New & Used Mercedes-Benz E Class: In Depth
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The Mercedes-Benz E-Class isn't just the quintessential Mercedes-Benz sedan, but a longtime benchmark for rival luxury brands and aspiring automakers alike. Through many decades, the E-Class has been offered with a variety of models and powertrains available, ranging from turbo diesels, V-6 sedans, and powerful V-8 coupes and AMG wagons. The current 2015 model, fresh off a 2014 redesign, sets the E-Class solidly up against the Cadillac ATS, BMW 5-Series, and the Audi A6.
See our 2015 Mercedes-Benz E Class review for pricing with options, specifications, and gas mileage ratings
Recent model years of the E-Class have been included in the automaker's efforts to downsize engines, with the E400 and its turbocharged V-6 most recently replacing the E550 and its twin-turbo V-8 for 2015. And for the 2014 model year, with the E-Class' last redesign, the E350 BlueTEC was downsized to an E250 BlueTEC four-cylinder model, and the AMG variants move to standard all-wheel drive.
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; and the E400 coupe, E400 sedan, and E400 cabriolet, all with a powerful V-8 engine.
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 300E. In 1994, toward the end of the W123'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 the 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 with a choice between an E350 V-6-powered version or an E550 V-8-powered model.
A range of engine upgrades have refreshed the current E Class lineup. 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 has been replaced by a 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8 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 benefits 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 have been wiped clean, made more simple, though coupes retain the distinctive look.
AMG models carry over into the new year, with newly standard all-wheel drive and "S" trim that boost power from the twin-turbo V-8 to 577 horsepower.
Among the safety updates are a front-mounted stereo camera system 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, and several flavors of lane-keeping assist, the E-Class is primed to be one of the safest luxury sedans on the road.