2012 E-Class New Car Test Drive
After a 2010 redesign and the addition of a convertible for 2011, Mercedes-Benz continues to refine its midsize E-Class lineup with new engines, more models, and increased availability of its 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system for 2012.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz E-Class lineup includes sedans, coupes, convertibles, and wagons with diesel, V6, or V8 power.
The E-Class Cabriolet, or convertible, features an innovative soft top that's nearly one-inch thick with three layers of acoustic sound dampening. The design leaves good trunk space, and provides wind protection with the top down. The soft top disappears in 17 silent seconds, as Mercedes says.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz E350, E550, and E63 AMG models are each a technological tour de force, yet none of the technology is intrusive. On the street, the cars are robust and exhibit the engineering excellence that has defined them for decades.
The E-Class sits in the middle of the Mercedes car line, between the compact C-Class and the big S-Class. It's the company's best-selling car worldwide, and as such it defines the brand's essence. Every E-Class model delivers an excellent balance of passenger space, luxury, style, and impressive performance in a practical, manageably sized package.
The E-Class looks more angular and technical than it used to, but it is quite pleasing to the eye. The chassis is strengthened to improve crash protection, reduce vibration and sharpen handling, without adding weight. Yet if this generation E-Class cars have a theme, it might be their high-tech control and management systems. That's not surprising for a car that introduced a host of now-familiar features, from antilock brakes to airbags, to mass production.
The 2012 E-Class represents the most electronics-intensive model line Mercedes has offered to date, and most of the computer-managed systems focus on safety. An Attention Assist system monitors up to 70 driving parameters to determine whether the driver is getting drowsy behind the wheel and uses both visual and auditory warnings to tell the driver to pull over for rest. The Distronic Plus cruise control option features both blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning technology, while automatic self-adjusting headlights automatically dim the brights. And those systems are just the start.
Beyond the technological wizardry, the E-Class remains what it has always been, only a little nicer. Every model is smooth, quiet and appointed in elegant, understated fashion, with comfortable space for four or five passengers and a substantial load of luggage.
The gasoline V6 in the Mercedes E350 models is new for 2012, though it displaces the same 3.5 liters. Power improves from 268 to 302 horses, and it is more efficient as well. Similarly, a twin-turbocharged 4.6-liter V8 in 2012 E550 models replaces the previous 5.5-liter V8. Though smaller, the new 4.6-liter engine is more powerful and more efficient, and it delivers the turbine-like, overpowered feel that characterizes Germany's best autobahn blasters. The turbocharged diesel engine in the Mercedes E350 BlueTEC sedan is the smoothest, quietest diesel available in the United States. It delivers amazing bursts of acceleration for passing, with mileage that surpasses most other cars in this class by about 30 percent.
2012 E63 AMG models also get a new engine. A twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that cranks out 516 horsepower replaces the previous 6.2-liter V8. The E63 AMG comes standard with start/stop technology. The 2012 E63 AMG is also offered as a wagon.
Those seeking help through the worst of a northern winter can choose the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system for the E-Class sedans, wagon, and now the coupe.
The E-Class created a category of mid-sized luxury cars that has become one of the most competitive (and enjoyable) in today's automobile market. The 2012 E-Class models simply reinforce Mercedes credentials at or near the top of the class.
The 2012 Mercedes-Benz E-Class includes four-door sedans, two-door coupes, convertibles, and a pair of wagons. 2012 E350 models come with a 3.5-liter V6. 2012 E350 BlueTEC models feature a 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel. 2012 E550 models come with a turbocharged 4.6-liter V8. 2012 E63 AMG models get a 5.5-liter twin-turbocharged V8. All E-Class models feature a 7-speed automatic transmission except the E63 AMG models, which get a 7-speed automated manual.
The 2012 E350 sedan ($50,490) comes with mbrace assistance system, dual-zone automatic climate control, interior air filter, power tilt/telescopic leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, MBTex faux leather upholstery, 14-way power front bucket seats, memory system (front seats, mirrors, steering wheel), trunk pass-through, burl walnut interior trim, heated power auto-dimming mirrors with turn signals, power windows, power locks, remote keyless entry, sunroof, 8-speaker AM/FM stereo with 6-disc CD/MP3 player, Bluetooth wireless cell-phone link, trip computer, auto-dimming rearview mirror, universal garage door opener, rain-sensing variable-intermittent wipers, automatic headlights, theft-deterrent system, Agility Control suspension, and P245/45HR17 tires on alloy wheels. The E350 BlueTEC sedan ($51,690) is equipped similarly except for its diesel engine.
