Full 2008 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Review
What's New for 2008
After a thorough midlife refresh last year, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is mostly unchanged for 2008. The only significant addition is a new AMG Sport Package available on the E350 and E550.
For more than 20 years, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been one of the most successful and popular midsize luxury sedans. For many, it represents the ideal middle ground between what could be seen as the plebian C-Class and the overly visible and expensive S-Class. Indeed, the current E-Class, which was last redesigned in 2003, has found about a million buyers worldwide. Such popularity in an increasingly arduous market also makes it one of those rare cars that seems to be valued as much by consumers as by the company profiting from its sale.
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz E-Class also happens to come in more flavors than Diet Coke -- literally. With two body styles, four engines and two drivetrains, this midsize luxury car provides buyers with a deep menu of choices. The Mercedes E350 and E550 are the most popular choices, as they provide ample power, an elegantly detailed interior and a suspension so smooth you'd swear its engineering inspiration was a canoe on a glassy lake. The wagon models provide a rear-facing third-row seat as well as interior space that rivals some five-passenger SUVs.
The E320 Bluetec, meanwhile, is the only midsize luxury sedan to come with a diesel-fueled engine. Introduced last year, this V6 engine has a special additive that allows it to run exceptionally clean. And, being a diesel, it boasts superior fuel mileage and plentiful torque. For the ultimate in power, the manic E63, powered by AMG's 507-horsepower V8, can do zero to 60 mph in just 4.3 seconds, quicker than most sports cars.
This varied selection of models only adds to the desirability of the car. Of course, the E-Class is not without fault. For one, it's expensive -- not S-Class expensive, but still dear, especially when compared to competitors from Japan. It also suffers from an antiquated control interface that pales in comparison to more modern systems. But overall, the E-Class ranks very highly, even within a segment that includes such luminaries as the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series, Infiniti M and Lexus GS. In this ultra-competitive class, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz E-Class maintains its tradition of being a very compelling choice.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2008 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is available as a midsize sedan or wagon. Trim levels include the E320 Bluetec (sedan only), E350 (sedan and wagon), E550 (sedan only) and the high-performance E63 AMG (sedan and wagon). The E350 and E550 are available with 4Matic all-wheel drive.
The E320 Bluetec and E350 are equipped almost identically. Standard features include a sunroof, 10-way power front seats with memory, dual-zone automatic climate control, power tilt-telescoping steering column and a Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a CD changer and auxiliary audio jack. The E350 sedan can be equipped with a no-cost Sport Package that includes 18-inch wheels, a lowered sport suspension, blue tinted glass, different wood trim and dual chrome tailpipes. The E550 includes the Sport Package and adds semi-active air suspension, leather upholstery and four-zone automatic climate control.
Grouped in a pair of Premium packages, options for the non-AMG E-Class models include heated and ventilated front seats, bi-xenon headlights, keyless ignition, a navigation system and satellite radio. An AMG Sport Package, available on the E550 and E350 with the Sport Package, includes upgraded AMG wheels, automanual shift paddles and AMG accents inside and out. Stand-alone options include a panorama sunroof, park assist, electronic trunk closer, split-folding rear seats and iPod integration.
The E63 AMG comes equipped similar to the E550, but adds split-folding rear seats, heated front seats, satellite radio and an array of AMG performance and styling features. Its options are similar to those found on the other E-Class models, but adaptive cruise control and an AMG Performance Package that includes a limited-slip differential are exclusive to the E63.
Powertrains and Performance
The E350 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 268 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque. A 0-60-mph sprint is accomplished in the mid-6-second range, while fuel economy for the rear-wheel-drive sedan is 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. The E550 features a 5.5-liter V8 that makes 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. In performance testing, the E550 went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 5.2 seconds. The E550 rear-drive model has a 15/22 mpg fuel economy estimate.
The E320 Bluetec features a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 that makes 210 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. This engine gets the E320 from zero to 60 in 6.8 seconds, while fuel economy is exceptional at 23 mpg city/32 mpg highway. Already on sale throughout most of the country, the E320 Bluetec will be available on a two-year lease basis in the states with California's stricter emissions standards.
The E63 AMG is a high-performance variant powered by a 6.2-liter V8 (despite its "63" name) that makes an immense 507 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. In performance testing, the E63 went from zero to 60 in 4.3 seconds -- that's supercar territory.
All rear-wheel-drive E-Class models come with a seven-speed automatic, while the 4Matic models feature a five-speed. The E63 AMG features Speedshift, which provides 50-percent faster gearchanges and prevents unwanted upshifts in turns.
All 2008 Mercedes-Benz E-Class models come with stability control, antilock brakes, front and rear side airbags, full-length side curtain airbags and the TeleAid emergency system. Also standard is PreSafe, which anticipates an imminent crash and automatically takes measures to better secure occupants. In government crash tests, the E-Class sedan earned four stars (out of five) for frontal impacts and a perfect five stars for side impacts. In Insurance Institute for Highway Safety frontal-offset crash testing, the E-Class earned the top rating of "Good."
Interior Design and Special Features
The five-passenger E-Class sedan provides an airy two-tone cabin, where supple seats and coordinating soft-touch surfaces are complemented by elegant wood inlays, chrome accents and gathered sections of leather on the door panels. The attractive analog instrumentation is generally easy to read, but functions associated with the antiquated COMAND electronics interface remain unintuitive even after you've taken the time to figure it out.
Rear-seat room is adequate for two adults. The wagon has a rear-facing, two-passenger third-row seat. Fold it and the 60/40-split second-row seat down and you'll have 69 cubic feet of cargo room available, only a few cubes shy of the M-Class SUV.
While certainly adequate in terms of handling ability, the 2008 Mercedes-Benz E-Class isn't a willing partner like a 5 Series can be. Pushed hard, the E-Class displays noticeable body roll and the brake pedal's soft feel doesn't inspire confidence. That the car is better used for cruising city streets and highways probably doesn't come as much of a surprise. In terms of straight-line performance, the various powertrains provide the E-Class with impressive amounts of power and refinement. The E550 and E63 can dust off most sports cars, while the E350 delivers spirited acceleration and decent fuel economy. The E320 Bluetec offers acceleration times similar to its gasoline E350 counterpart, but offers much better fuel economy and its rich torque curve provides plenty of in-your-seat thrust. The noise, stink and smoke once associated with diesels is a distant memory.