by Adam Lynton
Revealed at the 2016 Detroit Motor Show, the fifth-generation (or tenth if you start from 1953's W120) of the Mercedes E-Class was brought in line with the German marque's sedan lineup following updates to the smaller C-Class and larger S Class. Almost three years later it remains one of the most handsome sedans on the road.
As is the case with all modern cars, its bigger and roomier than its predecessor – but also lighter, thanks to a mix of aluminum and high-strength steel in its construction. Most importantly, it comes packed with technology, from semi-autonomous driving features to a new glass-faced dual-screen dashboard.
In the US, the base model is a E300 utilizing a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, but Mercedes offers an E-Class for everyone, in coupe, cabrio, wagon and sedan bodystyles, with a range of turbocharged four, six, and eight-cylinder engines, rear- and all-wheel drive, and AMG models delivering supercar performance.
What you don't get is an all-alloy four-cylinder turbo-diesel in the shape of the 200d and slightly more potent 220d – which is the car I pottered around the UK in on a recent visit. Not to rub it in, but this is a superb powerplant.
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
|E300 4MATIC Sedan||
2.0-liter Turbo Inline-4 Gas
|E400 4MATIC Sedan||
3.0-liter Twin-Turbo V6 Gas
The entry-level E200d uses a turbocharged diesel 2.0-liter four-pot rated at 150 hp and 266 lb-ft of torque. There's also a E220d rated at 194 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque – both of which return an impressive 61.4 mpg on the highway - while the E400d utilizes a twin-turbo six-cylinder delivering 340 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque (returning up to 48.7 mpg in the process).
If you're looking at the sedan in the US, the E300 is the base model. Power here comes from a turbo-four gasoline unit rated at 241 horsepower (at 5,500 rpm) and 273 lb-ft of torque (at 1,300 rpm). Move up to the E450 and you get a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 with 362 hp and AWD (only the E450 Coupe is available as a RWD). The E53 ups the power to 429 hp, and at the top of the tree is the E63 S super sedan powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8 with a whopping 603 hp and 627 lb-ft of torque. All engines come paired to a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Focusing on the base models, the E300 RWD returns 22/30/25 mpg city/highway/combined. With 4Matic (Mercedes speak for AWD) that goes down to 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined.
According to the spec sheet, the E220d 4Matic takes 7.5 seconds to sprint from 0-62 mph, topping out at 149 mph. While that's obviously not quick, it's impressive for a large, efficient sedan. In any case, owners are more interested in having a smooth, quiet ride, which is where the E-Class excels. And if you really must be first off the lights, you can always opt for the E53 or E63 S.
The E300 is over a second quicker to 62 mph, with the 273 lb-ft of torque coming in at 1,300 rpm, which should give drivers some nice early acceleration. In the diesel, the 295 lb-ft kicks in at 1,600 rpm, providing a similar sense of propulsion from a standstill.
Unless you live to hustle cars around, the base E-Class is really all you need. Refined, relaxed, and with a level of serenity courtesy of the optional air-suspension that is only surpassed by the likes of Rolls-Royce, the German sedan floats along the highway composed and controlled. Dubbed Air Body Control, the air suspension uses coil springs with a pair of gas-pressured chambers that inflate and deflate in milliseconds reacting to sensor readings of the road ahead, raising the ride height to get more ground clearance, and lowering the car for highway driving to improve aeros and economy.
Even with the 19-inch wheels courtesy of the AMG Line, the ride never felt unsettled even over weather-worn inner city roads.
The 9G-Tronic plus nine-speed automatic shifts smooth and true, ensuring the ideal spot of the powerband is maintained. It also reacts sharply to manual shifts of the steering wheel-mounted paddles if you so desire, and holds lower gears for longer in the sportier modes coupled with seamless downshifts when you get on the brakes.
A range of driving modes: Comfort, Economy, Sport and Sport + alter steering, throttle response and damping. The sportiest setting adds artificial weight to the light-touch (bordering on numb) steering and reduces body roll in the corners, but drivers will want to leave the E-Class in Comfort mode to keep the ride as refined as possible.
