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Mercedes-Benz's E Class lineup is no longer comprised only of sedans, and maybe a wagon. It's now a full family of models--with four body styles, including Coupe and Convertible models, in addition to scorching E63 AMG Sedan and Wagon models.
Among all of these E Class variants is a design presence that's unmistakably German, with more aggressively worked sheetmetal and some crisper cues on the outside, made good with an interior that, for the most part, brings back the fine materials and trims--plus the stout, tight feel--that had previously brought luxury shoppers in droves.
The most popular models in the E Class lineup pack new powertrains under the hood for 2012, while the entire model line otherwise gets a set of relatively minor changes. Base E350 models include a completely new 3.5-liter direct-injection V-6, making 302 horsepower, while E550 models get a new 4.6-liter direct-injection V-8 that makes 402 horsepower. A 210-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 is included in BlueTec models. And at the top of the line, performance-oriented E63 AMG models get a 518-hp, 5.5-liter biturbo V-8 built by in-house tuner AMG. 4Matic all-wheel drive is also optional on much of the Sedan range (E350 and E550 models), and later in model year 2012 it's offered in Coupes for the first time.
The base V-6 in the E350 is much-improved in terms of smoothness, and regardless of the model or engine chosen, however, the E-Class range rewards the driver with adjustable suspension settings, a responsive seven-speed automatic, and improved, yet still comfortable, driving dynamics. The E63 AMG kicks the whole show up a notch, with 518 horsepower from its 6.3-liter V-8 engine, and reworked AMG-tuned suspension.
Interior space was improved with the latest E Class redesign, a couple of years ago, with better back-seat space than before. Wagon models have even more versatility, with fold-down seats, an open cargo space, and two temporary-duty, rear-facing third-row seats. Wagons also get a new power tailgate. Across the line, build quality is tight, materials selection is mostly excellent, and quietness is a strength.
The E Class family offers an impressive number of above-and-beyond active-safety features--many of them optional--to detect driver drowsiness, monitor blind spots, control high beams automatically, maintain a set following distance, and help keep you in your lane. And two of the body styles have earned Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS.
Sedans are offered in Luxury or Sport guise--a matter of appearance and taste, really. Luxury upgrades include voice-controlled navigation; Sirius and HD Radio; rearview camera; heated seats; numerous electronic safety assists; massaging seats; Bluetooth; an upgraded, 610-watt audio system; and much more.
- Four body styles--including a wagon
- Rich interior trims
- Spacious interior
- Available all-wheel drive (even on coupe)
- Fuel-efficient BlueTec diesel
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- Somewhat busy styling
- Learning curve to electronics
- Clutter of buttons
- Base vinyl upholstery