2011 Mercedes-Benz E Class Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
May 12, 2011

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan swings to the masculine side of the pendulum and sharpens its driving appeal in the process.

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class offers a two new models in addition to last year's Coupe and Sedan with a Wagon and Cabriolet now available, plus the tire-shredding power and capable handling of the E63 AMG.

All E-Class models share similarly aggressive styling cues, adapting them to their varying shapes with equal success. The many angles, curves, and chrome accents may prove busy for some eyes, but the overall impact is unmistakably German. The AMG model gets unique treatment to mark it out as the performance superstar.

Three engines are available across the lineup, from a peppy V-6 to a powerful V-8 to a fuel-efficient and high-torque diesel. Not all engines are available in all body styles, however; if you want a diesel, you'll have to get a Sedan; if you want a V-8, you won't find one in the Wagon. 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.

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The latest E-Class also offers more space and luxury than previous generations of the car, with a wider and longer body and more standard and available features. Build quality is tight, materials selection is mostly excellent, and quietness is a strength.

Standard and optional safety equipment are a highlight of the E-Class range, with two models earning Top Safety Pick status from the IIHS. Computer driving aids from drowsiness detection to adaptive cruise control that can brake to avoid an accident are available extras.

Though the 2011 E-Class offers plenty of standard features, including the COMAND infotainment system, vinyl seats are curiously included in the base spec. Upgrading can take many paths, from more luxury to more sport, or both, with gadgets like rear-view cameras and luxury features like massaging and heated seats among the list.

Though it's no bargain value at a minimum starting price of $48,850, the E-Class range certainly justifies its premium price with an all-around premium product.

7

2011 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Styling

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class offers a more masculine shape than previous generations, though the styling might be a bit too bold for some.

With no fewer than eight variants across the four body types, the 2011 E-Class range offers something to appeal to nearly everyone. All models carry forward the edgy, modern styling of the previous year's car, a contrast to the softer-edged, rounded E-Classes of the past. Lots of chrome accents, flares, bulges, and creases catch the eye, though what's beautiful to some may be busy to others. The look is similar to other lines in Mercedes' range, including the S-Class and GLK. The new sheetmetal that adorns the E-Class is still recognizable as a Mercedes, but the latest mid-size sedan has clearly evolved from the previous generation. Consumers likely won't be turned off by the new design despite the changes, as it still radiates Teutonic charm.

The sedan is the baseline for the E-Class, with all the other models sharing its cues, wrapping them in different packages. The Coupe rounds off the rear roofline and shortens the wheelbase; the Wagon lengthens the tail and roof line; and the Cabriolet mimics the Coupe's proportions, but swaps in a retractable soft top.

The E63 AMG is only available in Sedan form, though special orders of the Wagon may be allowed. Either way, it gets AMG badges, unique wheels, a high-performance aerodynamic treatment, and an upgraded interior as part of the package.

The interior of the new E-Class is more conservative than before, and more luxurious as well. The sharp corners and well-pressed creases inside give the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class a more traditionally luxurious look that meshes well with the new exterior. All models share similar design schemes, with wood, metal, and refined plastic surfaces throughout. Trim levels and appearance packages offer a myriad of personalization options for the look and feel of the cabin.

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8

2011 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Performance

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class combines a refined engine range with comfortable yet capable driving dynamics for a winning combination.

Across the four E-Class models there are just three engines: a 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6; a 382-horsepower, 5.5-liter V-8; and a 210-horsepower 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6. The diesel is only available in the E350 BlueTec Sedan. Both the V-6 and V-8 gasoline engines are available in the Sedan, Coupe, and Convertible, while the Wagon only offers the 3.5-liter V-6, but adds standard 4Matic all-wheel drive. The special E63 AMG gets a 518-horsepower, 6.3-liter V-8 engine, and rear-wheel drive only.

All-wheel drive is optional on the regular gasoline-powered Sedans. The V-6, revised for the new model, offers better power and fuel economy than the previous V-6, and the upgrades are immediately apparent from behind the wheel. The V-8, on the other hand, offers plenty of power and torque for the rather laid-back tuning of the chassis. The diesel is the green choice of the bunch, rated at 24/34 mpg city/highway. V-6 models score around 17/24 mpg, and V-8s rate 15/23 mpg.

All standard E-Class variants come standard with a seven-speed automatic transmission, and driver-adjustable suspensions. An air-shock system provides a range of comfort to sport ride quality for the V-8 models, while V-6s use a mechanical valve control to produce a similar range of adjustment. Driving dynamics are controlled and agile for the car's size, though tuning isn't as taut as the sportier end of BMW's or Audi's ranges until you step up to the factory-tuned AMG car, not covered here.

Regardless of the engine you choose, all versions of the E-Class lineup come with the same transmission, except for the E63 AMG, which gets a special version of the transmission that swaps in a wet-plate clutch for the torque converter, but keeps the usual planetary gear arrangement. The result is quicker shifts, more direct engagement with the engine, and higher performance.