Putting my foot down is a requisite of the job and the E-Class responded with plenty of grip and a nice bark at medium to high speeds. Boasting a curb weight of 1,775 kg, the E-Class has dropped some 100 kg in the new generation. That doesn't make the car agile by any means – the 5 Series wins out here - but it certainly aids the ride quality which is second to none in the luxury sedan segment.
So while the E-Class doesn't encourage spirited driving, if the feeling grabs you or when you simply have to get somewhere in a hurry, the Benz has got your back.
In a city flooded with beautiful exotics, the handsome E-Class didn't look out of place in the UK capital. Easily one of the best-looking sedans on the road, Merc's mid-size offering could be mistaken for a C-Class from a distance, but it's fairer to call it a shrunken S-Class with a long hood and sloped roofline that leads to a short trunk.
The new E-Class is 43 mm longer than its predecessor at 4,923 mm, 6 mm lower (1,468 mm), and 2 mm narrower (1,852 mm). The 2,939-mm wheelbase is also 65 mm longer.
The AMG Line adds AMG bodytyling and 19-inch five-twin-spoke alloys in titanium grey that combine to give the civilized sedan a smattering of sporty styling. The tri-star badge comes mounted on the hood, while LED high-performance headlights work as well as they look. Privacy glass gives the sedan an added whiff of importance.
Stepping out from his 1978 Corvette Stingray and into the cabin of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class 40 years its junior, my father felt like he was in the cockpit of a spaceship. The interior here is a modern marvel, awash with stitched leather, gnarled aluminum controls, black ash wood and metallic weaves, with the dash dominated by a pair of 12.3-inch display screens.
From the heated front seat, which is controlled by chunky buttons mounted on the door that really should be hidden away, the driver is faced with a lovely flat-bottomed leather-wrapped three-spoke AMG steering wheel with touch-sensitive pads keeping the face relatively undisturbed.
64 shades of ambient lighting are on offer that adds a wow factor to the cabin after dark and the panoramic roof provides plenty of natural light during the day. A cabin fragrance dispenser ensures all your senses are looked after in the luxury Benz.
First-time Benz drivers will wonder how to get the car going. In place of a shift lever sits a rotary wheel nestled below a touchpad, both of which are used to control the COMAND infotainment system. Engaging drive and reverse is done via the column-mounted shifter, which is a novel approach but one that becomes second nature after a couple of drives.
For 2018, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are welcome additions to COMAND, which also features 3D map display and voice control.
An optional Burmester surround system boasts 23 speakers and 3D sound, but the standard system is more than adequate. Unless you're an audiophile, there are options more worthy of your cash.
Despite shortening and ever so slightly narrowing the E-Class, the longer wheelbase means passengers have more room between the axles resulting in plenty of legroom. Headroom in the rear is more than adequate and while seating three adults in the rear is fine for most journeys, they'll feel a bit tight on long road trips.
The enlarged E-Class provides plenty of room for storage. The central cubby offers front passengers decent stowage space, while a large tray ahead of the multimedia controller is where you can keep and wirelessly charge mobile phones (with the requisite capability).
At 19 cubic feet, the boot is the largest in its class and its square shape provides a nice loading area. The boot lid rises high, making access that much easier, and split-folding 40:20:40 seats make carrying larger loads a breeze. (Note, these are optional on UK-spec cars).
In the UK, prices start at £35,935 for E 220 d SE, moving to £41,970 for the AMG Line.
In the US, the E-Class E300 4Matic starts from $56,000 (with the RWD E300 starting from $53,500). Add the AMG Line for $650, the $1,000 panoramic roof, $1,560 19-inch wheels, the Warmth & Comfort Package with Premium Package ($4,200 for the pair), and one of the available driver or assistance packages and you're looking at close to $67,000.
Step up to the E450 4Matic and you're looking at a base price of $59,950, while the AMG E53 starts from $72,550, and the AMG E63 S from $104,400.