- Any body you want
- Fab cabin
- ...with lots of room
- All-wheel drive, even on coupe
- Hybrid or diesel, your choice
- Busy angularity works on coupe, less so on sedan
- COMAND's futzy interface
- Some button clutter on the console
- Base sedan wears vinyl upholstery
Better handling and interiors put the Mercedes-Benz E-Class back in benchmark status; a passel of new engines brings fuel economy to new heights.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class family of cars has long been a benchmark for luxury vehicles--whether we're talking about the sedan and wagon, or the short-wheelbase coupe and convertible spin-offs, or the torrid E63 AMG variants. It hasn't always been the athletic rival for BMW or Audi in the segment, but with this generation, the E-Class' road manners have grown more attentive to the driver's needs.
The E-Class is styled with unmistakable German presence, but in this case, the two-doors get more out of the bargain. The tough, angular details faired into otherwise conventional silhouettes are the direct opposite of the softly rounded, goggle-eyed look of the prior generation of E-Class. It's a flip-flop meant to restore some masculine appeal, and it probably does just that--but it leaves the sedans in particular with too many flourishes, cuts, and crests stamped into their sides. (It's ironed out almost entirely for the 2014 model year, if you find this version just too busy.) The E-Class' cabin fared better, especially after a recent refashioning, and the fine materials and trims we've come to associate with Mercedes are in full effect, as is the solidly constructed feel of most of the controls. It takes to expressive use of trim very well: the standard vinyl and wood can be upgraded to supple leather, aluminum or carbon-look trim, or furniture-grade wood.
A huge range in drivetrain offerings almost guarantees there's an E-Class for any point on the economy/performance curve. Three of the drivetrains are new in the past two model years. The basic E350 gasoline engine now has direct injection and makes 302 horsepower, while the 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8 in the E550 throbs with 402 horsepower. 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. Mercedes' 4Matic all-wheel drive is also optional on much of the Sedan range (standard on U.S.-market E550 models), and it's offered in Coupes for the first time. Any version accelerates to 60 mph in under 7 seconds--with the AMG versions throttling the pavement into submission into as few as 4.1 seconds.
Two green options confront conscientious buyers, too: we've only sampled the new E400 Hybrid by proxy in the S400 Hybrid, but we've rolled up hundreds of miles in the E350 BlueTEC diesel, testing its 600-mile-plus range. The choice between the two should factor mostly on whether you post more city or highway miles, respectively.
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 twin-turbo 5.5-liter V-8 (up to 550 hp with the optional performance package), 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.
2013 Mercedes-Benz E Class
The E-Class gets a little overwhelmed by angles in front, but the cabin's unruffled, and in some optional versions, decadent.
With so many variations among the different body styles, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class still manages to assemble a family look for all its citizens. It's a look that works more effectively on the dramatically styled two-doors than it does on the traditional four-door sedan.
The E-Class, over the past two generations, has become Mercedes' styling lab. First it swapped its headlamps for goggle eyes and more gently radiating curves--then it ditched that look entirely for the current look, bristling with hard edges and deep sculpting and angular intersections across the face. It's a counter-reformation that looks fairly busy on the coupe, but more appropriate than on the sedan, which doesn't come off as elegant as it has in the past, even as a wagon. What's busy to us may be beautiful to some, but our take is the 2013 E-Class has more than its fair share of chrome accents, flares, bulges, and creases.Somehow it plays better on the two-doors and their abbreviated wheelbase. The Coupe rounds off the rear roofline and the Cabriolet mimics its proportions, but swaps in a retractable soft top.
The high-performance E63 AMG is easy to pick out from a distance, thanks to its unique wheels and special lower-body aerodynamic treatment (plus an upgraded interior). It was previously only available in Sedan form, but for the 2012 model year it's also offered as a Wagon.
Compared to the previous generation of the E Class, the interior of the current car feels a little more conservative, yet also modernist and less curvaceous than some of the automaker's other efforts. Sharp corners and well-pressed creases inside give the Mercedes-Benz E-Class a more traditionally luxurious look that meshes well with the new exterior. About the only thing that isn't so welcoming is the sea of matte-plastic buttons for audio and climate controls--in addition to the COMAND interface that covers infotainment.
All models include wood, metal, and refined plastic trims, which you can further dress up through a long list of customization options.
2013 Mercedes-Benz E Class
Base versions can feel soft, but talk about overcompensating: the E63 AMG's strong V-8 changes the complexion of the car entirely.
