The Mercedes-Benz E-Class delivers elegant comfort and abundant luxury in a full range of models. The quintessential Mercedes-Benz, the E-Class lineup ranges from a thrifty diesel engine to a super-performance 577-horsepower AMG V8, with three stops in between. Body-style choices include a sedan and a wagon, or coupe and cabriolet (convertible). Rear-wheel drive and 4MATIC four-wheel drive are available.
The lineup includes the E250 BlueTec (diesel) sedan; E350 sedan or wagon; E400 sedan, wagon, coupe, or cabriolet; E550 coupe or cabriolet; and E63 AMG sedan or wagon. The E400 Hybrid has been dropped.
With an E-Class, you get unmistakable German presence that’s both elegant and sporty. Not only is the E-Class a comfortable midsize luxury motorcar, it can even be enjoyable to drive.
Inside the roomy cabin are excellent materials and trim elements: the kind long associated with the brand. Controls feel solid. Standard leatherette upholstery and wood can be upgraded to supple leather and aluminum or carbon-look trim.
The 3.5-liter, direct-injected gasoline V6 that comes in the E350 produces 302 horsepower and can accelerate from zero to 60 mph in 7 seconds. The 3.0-liter twin-turbo E400 V6 makes 329 horsepower. The 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8 in the E550 whips up 402 horsepower. Topping the line, the E63 AMG’s 5.5-liter biturbo V8 now generates 577 horsepower and is capable of accelerating from zero to 60 in 4 seconds. A 7-speed automatic transmission is standard.
Top fuel-economy choice is the E250 diesel, which loses a little acceleration but is EPA-rated at 42 mpg in highway driving. The 2.1-liter BlueTec four-cylinder makes 195 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. Even the performance-focused gasoline versions include fuel-saving technologies like Eco mode and engine stop/start.
Numerous active-safety features can monitor blind spots, detect driver drowsiness, automatically control high beams, maintain distance from vehicle ahead, and help you stay in your lane. A stereo camera system enables 3-D imaging of traffic and road obstacles ahead.
Every E-Class gets the mbrace2 smartphone connectivity suite. For 2016, mbrace adds three pay upgrade options: mbrace Secure, Concierge, and Entertain. For 2016, AMG models get S equipment that was formerly optional.
Two body styles have earned Top Safety Pick+ status from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, but the E-Class gets a disappointing four-star overall crash-test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
E250 BlueTec Sport or Luxury Sedan ($52,650) includes the diesel engine, MB-Tex leatherette upholstery, power front seats, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth, power-adjustable steering wheel, foglamps, sunroof, and eight-speaker audio, and 17-inch wheels. E250 also comes with 4Matic all-wheel drive ($55,150).
E350 Sport or Luxury Sedan ($53,100) holds the 302-horsepower, 3.5-liter gasoline V8 engine. Sport models include sport exhaust tips, side sills, 18-inch wheels, and distinct gauges. E350 also comes with all-wheel drive ($59,900).
E400 Sport Sedan ($63,100) gets the twin-turbo 329-horsepower V6 and 18-inch wheels, as do the Coupe ($54,200) and Cabriolet ($62,250). All-wheel drive is available for Coupe ($56,700) and Sedan ($65,600).
E550 Coupe ($60,300) and Cabriolet ($68,700) include a 402-horsepower, 4.7-liter V8.
AMG E63 S 4Matic Sedan ($101,700) and Wagon ($104,300) get a 577-horsepower biturbo V8, AMG-tuned suspension, and 19-inch wheels.
Up to eleven airbags are standard in sedans and wagons, including a driver’s knee airbag. Rear side airbags are optional. So are a rearview camera and parking sensors. An available surround-view camera shows obstacles in any direction, at parking lot speeds.
