by Jay Traugott
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been a segment leader for years with millions of very satisfied customers. The German automaker is fully aware the sedan segment, in general, is not quite what it once was, but it's far from dead. In many ways, it's more competitive than ever, especially in regards to luxury sedans. The current fifth-generation E-Class, launched in 2017, is still competitive but Mercedes knew it could be even better. Why wait until the eventual sixth-generation E-Class arrives to make a host of improvements inside and out?
Introducing the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, a sleeker and more sophisticated sedan than last year's model. Not only does the new model feature some new styling, but also more technology and driver-assist features. There's even a new engine that, up until now, non-AMG owners were not able to have. Without question, Mercedes has made the 2021 E-Class a better vehicle in nearly every way possible.
Compare the 2021 E-Class to last year's model, you'll notice subtle but welcomed exterior styling changes. Perhaps the most significant are the redesigned headlights and taillights, now with standard LED lights. Multibeam LED headlights are optional. The front fascia has been revised with a sportier and more youthful look complete with a redesigned bumper cover.
Designers focused on the sedan's rear end by giving it a new bumper and trunk lid. A few new exterior colors have been added to the body paint palette, including Cirrus Silver, Graphite Grey, and Mojave Silver, while new wheel designs include aero wheels which supposedly contribute to fuel efficiency.
Mercedes knew not to mess too much with an already great interior design, but some improvements were deemed necessary. For starters, there are now new color combinations and wood trims, while the adaptive driver's seat can be adjusted to comfortably accommodate anyone's body style.
But perhaps the biggest interior update is, believe it or not, the steering wheel. Yes, really. It can be had in either all-leather or a combination of leather and wood finish. More importantly, it now features capacitive Touch Control buttons instead of optical ones. Capacitive detection has also been added to verify that the driver is fully attentive and ready to take over driving while the semi-autonomous driving system is activated. Until this year, the wheel determined whether the driver was in control by simply monitoring periodic steering inputs.
All new E-Class models receive the latest version of the MBUX infotainment system, featuring two 12.3-inch screens located side-by-side on the dash. One serves as the driver's instrument gauge while the second is the infotainment screen. Buyers have the option to tack on an augmented reality navigation system.
If you've ever desired an AMG model but didn't want to pay extra, then you're in luck. For the first time ever, you can now get an AMG engine in a non-AMG E-Class. That engine is internally called the M256 and it can be had in the E 450 for 2021. It's an advanced 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six rated at 356 horsepower paired to a 48-volt mild-hybrid system with an integrated starter-generator and a small lithium-ion battery pack. The technology is called "EQ Boost" and the goal is to boost both performance and efficiency. It also helps to minimize that pesky turbo lag and bolster high-end torque by using an electric compressor.
Performance figures for the 2021 E450 are not yet available.
Mercedes also packed in more driver-assist and safety features for 2021, including the latest version of Active Brake Assist, Distronic distance-pacing cruise control, and Blind Spot Assist. The latter now comes with an exit warning, meaning the system issues audible and visible warnings when a passenger tries to exit the vehicle as a bike or car approaches in the vehicle's blind spot.
Mercedes-Benz has yet to reveal official pricing for the 2021 E-Class though it should come closer to its late 2020 launch date. We don't expect it to change much from 2020 pricing, which begins at $54,050.
Although the competition remains fierce, the E-Class has always been one of the benchmarks. There's no reason to believe the refreshed 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan will suddenly lose its well-deserved standing as the segment leader.