IntroductionTry as I might, I cannot get this big Mercedes E-Class sedan to be a gas hog. I'm driving the new-for-2014 E250 diesel and even when I floor it up hills, the trip computer refuses to dip much below 38 mpg. Going gently I see 42 mpg, not bad for a mid-sized five-seat sedan, loaded with fancy features.
Impressive fuel economy is just part of the story on the 2014 E-Class. For years the E has been the workhorse of Mercedes-Benz's model range and it comes in more versions and body styles - sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon – than its main rivals; the BMW Five Series and Audi A6.
This year the E receives a major revamp, with new styling, interior upgrades and a whole raft of safety technology and driver aids that can do just about everything but check your blood pressure. If you prefer fast over frugal, the new E has something for you too, in the form of the staggeringly swift E63 AMG S-Model 4MATIC. With 577 horses doing the talking, this bad boy will zip you to 60 mph in 3.5 seconds; that's Ferrari/Lamborghini territory.
Of course such speed comes at a price, not just in terms of heavy fuel consumption but also dollars – the AMG S-Model wagon is on sale now for $102,370 – so if the frugal side of you is still interested, the E250 diesel hits showrooms in September starting at a relatively accessible $51,400.
In between these extremes there's plenty more to learn about the 2014 E-Class. Read on to find out.
The BasicsBase sticker prices: $51,400-$102,370
Invoice Price: NA
Engines: 2.1-liter diesel, 3.5-liter V-6, 4.6-liter V-8,
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Performance: 195 horsepower to 577 horsepower, depending on the engine
Fuel economy: 45 mpg projected highway for the diesel; 24 mpg combined for the V-6 and 20 mpg combined for the V-8
Seating: 5 people
Exterior DesignThe 2014 E-Class is considered a mid-cycle refresh rather than a full blown new model, but the design changes are substantial. E-Class scholars will note the outgoing model's quad headlights have been merged into two sleeker looking lights, along with sportier front styling. On the Sport version the hood mounted three-pointed star has been ditched and made part of the grille, but traditionalists can still have the star in the familiar spot by choosing the Luxury edition.
The swollen, arched rear fenders that were a somewhat controversial element of the 2013 E-Class are also history on the new sedan and wagon, but confusingly remain in place on the coupe and convertible.
All the design changes add up to create an E-Class that's a good deal less staid and conservative than today's car, especially in the Sport edition. As for the dressed up AMG version, it borders on the sexy.
InteriorInside, this Mercedes retains its predecessor's buttoned down, sensible feel, with no radical design changes for 2014. That said, the liberal use of aluminum or wood trim on the dashboard relieves an otherwise monotone look.
There are a few new touches, such as a chromed analogue clock in the center of the dash and sportier instrument gauges to brighten up the view from the driver's seat.
Passenger And Cargo SpaceThe E-Class is as comfortable a space to spend hours on the road as Mercedes offers, other than the soon-to-arrive new S-Class, but that's a good deal more expensive.
Among its rivals, the E-Class is on par if not superior when it comes to front and rear passenger space and the trunk is cavernous (as it should be, given that the E-Class is the staple of taxi fleets in Germany). Fit and finish and materials are excellent, with cosseting seats and plenty of stowage spaces, including new center console cupholders, enabled by moving the shifter to the steering column.
A few niggles: the under front seat storage bins project so far forward as to constrict your foot room and the rear seat passengers don't have the individually controllable rear vents you find in some competing models.
Driving DynamicsThe choice of engines in the 2014 E-Class spans the gamut; as mentioned you can opt for a fuel sipping four-cylinder diesel which is the entry level model, step up to the E350, which treats you to 3.5-liter V-6 engine (our favorite of the powertrains tested), or the E550 which ups the ante with a 4.6-liter twin-turbo V-8. If that's not enough you can always opt for the insane AMG edition. And lest we forget, there is also an E400 Hybrid model.
All-wheel-drive is standard across the board, except for the Hybrid and the E250, which can be ordered in rear-wheel drive form.
Turning to the coupe and convertible, it's a straight choice between E350 and E550 engines. Only the E350 coupe comes in all-wheel-drive (4MATIC) form.
While the little 2.1-liter diesel is no fireball off the line, it can overtake promptly when asked thanks to its prodigious torque output; at 369 lb-ft it's more muscular than the bigger V-6 gas motor. It's also quiet for a diesel; you don't hear that familiar engine clattering sound, unless you stand outside the car.
The larger gasoline engines are generally smooth and silky, although the E550 V-8 can shift harshly if you are too abrupt on the throttle.
Handling is what you would expect for such a large, heavy car; tidy with nice flat cornering behavior but not especially exciting. As with most new cars today, the steering is electrically assisted (to improve fuel economy), which generally means that steering feedback or feel is reduced. That's true of this car, too, which feels a little too light at the wheel for my tastes.
Tech And InfotainmentWhen it comes to safety features Mercedes has literally thrown the book at the new E-Class, loading up the car with every new system (either as standard or optional) they have created to date. The systems are the same as those offered on the new S-Class flagship sedan, so if you are concerned about safety (and who isn't) then the E-Class is a relative bargain.
Basically the car relies on a combination of multiple sensors and a stereoscopic camera behind the windshield, to determine what is happening in front, behind and at the sides. Not only will the car warn you of imminent threats, whether they be other vehicles, humans or animals, but it will brake and steer itself out of harm's way for you. It would take a small book to explain the 30-plus systems on the E-Class. Suffice to say, once you get the hang of managing them, they are very welcome and may well save your life, and perhaps that of an inattentive pedestrian.
Speaking of paying attention, the E-Class will monitor how well you are driving and warn you when you are starting to get drowsy on long trips. There is a touch of Big Brother in the way this Mercedes technology is taking over management of the car. But unless the vehicle starts misbehaving, a la the HAL computer in the movie '2001: A Space Odyssey' and threatens to run you into a tree, it's hard to argue with the benefits of the technology.
Aside from the safety tech, there is a bigger, brighter center screen to manage navigation, climate, telephone and infotainment. That is welcome, but sadly the Mercedes control system remains a bit baffling, with several steps needed to access simple functions. What might seem logical to an engineer at Mercedes' Stuttgart headquarters doesn't make so much sense on this side of the Atlantic.
Fuel EconomyThe official fuel economy figures for new E-Class diesel are not available yet but in our hands it returns an average of 42 mpg. We managed 18.7 mpg as an average in the E550 cabriolet and a more moderate 25 mpg in the E350 sedan.
The E400 hybrid returns 24 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, according to the government test figures.
Bottom LineMercedes is smart to have injected some spirit into its ever-so-sensible E-Class because the competition is heating up. We like the sharp looking front end redesign of the Sport version and the interior upgrades.
If fuel economy is important to you, then the new E250 diesel delivers in spades, and there are no less than three powerful gasoline motors to choose from, plus a range of bodystyles.
There might be a safer car on the road than the E-Class but I doubt it because no other carmaker has been working on safety for as long or as extensively as Mercedes.
The 2014 E-Class may not edge out its rivals in every department but Mercedes has spent years perfecting the mid-size luxury sedan formula and this generation is its best effort yet.