Each of the four body styles is handsome and imposing, but familiar and fairly conservative. Several trim levels come with either a Sport or Luxury styling theme. Luxury models have a three-bar grille and hood-mounted â€œstarâ€ logo. On Sport models, a big Mercedes-Benz star is built into a twin-louver grille. Principal design elements include bodyside creases, elegant yet sporty lower side trim, LED running lights, and LED taillamps. Coupes display a graceful roofline, which makes the car appear lower.
Bold detail work injects plenty of personality into each E-Class. For instance, the twin headlights merge into a single unit. On two-door models, LED light bars separate the two and serve as running lights. Coupes and convertibles have more prominently flared wheels. Picking out the high-performance E63 AMG S is easy, courtesy of unique wheels and special lower-body aero treatment.
Cabins manage to be both conservative and modern. Sharp corners and creases help convey a traditionally luxurious appearance. All E-Class models include wood, metal, and refined plastic trim pieces, creating a classy look with laudable fit and finish. Cabins are among the quietest in this vehicle class.
In addition to plush elements and fabulous seats, sedans and wagons offer loads of space; coupes and convertibles, less so. Sedans seat five adults in comfort, with excellent head and leg space in both front and rear, despite the standard sunroof. Back-seat entry is easy.
Coupes and convertibles hold four, with comparatively big back seats, but getting there can be a squeeze. Legroom could be better, but both seats are comfortable. Wagons are even more versatile, with fold-down seats, plus two rear-facing third-row seats available for temporary duty.
AMG models get upgraded interiors with highly-adjustable sport seats, alcantara trim, aluminum pedals, and a flat-bottom steering wheel.
Console buttons are too numerous for easy use, and the interface of Mercedes-Benz’s COMAND can be troublesome. Small-items storage is good, including a two-tier glovebox.
Depending on model, an E-Class might focus on luxury, fuel economy, or performance. With its strong engine torque, the efficient E250 BlueTec diesel sedan is satisfying and engaging, yielding a light, responsive feel most of the time. Smooth power delivery is the byword for the mainstream engine, the 3.5-liter E350 V6. Still, the V6 in E400 models feels markedly stronger than the base V6, with barely a hint of turbo lag.
Stepping up to the E550, its twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 is a particularly evocative performer, promising 0-60 mph acceleration in 5.2 seconds. Its standard air-spring adaptive suspension delivers an even, still-supple ride. Air springs also go on the E350 wagon.
Equipped with paddle shifters, Mercedes-Benz’s 7-speed automatic transmission isn’t the most responsive, compared to 8-speed units installed in many current luxury cars. All E-Class cars have electric power steering. The “Direct Steer” system adds some quickness and heft to the steering, so it feels better than most rivals.
Most E-Class models are well-controlled, with agile road manners, though they’re less tautly-tuned than sporty Audi or BMW cars. Softly tuned Luxury models suffer ample body lean and can scrub their tires easily. Sport versions are better controlled, thanks to a slightly-lowered suspension and 18-inch wheels.
Simply put, the factory-tuned AMG duo is in a class of its own. For 2016, those E63 AMG models come only in higher-performance S trim, with standard all-wheel drive and 0-60 mph acceleration time near 4 seconds. Expect a rousing exhaust note, but the AMG’s adaptive suspension keeps the sedan or wagon well planted on the pavement, with a strong, solid feel.
As for fuel economy, the E250 BlueTec diesel is EPA-rated at 28/42 mpg (City/Highway), or 27/38 mpg with all-wheel drive. Both the E350 and E400 are EPA-rated at 20/29 mpg with rear-drive, while the E550 drops to 17 or 18 mpg in city driving. The E63 AMG sedan is EPA-rated at 15/22 mpg (City/Highway).
With a dizzying number of models to choose from, E-Class buyers have plenty of flexibility. Despite hefty prices, leather upholstery and a rearview camera aren’t standard on lower-level versions, but just about any option can be added if you’re willing to pay.
Driving impressions by Kirk Bell, The Car Connection. James M. Flammang contributed to this report.