The Mercedes-Benz E-Class remains a top-tier executive sedan – though those looking for fun behind the wheel may want to look elsewhere.
In prior years, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class would have had a fairly comfortable time at the top of mid-sized executive sedan pile. Alongside its two German contemporaries, the Audi A6 and the BMW 5 Series, the Mercedes E-Class comfortably ruled the roost of this particular sector of the market, with no real threat from other cars. Now, though, things have changed noticeably. The Lexus GS is still snapping away at the Benz's heels, and the likes of the Jaguar XF, Cadillac CTS and Volvo S90 can now genuinely be considered as genuine threats to the established marques. As a result, Mercedes has had to noticeably up its game with the new E-Class sedan – and, in many key areas, it's now a far more competitive vehicle. That being said, there are some irritating foibles here and there, and those looking for a more dynamic drive may be disappointed with what the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class offers this time around.
The E-Class sedan has one of the top interiors in this particular class.
Mercedes-Benz has been steadily improving the quality of the cabins in its cars as of late, so it's perhaps no real shock to hear that the E-Class sedan has one of the top interiors in this particular class. In fact, we'd go as far to say that, if Mercedes had managed to eke out a bit more room out of the trunk space, the E-Class could very well have a legitimate claim to being the provider of the top cabin in this class. Overall head and leg room is very good, with a surprisingly-slim-by-executive-sedan-standards transmission tunnel meaning there's ample space in the footwell for the passenger relegated to the narrow middle seat to place their feet. If we're being critical, we'd say six-footers may not have as much space in the back as they would in, say, a Lexus GS, but the truth is there's ample room for a majority of the people who'll end up in the driver's and passenger seats to feel comfortable in. Plenty of decently-sized storage cubbies are also dotted about the cabin. The side door bins, for instance, are usefully capacious, as is the glove box compartment. We're particularly satisfied with the dimensions of the spot under the center armrest, which is sizeable enough to swallow up a one-liter bottle of water with ease.
It's a shame, then, that the ergonomics do mildly ruin the interior's aura a tad.
Arguably the standout aspect of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class' interior, though, is the overall build quality. Everything feels well screwed together, and the quality of the leather and plastic trim pieces feel noticeably higher than what we've seen in other executive cars of this caliber. Granted, we'll have to wait until the new BMW 5 Series is launched for the 2017MY before we can make a truly definitive judgement, but – at time of writing – there are very few cars in this price bracket, let alone this segment, that can rival the Mercedes-Benz E-Class for overall fit and finish. It's a shame, then, that the ergonomics do mildly ruin the interior's aura a tad. Though the large and crisp digital displays are much appreciated (especially as, unlike in the old E-Class, they're more cohesively integrated into the dashboard design), it is a shame that the Mercedes COMAND system (Merc's alternative to BMW's iDrive and Audi's MMI infotainment devices) isn't as immediately intuitive to use as alternatives in rival cars. That said, the menu shortcut buttons and the touch capacitor sensors on the steering wheel do go some way to streamlining the system a tad. The disappointments over the control scheme, though, are overshadowed by the rather limited size of the trunk. On top of being quite meagre in terms of outright capacity (at just over 13 cubic feet, it's amongst the smallest you'll find in any vehicle in this segment), but the trunk opening is also noticeably narrow. Mercifully, you can extend the trunk space even further via the 40:20:40 split-folding rear seat backs.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class isn't the vehicle for you if you expect your mid-sized executive sedans to be sporty and fun to drive.
Let's get this straight out of the way early: the Mercedes-Benz E-Class isn't the vehicle for you if you expect your mid-sized executive sedans to be sporty and fun to drive. For sure, the Mercedes isn't totally inert when it comes to handling, and there are sportier AMG models higher up the pecking order for those who want an edgier E-Class, but it's worth pointing out that the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Jaguar XF are more ideally suited to buyers who consider themselves driving enthusiasts. Now we've got that out of the way, we can now go about declaring everything else about the Mercedes-Benz E-Class which we feel to be pretty well executed overall. Which, incidentally, is pretty much the rest of the car.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class an impressively quiet sedan that's ideal for longer journeys.
