2013 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

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2010 Mercedes E-Class Sedan: Review

This 2010 review is representative of model years 2010 to 2013.
By Marc Lachapelle of MSN Autos
Rating: 8.5

Bottom Line:

The new ninth-generation E-Class sedan is the latest step in the unrelenting evolution of midsize luxury sedans at Mercedes-Benz. It does luxury and safety better than ever, with exceptional pricing.
Pros:
  • Peerless safety features
  • Smooth and quiet highway cruiser
  • Strong and feisty V8 engine
Cons:
  • Roll and pitch in hard cornering (Luxury)
  • Some COMAND functions still too complex
  • Taillight design lacks Mercedes character

For more than six decades, the E-Class has been the cornerstone of the Mercedes-Benz brand and the standard by which all midsize luxury cars have been judged, providing those who drive it with an appealing mix of comfort, performance and safety.

This year, M-B is launching the ninth generation of this sporty family sedan. The most apparent changes are discreet: new trapezoidal headlights in place of the oval lights in use since 1996; new wraparound LED taillights; and slightly edgier lines with flowing bulges over the rear wheels that are a nod to the landmark 1953 Ponton model. Plus, it's now priced less than comparably equipped versions of its two closest competitors, the Audi A6 and the BMW 550i.

Model Lineup
The new E-Class Sedan was launched in June, followed by the all-wheel-drive 4Matic versions in September and the high-performance E63 AMG model in November. The "clean diesel" E350 BlueTec should appear in March 2010 and become available with the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system in June of that year. A hybrid-powered version of the E-Class Sedan is a few years off.

The new Sedans are 0.63 inch longer, 1.3 inches wider and 0.47 inch lower, on a 0.79-inch longer wheelbase. They provide an additional 1.5 to 2 inches in elbow and shoulder room as well as an extra inch in rear legroom. The body is 31 percent more rigid thanks to much greater use of high-strength steel. The hood, front fenders, trunk lid, front cross member and several other components are made of aluminum to reduce weight. European base versions claim an exceptional drag coefficient of 0.25, but U.S. cars are rated at 0.27 because of their wider tires.

The E-Class Sedan is again offered in two distinct versions, Luxury and Sport, with the choice of two engines: a 3.5-liter V6 and a 5.5-liter V8. Sport trims have typically been the most popular, capturing more than 80 percent of E-Class sales. The two have subtly different body work, chassis tuning and interior trim.

Standard active and passive safety systems are abundant. The latest versions of familiar systems such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and Pre Safe are used, along with no fewer than nine airbags. Among the new standard systems is Attention Assist, which uses a sensitive steering-angle sensor and monitors 70 other variables to detect signs of driver fatigue. As a complement, the optional Lane Keeping system uses a high-mounted camera to analyze painted lines on the road and send bursts of vibration through the wheel if the car wanders across one of those lines.

The optional Adaptive Highbeam Assist — first seen on the S-Class — automatically adjusts the intensity and spread pattern of the low beams, extending their range from 200 to 1,000 feet in ideal conditions, instead of simply switching from high to low beam with oncoming traffic. This meshes well with the optional dual-infrared-beam-based Night View Assist Plus system and full xenon headlights that swivel up to 15 degrees into a turn, in sync with the steering.

Another option is the Distronic Plus automatic cruise-control system, which can now stop the car in traffic and get it going again automatically, if you stop for no longer than three seconds. It is bundled with the Pre-Safe brake system, which includes Brake Assist Plus and can apply full braking force to avoid or reduce the force of a collision. Blind Spot Assist is carried over from the current S-Class Sedans and CL-Class Coupes. Another option is Parking Guidance, a system that measures a parking spot as you drive by and then gives visual directions and instructions through the instrument cluster. It does not park the car automatically, though.

Under the Hood
The E350 and E550 Sedans are powered by the same 90-degree "V" engines as the outgoing cars. Their overall efficiency has nonetheless been improved by up to 3 percent. Both engines are coupled to a 7-speed automatic gearbox that can skip gears while downshifting and achieve fuel-saving torque converter lock-up on all seven gears.

Mercedes expects four out of five E-Class Sedans to be sold with the 3.5-liter V6. This engine develops 268 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque from 2400 to 5000 rpm, with 87 percent of its maximum torque available from only 1500 rpm. Official EPA numbers have not been released, but the V6 is expected to return 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway.

