class and S-Class, with a long nose and a short decklid emphasizing its sporty intent.
The E-Class has grown in its latest edition. It now measures 193.8 inches long, or about 1.7 inches longer than the predecessor. The wheelbase is also up by 2.6 inches, to 115.7 inches.
As with the other Mercedes sedans, the interior is the showpiece. Here it's a direct homage to the cabin in the S-Class, with a large horizontal screen at the center of the dash for infotainment systems. Most versions have conventional dials for gauges, but a second 12.3-inch screen can be fitted in the gauge cluster. The steering wheel has touch-sensitive surfaces that respond to touch and swipe gestures, giving the driver easy control over the infotainment system, which can also be controlled by voice commands and by a touch-sensitive puck on the center console.
For the 2017 model year a single powertrain will go on sale, at first. It's a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. A 9-speed automatic and rear-wheel drive are standard, though all-wheel drive will be available.
AMG-powered models are due to arrive by the end of 2016. Plug-in hybrid and diesel models have been put on the back burner, and may not arrive in the U.S. until the end of the decade.
A steel-spring suspension is standard, but most models will come with one of two kinds of adaptive suspension. The simpler version adds adaptive air dampers; the more complex version gets three-stage air springs with variable control over ride height and body control, all selectable by the driver.
These updates make the new E-Class a formidable performer, but without a doubt, its calling card will be in its piloted-driving hardware and software. Under the aegis of Drive Pilot, Mercedes fits the new E-Class with features like adaptive cruise control that can stop and follow cars on the road ahead at speeds of up to 130 mph. The autonomous Steering Assist feature also works up to 130 mph, when conditions are ideal, and can actively intervene to prevent an accident at up to 81 mph, even if road lines are unclear or non-existent, such as at a construction site. Finally, automatic lane changing for highway driving has also been included.
Rolling out over time in the new E-Class are more advanced technologies, including a remote parking function that lets drivers move the car into a garage or parking spot via a mobile app. In the future, the E-Class also will be fitted with a vehicle-to-object (V2X) communications system that exchanges information via a built-in mobile-phone transponder with other vehicles that are appropriately equipped. The result: real-time, car-to-car communication that could help mitigate accidents or avoid them entirely.
Mercedes-Benz E-Class history
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, introduced not only tail fins, but also 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, which was 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 all-wheel drive was available once again. The W211 was replaced in 2009 with today's W212.
Mercedes E-Class, 2010-2016
The most recent E-Class family was launched in the 2010 model year as a sedan, with coupe, convertible, and wagon models added over time.
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, uprated engines, improved fuel efficiency thanks to direct injection, and automatically adjusting shock absorbers all added up to a refined and capable luxury car.
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 delivered 302 horsepower with fuel efficiency in the 20 mpg city, 29 mpg highway range. The E550's 4.6-liter V-8 engine generated a stout 402 hp with fuel efficiency as high as 18 mpg city, 26 mpg highway.
The E63 AMG's previous 451-hp, 6.2-liter V-8 engine was replaced by a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8 initially rated at 518 hp and 516 pound-feet of torque. Those numbers eventually rose to 577 hp and 590 lb-ft. All E63 AMG models were equipped with a more capable suspension package, while appearance upgrades lent the E63 AMG a more aggressive, distinguished look. Mercedes's 4Matic all-wheel-drive system was available on most models and a 7-speed automatic transmission was standard on all models.
A new E400 Hybrid Sport Sedan model made its debut in 2012 as a 2013 model, featuring a 302-hp gasoline V-6 engine paired with a 27-hp hybrid unit. That model was discontinued before the sedan was replaced in 2017.
For 2013, the E-Class moved forward with upgrades its 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 benefited from a handful of 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 saw 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 telematic car services, and streamlined options packages. The E400 Hybrid was dropped, and all AMG models were outfitted with higher-performance S equipment.
By the time the new generation began to roll out, the 2016 Mercedes E-Class family in the U.S. included the V-6-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 retained their V-8 engines.
Among the class-leading safety features on this generation of E-Class were a front-mounted stereo camera system that enabled 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, these features made the E-Class one of the safest luxury sedans on the road.