Refinement levels, for example, are right up there with the class best, with nary a hint of wind noise and only a marginal amount of tire roar entering the cabin when you're at highway speeds or travelling over rougher road surfaces. That noise insulation also, unsurprisingly, does a very good job at keeping engine rumble and transmission whine out of the cabin, thus making the Mercedes-Benz E-Class an impressively quiet sedan that's ideal for longer journeys. It's the ride quality, though, that impresses us the most about the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Though the softer ride does result in a slightly less hunkered-down driving experience (which translates most noticeably into marginally noticeable body lean in the bends), it does result in a deliciously cossetting and comfortable ride that, even on the standard suspension setup, places the Mercedes in the higher echelons of this class. Specify the optional air suspension, and you'll have yourself an E-Class that rides almost as well as comfort-centric executive sedans like the Volvo S90. Visibility's also surprisingly good by executive sedan standards. Admittedly, as with essentially every other vehicle in this class, there are some chunky pillars to contend with, but the large windshield and rear window do go some way to compensating for that. Better still, the driver's seat is positioned fairly high up by executive sedan standards, meaning it's even easier to get a clearer view of the road ahead.
It's nice to know, then, that this sole option – a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine.
The general rule of thumb with executive sedans is that they'll generally have an array of more mainstream engine options, with each offering various strengths and weaknesses. With the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, though, things are slightly different, as only one 'normal' engine is available in the range. It's nice to know, then, that this sole option – a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine – is a good match for the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. By four-cylinder engine standards, the unit is surprisingly smooth and refined, and the accessibility of the engine's torque (273 lb-ft of the stuff, from as low as 1,300 revs per minute) means you don't need to work the unit hard in order to extract the most from it. That flexibility is further reinforced when you factor in the nine-speed automatic transmission that's available on all Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan models. With so many ratios to choose from, it's fairly straightforward to keep the engine in its optimum rev range, further suiting the more laid-back characters of the engine and the E-Class. With smooth and seamless gearchanges, there's no perceptible impediment to progress either as you make your way through the gears on more open stretches of road.
The Mercedes is fairly frugal by class standards
Fuel economy's pretty decent by class standards, if perhaps not as exemplary as the rest of the powertrain. With claims of 22mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway for rear-wheel drive models (all-wheel drive E-Classes are just as efficient in the city, and sacrifice only one mile per gallon to the rear-wheel drive version on the highway), the Mercedes is fairly frugal by class standards, if not amazingly so: a Jaguar XF with a larger and more powerful six-cylinder gasoline engine, for example, can return 23mpg and 29mpg in the city and on the highway respectively. Of course, more engines are set to be introduced to the Mercedes-Benz E-Class range, with a gasoline six-cylinder, two racier AMG engines and even a gasoline-electric hybrid model. However, none of those will be available until 2017 at the very earliest, so those craving for a Mercedes-Benz E-Class now will have to make do with the 2.0-liter turbo for now.
To get leather upholstery, you'll need to spend at least $1,620.
With a starting price of $52,150, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class ranks up there as one of the most expensive vehicles in this segment. Several rivals like the Jaguar XF, Cadillac CTS, Audi A6 and Volvo S90 start out at under $50,000, and a base spec Lexus GS can be bought for as little as $46,310. Make no mistake, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is an expensive car – but you do at least get a decent amount of equipment as standard for the money. Stick with the entry-level version without and options whatsoever, and you'll have yourself a vehicle with rain-sensing windshield wipers, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, built-in navigation and power adjustment from the front seats and steering column as standard. We normally wouldn't mentioned split-folding rear seats are standard equipment but, as such a base feature isn't standard equipment on some rivals (you can't even specify split-folding rear seats on the entry-level Jaguar XF, for instance), we feel it's worth highlighting. That doesn't mean there aren't any unusual omissions, though. To get leather upholstery, you'll need to spend at least $1,620, and you'll need to fork out at least another $1,000 just to get a reversing camera. Likewise, parking sensors, blind spot assist and heated front seats are also side-lined to the options list, which is disappointing considering how expensive the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is.
Things do improve when it comes to the warranty, with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
If you do feel like specifying features on your E-Class, we reckon you should stop ticking the boxes once you've added leather seats and the $3,950 Premium 1 package. The former endows the cabin with a more premium feel whilst also making the car a more attractive used buy, whilst the latter includes a variety of features like (but not limited to) a reversing camera, blind spot monitoring, a premium sound system and front and rear parking sensors. Adding said gubbins does admittedly turn the Mercedes-Benz E-Class into a $58,000 car, but we feel those extras flesh out the E-Class's spec levels to what they should be, and are all the bits and bobs you'll likely ever need. Yes, it's pricey, but we feel it's worth it if your budget stretches that far. Things do improve when it comes to the warranty, with the Mercedes-Benz E-Class being covered for four years or 50,000 miles, depending on which one is met first. By the standards of the executive car class, it's about on par with what a majority of rivals offer, so there's nothing worth noting about its duration other than the warranty's pretty decent by industry standards.