The 5.5-liter V8 produces up to 382 horses, also at 6000 rpm, and 391 lb-ft of torque from 2800 to 4800 rpm. The V8's unofficial fuel-economy ratings are either 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway or 14/20 mpg, depending on the information source you picked at the car's media launch.

The E350 is said to dash from zero to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds and the E550 in 5.2 seconds. Both cars have a governed top speed of 130 mph. The upcoming E350 BlueTec should be almost as quick a sprinter as its gas-fed namesake with a zero-to-60-mph time of 6.6 seconds.

Inner Space
Mercedes goes fully traditional inside the new E-Class, with generous use of hand-polished walnut on the center console, instrument panel and door panels, even on Sport trims. Other materials are offered in Europe, but not here, not even as an option. The overall design has more edges and straight lines, echoing the move away from oval and round shapes for the bodywork itself.

The V8-powered versions come with a 3-spoke sport steering wheel that is squared off at the bottom, racing style, while V6 trims get a more traditional 4-spoke wheel. As on the current S-Class and some other models, the electronic shift lever has been moved from the console to the steering column to free up space for a pair of large cupholders. Also shared with the S-Class is "ambient lighting."

The COMAND "telematics" system, with its large, console-mounted aluminum control knob, is somewhat easier to use than the original version, especially with the bright new 7-inch screen that is placed higher in the instrument panel. Some functions are nonetheless still tedious: Saving satellite radio station presets, for instance, is a frustrating, multistep operation.

The standard front seats offer great overall comfort and support. They provide 14 separate adjustments and are equipped with standard active head restraints. The seats in the E550 are available with active ventilation to help you stay cooler on long drives. The optional Multicontour seats have adjustable side bolsters and cushion length. Their side bolsters can also inflate automatically to increase lateral support while cornering. They are even equipped with two massage modes.

The rear seat is also typical of Mercedes-Benz for its relatively firm and high cushion that provides good thigh support, and for head restraints that descend from the headliner with the push of a button from the front seats. Foot space is good at the opening under the front seats but quickly tapers out. The split-folding seatback is optional, to connect with a big, 15.9 cubic foot trunk — the same size as the outgoing model.

On the Road
Our first impressions of the E350 Luxury were focused on its smooth and quiet ride. This new E-Class glides along gloriously with the very best on any freeway. It took strong desert crosswinds to create wind noise around the cabin, and they also affected straight-line stability. Rough or grooved pavement also generated some rolling resonance, the telltale sign of high body rigidity — a Mercedes staple.

The all-new suspension is derived from current C-Class components and adapted to the E Sedan's greater size and weight. On Sport trims, the suspension is firmer and the car sits an inch lower. The standard Agility Control suspension on cars equipped with the V6 has mechanically variable damping. Cornering is best described as stable, with slight understeer at the turn-in point. Body roll and pitch quickly set in if you try pushing harder. The E350 Luxury is no sport sedan.

The V8-powered E550 comes standard with the proven AIRMATIC suspension. The car feels tighter than the cushy V6 Luxury at all times, but in Sport mode, when spring and damping settings are at their hardest and the body is lowered by 0.6 inch, the suspension does get loud on perpendicular cracks and asphalt ridges. Steering feels a bit light and overassisted in the E550 Sport, but it is precise and slightly quicker than in the previous generation. That said, the deep growl of the E550's smooth and gutsy V8 at full tilt is reason enough to get one.

Right for You?
The new E-Class Sedans are by no means revolutionary, in terms of design or performance, but they are a clear notch above their predecessors and as sure a bet as ever in this segment. But the true clincher is their pricing: The new E350 is priced at $48,600 and the V8-powered E550 at $56,300. This amounts to a 10 percent price reduction, on a value-adjusted basis, when compared with the current generation. Adding the 4Matic system will pad the sticker by $2,500. While the E-Class has always been highly competitive in its segment, the new pricing makes it a big value and that's something you can literally take to the bank.

A professional auto journalist for more than 25 years and the founding editor of Sympatico/MSN Autos, MarcLachapelle is a two-time winner of the Canadian Journalist of the Year award from the Automobile JournalistsAssociation of Canada, an accomplished photographer and licensed racer.

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BB03 - 8/27/2014 8:31:30 PM