The E-Class is actually no less significant to Mercedes than the S-Class – it's known to be a huge profit-driver for the company and represents over 20 percent of the company's US sales. All of which might go some way toward explaining why this mid-cycle overhaul is a lot more comprehensive than what we normally see from Mercedes.
We recently spent an afternoon on Michigan's country roads in a longroof W212 to see if the changes make the new E more desirable.
- You have to love Mercedes' candor. In an age where every automakers' marketing department tries to spice up its wagon's appeal by calling it something else (Sportwagen, Sport Wagon, Touring, etc.), Benz is refreshingly honest – this is the Wagon, pure and simple.
- Based on looks alone, to this author's eyes, this E-Class is a major improvement over the exiting car, it part because the latter's front lighting was particularly jarring. The new model includes substantial sheetmetal-level changes (even doorskins and rear fenders!) that really amp up both its substantialness and the aggressiveness, particularly in Sport trim shown here (recognizable by the pie-plate-sized emblem in the grille and gaping air intakes). Everyone is doing LED daytime running lamps these days, but the E's are particularly interesting and well done. It must be noted that some Autoblog editors don't care for this new look, however, instead preferring its predecessor.
- Our test car for the day was this 4Matic-equipped E350 Sport, with a 3.5-liter V6 offering 302 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque apportioned through a seven-speed paddleshift automatic. There's an eco mode with a pretty well done start-stop system, and we liked the power and shift delivery in both standard and sport modes. Manual mode adds a further level of control and interactivity, but shifts are occasionally reluctant or disallowed.
- Later this fall, a four-cylinder diesel, the E250 Bluetec, bows with 190 horsepower, 369 pound-feet of torque and available all-wheel drive. EPA numbers haven't been released yet, but Mercedes is confident it can net 40 miles per gallon on the freeway.
- There's a pretty insane amount of protect-you-from-yourself-and-others active safety tech that debuted here, actually ahead of the S-Class. A stereo-camera ahead of the rearview mirror aids in all manner of safety-related items, including Distronic cruise control. Now with steering assist to keep you in the middle of your lane (even without lane markers), Distronic also lets you follow traffic "semi-autonomously." BAS Plus (read: brake assist) can now detect pedestrians and other forms of crossing traffic and prepare the car's safety systems to help it avoid or mitigate an accident.
- The interior has arguably changed the least, but it's still very comfortable, if a bit sterile. There's a new gauge binnacle and newly available open-pore wood and lighter colors helps liven things up a lot.
- With the second two rows stowed, cargo space swells to 57.4 cubic feet – useful, but still smaller than many compact crossovers.
- Speaking of those seats, we don't know how much owners use them, but we love that MB still includes the option of rear-facing third row. For a long time, the E-Class was the only such jumpseat configuration on the market until the Tesla Model S showed up. Could kiddie 'way backs' be on the way back? Nah...
- Overall, this is a much deeper-than-normal refresh for a brand that typically exercises a light touch on such things. We asked Benz reps whether this is the sort of thing that we can expect more from, and they downplayed the likelihood of it being the start of a new trend. Bummer.