The 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class boasts a significant improvement in fuel economy compared to previous editions. The official EPA estimates for the new sedan are that the E350 will return 18 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway, while the E550 gets a 16/24 mpg rating. Opting for the available 4MATIC AWD system drops the numbers to 16/24 mpg in the E350 and 15/23 mpg on the E550.

BMW has long held a handling edge in its battle with Benz, but Mercedes appears determined to catch up with the new Mercedes E-Class. Mercedes doesn't abandon its plush ride however.

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9

2011 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Comfort & Quality

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class's interior is excellent, nearly equaling the S-Class in quality and feel.

The Mercedes-Benz cachet has lost some ground in recent years, as cost-cutting measures dented the brand's image for quality. Carrying forward the role of last year's model, the 2011 E-Class recaptures much of the fit and feel of old and takes big steps to returning the brand to the top of the luxury class.

The 2011 E-Class offers more space and luxury than the previous generation, thanks to a slightly longer and wider platform underpinning all variants. Rear seat leg and elbow room in particular is improved, though the Coupe and Cabriolet make compromises in the name of style, while the front seats of all models offer plenty of space. Vinyl is the standard base-level upholstery, though in the U.S., most cars will be sold with leather. Wood trim, improved cup holders, a quieter cabin, and generally improved fit and finish add to the current generation E-Class's luxurious feel.

The interior of the E-Class lineup is quite comfortable, even when filled with five occupants. The 2011 E-Class offers an optional sunroof, but the design costs some headroom.

The extra volume afforded by the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class's larger exterior has to manifest itself somewhere, and much of it is gained in trunk volume, up 2.2 cubic feet to 19.1 cubic feet. That expansive rear compartment is now more accessible as well, thanks to a revised split rear-seat design. If 19.1 cubic feet doesn't quite get the Mercedes E-Class to the top of the class, it is sufficiently large for most applications. Interior storage is impressive as well on the E-Class, with cubbies accessible to both driver and passenger.

Mercedes takes serious steps with the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class to improve the sense of quality and upgrade the finishes in the sedan. A wide range of optional color schemes and upgrade packages also make it easy to get the look and feel you want.

One noteworthy improvement over some Mercedes-Benz models from earlier this decade comes in the category of cabin noise. TheCarConnection.com's editors notice that the only real noise coming into the cabin during their test drives is the sound of the engine, which growls nicely under acceleration.

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9

2011 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Safety

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class offers great safety ratings and standard safety equipment.

Mercedes-Benz prides itself for innovation in safety equipment, and the E-Class is a showcase of its abilities. A standard 11-airbag complement includes a driver knee bag in addition to the usual suspects, and an optional side airbag for rear-seat passengers can be added. The ability to detect driver drowsiness, monitor blind spots, automatic high-beam headlight control, adaptive cruise control, and a lane-departure warning system are also available.

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) hasn't yet rated the 2011 E-Class, but the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) gives the E-Class Sedan and Coupe top ratings of "good" in all categories, awarding both models its Top Safety Pick designation. The Cabriolet and Wagon weren't tested, but should offer similar protection.

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8

2011 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Features

The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class can't be considered a bargain with a minimum $48,850 MSRP, but its features list certainly justifies the price.

Mercedes will most likely tout the new Mercedes E-Class' cutting-edge safety features in its marketing material, but the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class also boasts myriad high-tech comfort features.

Standard equipment includes cruise control, interior ambient lighting, dual-zone climate control, a multi-function instrument panel display, rain-sensing wipers, and more.

Luxury and entertainment features abound in the 2011 E-Class. Luxury versions feature standard 17-inch wheels; COMAND infotainment and climate control; cruise control; sunroof; power doors, locks, and mirrors; and surprisingly, vinyl seats.

Sport versions get larger 18-inch wheels; unique gauges; and stylized exhaust outlets. Optional 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.

The E63 AMG gets a range of upgraded materials and a high-performance design theme, plus AMG badges and performance-tuned stability and traction electronics.

Two premium packages, a driver assistance package, a sport package, and a wheel package divide up most of these options into convenient groups. Many options can be had a la carte, as well, though it may be tough for those with peculiar tastes to find the exact combo they're looking for on a dealer lot.

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7

2011 Mercedes-Benz E Class

Fuel Economy

The E-Class is a luxury sedan first, but the E350 BlueTec offers a greener option.

If you're interested in keeping things clean with your new E-Class, the E350 BlueTec Sedan is the way to go. At 22 mpg city and 33 mpg highway, it's the greenest of the E-Class bunch. The V-6-powered E350s range from 17/26 mpg for the Coupe to 16/23 mpg for the Wagon. Step up to the powerful V-8 and economy drop further, to 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway for most models.

Choosing the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system instead of the standard rear-wheel drive creates a negligible penalty of 0-1 mpg on available models. Opt for the super-performance E63 AMG, however, and you'll be drinking gasoline at a rate of 13 mpg city, 20 mpg highway and 15 mpg combined--the antithesis of green.

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Styling 7
Performance 8
Comfort & Quality 9
Safety 9
Features 8
Fuel Economy 7
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