The E-Class family of cars includes a four body styles, and four drivetrains--two of them new in the 2012 model year and one new for 2013. So it's little shock that there's an amazing variety in tuning and road feel among the constituents.
The softly sprung manners of the standard E350 hardly feel related to those of the E63 AMG four-door. And yet, that's the flavor most drivers will experience, via the combination of the Mercedes 3.5-liter V-6 and seven-speed automatic found in the sedan, wagon, coupe, and cabriolet. New in 2012, the engine now features direct injection and puts out 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque. It's a worthwhile improvement over the previous engine in smoothness, with a strong powerband all the way up to redline and plenty of torque down low.
This E-Class comes in the sedan and wagon in either luxury or sport trim; the latter is soft and laden with lean in cornering, even though it's quick to accelerate to 60 mph (in under 7 seconds for any body style). Top speed settles in at 130 mph. Sport tuning firms up the ride without letting stiffness or bigger 18-inch wheels remove the polish from the E-Class' demeanor.
All-wheel drive is an option on this sedan and the coupe, standard on the wagon, and unavailable on the convertible; it's only a slight acceleration and fuel-economy penalty. It's now standard on the E550 sedan.
On the E550, a new 4.6-liter direct-injection V-8 makes 402 horsepower and 443 pound-feet of torque. It's offered in the sedan, coupe, and convertible body styles. It's a much more evocative performer, with top speed rising to 155 mph and with 0-60 mph times falling to as low as 4.9 seconds on the coupe.
A 210-horsepower, 3.0-liter turbo-diesel V-6 is offered only in the rear-wheel-drive sedan, and it's an ultra-long-distance hauler--if that's what you're in the market for. In its last year before it gets replaced by a smaller-displacement diesel, the six-cylinder can hit 60 mph in about 7.2 seconds, according to Mercedes, and tops out at 130 mph. We've admired its relatively smooth drivetrain and been astonished by its well over 600-mile cruising range on a single tank of diesel. And in other respects, it's a reasonably assertive luxury sedan, with the latest E-Class' improved steering feel carrying over intact with the green drivetrain, and few other noticeable changes in effect.
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.
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. It's rear-wheel-drive only for 2013--but big changes are coming for the 2014 model year. We've had the least amount of driving time in these versions and in the new E400 Hybrid, which pairs the V-6 with a 27-hp electric motor, start/stop, and lithium-ion batteries, just as in the S400 Hybrid. For a more comprehensive look at all the changes that have come to the drivetrains since our last in-depth drive, look ahead to our road test of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
2013 Mercedes-Benz E Class
Comfort & Quality
A recent revamp gave the E-Class an interior more fitting for a Mercedes, and rear-seat space is good in the four-door versions.
The E-Class nameplate covers two very different vehicles, with the sedan and wagon sharing most of their interior space and functionality, and coupes and convertibles closer to each other in having less of both. In any of the four, the return to form for the interior's a welcome one: the plush interior fittings and classy trim that's available feel like the benchmarks that Mercedes-Benz long has been famous for.
There's more interior room in any E-Class than before, since this version rides on a wider and longer platform than before. The sedan and wagon are particularly roomy, on par with the BMW 5-Series by the spec sheet, visually a little more spacious, and much more open than, say, the Jaguar XF. Front seats on the base versions can seem pretty pedestrian, in the way they're constructed--but AMG versions are grippy and multi-adjustable in myriad ways.
Back-seat leg and elbow room have improved in the E-Class, more noticeably in the sedan and wagon. The Coupe and Cabriolet make big compromises in the name of style, though it's still possible to fit a pair of adults in the back seats without too many complaints, so long as the trip is a short one. It helps if the passengers are, too.By the numbers, the latest E-Class sedans got a significant boost in trunk volume, and the back seat itself is easy to access and flip forward for more space, thanks to a split-folding design. Wagons are of course the most versatile for cargo, and they include a couple of temporary-use, rear-facing third-row seats. Even coupes and cabriolets have a reasonable luggage hold, with enough room for a couple of roll-aboard bags.
Wood trim, improved cup holders, a quieter cabin, and generally improved fit and finish add to the current generation E Class's luxurious feel. Vinyl remains the standard base-level upholstery, though in the U.S., most cars will be sold with leather.
Interior appointments are rich across the entire model line, although the key interface difference between Sedans/Wagons and Coupes/Convertibles is that the Sedans and Wagons get a column-mounted gear selector while Coupes and Convertibles get a center-console-mounted one.
