Cars

E-Class Bridges Old and New for Mercedes-Benz

OLD MONEY, NEW FACE: The E-Class has become a staple in certain wealthy Massachusetts communities.
OLD MONEY, NEW FACE: The E-Class has become a staple in certain wealthy Massachusetts communities. GEORGE KENNEDY

There are several automakers in the market right now that are determined to change their image. Mercedes-Benz is not one of them. The German automaker benefits from a tremendously diverse product offering that allows it to appeal to many different demographics at the same time. It is how it can court younger buyers with the compact CLA, and can still maintain its market share among older, upscale buyers with this, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class.

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan has a new appearance for the 2014 model year, but its underpinnings actually date back to 2009. Internally named W212, the E-Class remains the same size, but went under the knife inside and out. The sharp edges of the 2009 model have been smoothed out and, most notably, the split-dual headlights that were hallmarks of prior E-Class sedans have been replaced with larger single-piece units. The “dual-din” headlight design was not completely forgotten, and its memory is celebrated with LED headlights designs that split in two. It is a subtle choice that will not be lost on returning E-Class customers.

Mercedes-Benz has remained successful at giving buyers options. This is not just limited to product variation, as E-Class buyers are given two distinct styles and personalities from which to choose. The Sport Styling features large lower air intakes and a simplified grille with fewer slats, but it’s dominated by the now-popular oversized M-B tri-point logo. Our test model came with the Luxury Styling that features the more traditional grille, marked by the upright hood emblem, softer features, and the more prevalent use of chrome for window edges and door trim. It truly creates two E-Classes in one.

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Perhaps one of the most impressive areas of choice with the new E-Class is that of propulsion method. It used to be one would arrive at a dealer, pick their luxury saloon, and select V6 or V8. Now Mercedes-Benz offers V6, V8, diesel, and hybrid powertrains. Our test model was the diesel powered E250 BlueTEC sedan. The E250 is the entry level model in the E-Class lineup and features a 2.1-liter turbo-diesel inline-4 that makes a menial 195 horsepower but an impressive 369 pound-feet of torque. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

Other models/engines in the lineup include the 302-horsepower V6 in the E350, the 402-horsepower twin-turbo V8 from the E550, and the E400 Hybrid sedan, which makes the 302 horsepower from the gas engine but an additional 27 horsepower from an electric powerplant. With all of these models, power is sent through the 7-speed automatic to the rear wheels, or available all-wheel-drive.

If miles per gallon is your thing, the Hybrid might seem like the logical choice, but it does not offer the highway fuel economy of the diesel model. Our E250 test vehicle was listed at 28 mpg city and 42 mph highway. The E400 hybrid pulls 24 mpg city and 30 mpg highway. The hybrid has more horsepower and torque, but the E250 is not too far off on the latter. Acceleration should be in the same neighborhood, and long-term owners may benefit from the comparative simplicity of a diesel engine over the complexity of a hybrid powertrain.

To achieve the listed fuel economy numbers, the E250 does a few things. First, an auto stop-start is the default function. This will cut off power when you are waiting at a red light or idling in park. I think for sitting in a parking lot waiting for someone to come out of their office, that’s fine, but since diesels run just a little rougher than their gas counterparts, the stop-start at red lights does become something of a noticeable thing. Second, there is an Eco driving mode that slows throttle response and shifting. In this mode, the transmission wants to get into the highest gear possible to achieve optimal economy, but that is not always the optimal driving gear. If you are going up a hill, you might need to downshift. In this Eco mode, you will need to have the pedal pinned to get it to downshift. Thankfully, there is a Sport mode, with more real-world shifting and throttle response.

The E-Class boasts the latest entertainment tech. The iPhone integration is seamless, and the navigation system places turn-by-turn directions in the trip computer so your eyes are barely off the road. Voice controls are competent, but not as advanced as those of some competitors. In all, returning E-Class buyers will be thoroughly impressed with their new German luxury sedan.

Our E250 BlueTEC started at $51,4000, but with options was closer to $63,000. The V6 E350 starts at $51,900, the E400 Hybrid comes in at $56,700, and the V8-powered E550 starts at $61,400. Just remember, the German luxury brands are known for their option pricing, so expect to spend another $5,000-$10,000 to get the goodies that you want.

The issue that you run into with the E-Class is price. It is just hard to justify more than $50,000 for an E-Class that does not have a V8. And for the V8, you’ll be dropping ten grand more. But buyers have different priorities these days, and though it was once important to have the most powerful car on the block, it is now important to have better fuel economy and the best technology.

2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 BlueTEC

THE BASICS: Price: $51,400. As tested: $63,165. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 28/42. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 31.9 mpg. Powertrain: 2.1L Turbodiesel I4, 6AT, rear-wheel-drive. Body: 5-passenger luxury sedan.

THE SPECIFICS: Horsepower: 195. Overall length: 192.1 in. Wheelbase 113.2 in. Height: 51.1 in. Width: 81.5 in. Curb weight: 4,200 lbs.

THE GOOD: Familiar styling, capacious interior, seamless tech integration.

THE BAD: Unresponsive handling, lackluster acceleration, gouged on options.

THE BOTTOM LINE: The latest must-have country club chariot is back.

ALSO CONSIDER: Audi A6 TDI, BMW 535d, VW Passat TDI

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