Buyers can opt for the E350 sedan in Luxury or Sport trim at no cost. Luxury models are equipped as above, while sports get the Agility Control sport suspension, AMG-style wheels, a Sport steering wheel with shift paddles, larger perforated brakes with painted calipers, and P245/40R18 front and P265/35R18 rear tires with rear-wheel drive or P245/40R18 tires at all four corners with 4MATIC. The Sport wagon has 17-inch wheels.
The E350 coupe ($49,800) is equipped like the sedan, but it adds leather upholstery, split folding rear seat, panorama sunroof, and P235/45R17 front and P255/40R17 rear tires, while losing the mbrace system. Same goes for the E350 convertible ($57,720), but it also gets leather upholstery, a windblocker, a three-layer fabric power convertible top, and P235/45R17 front and P255/40R17 rear tires. The convertible also features AIRCAP, a pop-up slim wing over the windshield that directs air over the cabin.
The E350 4MATIC sedan ($52,990) and coupe ($53,675) come with all-wheel drive and a sunroof.
The E350 4MATIC wagon ($57,150) comes only with all-wheel drive. It gets first and second-row curtain side airbags with rollover deployment, rear park assist, mbrace, rearview camera, MBTex upholstery, second-row split-folding seat, third-row folding rear-facing seat that increases passenger capacity to seven, power sunroof, power liftgate, rear wiper/washer, adjustable Agility Control sport suspension with self leveling, and P245/45HR17 tires.
The E550 coupe ($55,590) and E550 convertible ($64,800) come standard with leather upholstery, sunroof, adjustable Agility Control sport suspension, and P235/40R18 front and 255/35R18 rear tires. The E550 4MATIC sedan ($59,760) gets that equipment, plus P245/40R18 tires and heated front seats.
The E63 AMG sedan ($88,900) features a twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that generates 518 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque. It has a 7-speed transmission with an automated clutch rather than a conventional torque converter. Standard equipment includes high-performance brakes, navigation system with real-time traffic information, heated/ventilated/massaging multi-contour front seats, second-row split folding seat, harman/kardon sound system, satellite radio, HD radio, iPod interface, 10-gigabyte music hard drive, power rear sunshade, power trunk, self-dimming adaptive bi-xenon headlights with washers, sport-tuned version of the adjustable Agility Control sport suspension with self-leveling, and P255/35R19 front and P285/30R19 rear tires. The E63 AMG wagon ($91,500), one of the strangest offerings on the market, gets the sedan's equipment, plus side sunshades instead of a power rear sunshade.
Options include Premium Package I, which comes with a navigation system with voice recognition and real-time traffic information, harman/kardon audio with HD radio and Sirius satellite radio, 10-gig music hard drive, heated front seats, and a rearview camera. The E550 sedan also gets ventilated front seats, the convertibles add the AIRSCARF neck-level heating system, and sedans and coupes get a rear-glass sunshade. Premium Package II includes Package I plus ventilated front seats, keyless access and starting, LED daytime running lights, and bi-xenon active light system with automatic high-beam control and headlight washers. The sedan version also gets a power opening and closing trunk.
An Appearance Package for coupes and convertibles adds vented brakes with painted calipers, multi-contour front seats, adjustable Agility Control sport suspension, and 18-inch wheels. A Lane Tracking Package ($850) adds Active Blind Spot Assist and lane keeping assist, while a Driver Assistance Package ($2,950) gets Active Blind Spot Assist, lane-departure warning, Pre-Safe braking, and Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control. A Wheel Package for the E350 sedan and wagon comes with a sportier steering wheel and AMG-style 18-inch wheels. The AMG Performance Package for the E63 AMG ($7,300) ups horsepower to 550 and top speed to 186, and adds a carbon-fiber engine cover, a leather and alcantara steering wheel, and a performance version of the adjustable suspension.
Standalone options are numerous. Highlights include rear-seat DVD entertainment ($1,910), Panoramic Sunroof ($1,090), matte designo paint ($3,950), heated steering wheel ($490), and carbon ceramic brakes for the E63 AMG ($12,625).
Safety features start with advanced antilock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability program (ESP) with traction control. Active safety systems include Attention Assist drowsiness monitor. Standard passive safety features include nine airbags: dual frontal, driver's knee-protection, front-passenger side-impact torso, front passenger side-impact pelvis, and full cabin head-protection curtains. Rear passenger side-impact airbags are optional ($440). Also optional are Night View Assist PLUS ($1,780) and front and rear park obstacle detection with parking guidance ($970). 4MATIC all-wheel drive enhances safety, particularly in slippery conditions.