Mercedes-Benz significantly improved the trims and finishes in the current E Class models in their last redesign, and they stand up well against any of its luxury rivals. In the richest designer trims, the E-Class carries off a much more elegant, expensive look than it does in its plainer, standard-issue form. It's also a subdued place to ride, no matter which non-AMG drivetrain you choose--cabin noise, especially, is perhaps the best in this class.
2013 Mercedes-Benz E Class
There's never been more standard or optional safety equipment on the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but some crash data is missing.
No crash-test scores are yet available, but the 2013 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a rolling testament to the company's quest to stay at the forefront of safety technology.
On the testing front, the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) hasn't yet rated the latest E Class, but has awarded it five stars for rollover resistance--which it figures out with a mathematical formula. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has tested both two-door Coupe and four-door Sedan versions of the E-Class, and both achieved top 'good' ratings in all categories, to achieve the Top Safety Pick accolade. The Cabriolet and Wagon weren't tested, but should offer similar protection. The IIHS' new small-overlap test has not been performed on any E-Class.
The E-Class now comes standard with up to eleven airbags (on sedans and wagons, including a driver-side knee airbag). Side airbags for rear-seat passengers are an option, as are a rearview camera and parking sensors, while Bluetooth is standard. Beyond those now-conventional features, the E-Class has been one of the first vehicles to offer some of the newest safety technology, some of it more useful than others. Among the available safety features, depending on body style, are Attention Assist, which keeps a camera eye on attentiveness and suggests a coffee stop when it senses a drowsy driver; blind-spot monitors; adaptive cruise control; automatic headlamps; and night vision.
2013 Mercedes-Benz E Class
It's hard to imagine a driver not satisfied by the 2013 E-Class' options and features, but the pricetag rises quickly from a high base.
Luxury and infotainment features are hard to miss in the 2013 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and there are more of them for the new model year.
As before, every E-Class comes standard with the usual power windows, locks, and mirrors; cruise control; dual-zone climate control; rain-sensing wipers; ambient lighting; an AM/FM/XM/CD player with USB port; HD radio; Bluetooth; and a multi-function instrument display. All E-Class vehicles add the Mercedes mbrace2 smartphone connectivity suite, which integrates streaming audio via Pandora, and a host of other connected-car features.
E350 sedans come in either Sport or Luxury trim. The Sport versions have 18-inch wheels, distinctive exhaust outlets, and their own gauge package. The Luxury versions roll on 17-inch wheels, and get a standard sunroof and the COMAND infotainment controller--but come with synthetic upholstery, not leather.
Wagons also get a power tailgate and rear air suspension--plus the short-sting, rear-facing third-row seat.
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. 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.
Stepping up to the top-of-the-line E63 AMG gets you upgraded materials throughout, plus AMG badges and performance-tuned stability and traction electronics--in addition to a high-performance transmission and the AMG-built 518-hp V-8. Adding its Performance Package lifts output to 550 horsepower. Wagons come standard with a panoramic sunroof.
2013 Mercedes-Benz E Class
If you're shopping for the most efficient E-Class of them all, the turbodiesel E350 BlueTEC is the pick--but there's a new Hybrid as well.
In the 2012 model year, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class gained a new drivetrain lineup. Not only did it add direct injection to its V-6 and V-8 offerings, but it also adopted a new Hybrid version that shares the same gas-electric system grafted on the S400 Hybrid. The result is better gas mileage across the board, with the diesel E-Class still an option for those looking for even better highway fuel economy.
The Mercedes-Benz E350 badge applies to all four body styles, and as such, fuel economy varies widely. On the standard sedan, it's an EPA-rated 20 miles per gallon city, 30 miles per gallon highway, or 23 mpg combined. Stepping through the all-wheel-drive versions of the four-door, the wagon, and the two-door coupe can bring mileage down to 19/27 mpg, or 22 mpg combined in the AWD wagon.
The E350 BlueTEC turbodiesel comes only in the sedan body style, and it posts the highest highway numbers in the lineup. It's rated at 22/32 mpg, or 25 mpg combined. This year's Hybrid addition grabs the best city figures of the E-Class family, though: it's pegged at 24/30 mpg, or 26 mpg combined.
Among the V-8-powered E550 Benzes, the Cabriolet fares worst at 16/25 mpg, or 19 mpg combined. The E550 Coupe is best at 17/27 mpg, or 21 mpg combined.
Finally, if you're even reading this section, you probably aren't considering the high-performance E63 AMG models. Rated as low as 15 mpg city, 23 highway, they're guzzlers, albeit very rewarding ones.