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Enjoyable to drive, offering superior quality and available in a host of different body styles, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a luxury-car triumph that deserves serious consideration.
Superb ride and handling balance; potent engines; extensive array of luxury- and safety-related features; spacious sedan interior.
Occasionally fussy COMAND interface; sedan's controversial exterior styling.
Available E-Class Models
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For 2011, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class adds a convertible to the lineup, and sees the return of the wagon body style and optional diesel-fueled V6 engine. There have also been minor exterior and interior upgrades, with the coupe getting new grille mesh, and all body styles getting restyled headlight control switches and relocated ESP controls.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class boasts a lineup that presents a wide array of alternatives for drivers with a taste for automotive excellence. Last year, the selection of body styles included just a sedan and a coupe, but this year those choices are joined by an all-new convertible and the returning E-Class wagon.
Attractive and versatile, the latest E-Class wagon is a worthy choice in the admittedly small premium-wagon segment, and it returns to the E-Class family after a brief hiatus. Most notable for its quirky rear-facing third-row seat, the wagon offers an accommodating, highly functional nature, along with all the refinement you'd expect from an E-Class model. One downside to consider is that unlike other E-Class body styles, this wagon is available with just one engine, the 3.5-liter V6.
Pick the new E-Class Cabriolet -- which replaces the discontinued CLK-Class drop top -- and you'll get a stylish cruiser that seats four and comes with a long list of luxury features. The E-Class Cabriolet is less sporty than the BMW 3 Series and Infiniti G37 convertibles, and it has a traditional soft top rather than a more elaborate (as well as heavy and expensive) retractable hardtop. When it comes to refinement, though, this Mercedes is a class leader as evidenced by its peerlessly serene ride quality.
Of course, most people will be looking at the traditional E-Class sedan. Solid and seemingly over-engineered, the stately E-Class sedan boasts unflappable composure, and its taut chassis and communicative steering translate into impressive handling. The 2011 E350 Bluetec is new; its clean-diesel engine promises more than 30 mpg highway fuel economy. For more performance-minded drivers, the sedan line also includes the E63 AMG variant, which is neck and neck with many sports cars in straight-line acceleration and actually outpaces some smaller sport sedans when the road gets curvy.
With this accomplished lineup, Mercedes has crafted not just one but instead four cars that are hard to beat. Certainly, there are other choices, especially among sedans. The BMW 5 Series is sportier, the Jaguar XF is more stylish and the Infiniti M Series is less expensive, but none of these choices has the E-Class sedan's well-rounded excellence. Whether you choose the sedan, coupe, wagon or cabriolet, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class represents the best of the best for discerning shoppers.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is available in sedan, wagon, convertible (Cabriolet) and coupe body styles. The sedan is available in E350, E350 Bluetec, E550 and E63 AMG variants, with the numbers and descriptors indicating different engine choices. The E-Class coupe and convertible come in E350 and E550 trim levels only, while the E-Class wagon is offered in just the E350 trim.
The E350 and E350 Bluetec sedans come standard with 17-inch wheels, a sunroof, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, power front seats with memory functions, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-dimming mirrors, MB-Tex premium vinyl upholstery, the COMAND electronics interface, Bluetooth and an eight-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer and auxiliary audio jack. The E350 coupe is similar, but adds a panoramic sunroof and sport seats. The wagon adds to the sedan a power tailgate and rearview camera. The Cabriolet adds standard leather upholstery, a full power cloth roof and the AirCap wind-deflector system.
Compared to the E350 model, the E550 sedan adds a V8 engine, an air suspension and leather upholstery, while the E550 coupe adds 18-inch wheels, a sport body kit, a sport suspension and shift paddles. Relative to the E350 convertible, the E550 drop top adds a V8 engine and 18-inch wheels.
The Premium 1 package available on all E350 and E550 models includes a power rear sunshade, a hard-drive-based navigation system, voice controls, a rearview camera, heated front seats, and a Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with digital music storage, HD radio, satellite radio and an iPod/MP3 player interface. The Premium 2 package adds all the Premium 1 items, plus features such as adaptive bi-xenon headlights, adaptive high-beam assist and keyless ignition/entry. The sedan and wagon are available with a Driver Assistance package that adds a blind-spot warning system, adaptive cruise control and a lane-departure warning system.
Stand-alone options on the sedan include parking sensors and a rear-seat entertainment system. Both the sedan and the wagon are available with a panoramic sunroof, infrared night-vision camera, expanded leather upholstery and a multicontour driver seat with massage.
The E63 AMG includes most of the E550's equipment plus a larger V8, sport transmission, adjustable drive settings, adaptive sport suspension, high-performance brakes and a sport steering wheel. Premium 1 and 2 and Driver Assistance packages are available, along with an AMG Performance package that adds 19-inch wheels, a limited-slip differential, even sportier suspension tuning and a leather/faux-suede steering wheel.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 sedan, wagon, convertible and coupe are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, while the E350 Bluetec sedan comes with a turbodiesel 3.0-liter V6 engine good for 210 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard. In performance testing, the E350 convertible and coupe sprinted from zero to 60 mph in a brisk 6.8 seconds. EPA estimated fuel economy with the 3.5-liter V6 is 18 mpg city/26 mpg highway and 21 mpg combined for the sedan; the E350 coupe and convertible are very similar. The new wagon has a 16/23/19 mpg estimate and Mercedes says the E350 Bluetec will achieve 24 mpg city/33 mpg highway.
The E550s are powered by a 5.5-liter V8 good for 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of torque. The seven-speed auto is again standard. In performance testing, the E550 sedan and coupe went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 5.3 seconds. EPA estimated fuel economy is 15/23/18 for the sedan.
Both the E350 and E550 sedans are available with either rear-wheel drive or 4Matic all-wheel drive, while the E350 wagon is offered solely with the all-wheel-drive powertrain. All E-Class coupes and convertibles are available only with rear-wheel drive.
The E63 AMG has a 6.3-liter V8 that pumps out 518 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. It's coupled to a sport-tuned seven-speed automatic with a paddle-shift manual mode. According to Mercedes, the E63 will go from zero to 60 in 4.4 seconds, which is stunning for a large, four-door vehicle. Fuel economy, should you worry about such things, is 13/20/15 mpg.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, front pelvic airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag.
Also standard is Attention Assist (a driver drowsiness and alerting monitor) and PreSafe (it anticipates an imminent crash and automatically takes measures to better secure occupants). The Driver Assistance package adds a blind-spot warning system, a lane departure warning/correction system and PreSafe braking. Rear side airbags are optional on the sedan, coupe and convertible, while an infrared night vision system is optional on the sedan and wagon.
In government crash testing, the E-Class sedan earned a solid four stars and a perfect five stars for frontal- and side-impact protection, respectively. The sedan also got a "Good" rating -- the highest available -- in both frontal-offset and side-impact crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has a cabin done in a style that is meant to recall solid, dependable Mercedes from the past. Angles are sharp, the materials first-rate and the look is decidedly somber, especially when adorned in monotone color schemes and dark wood trim -- very German, in other words. The general design is the same regardless of body style, except for the available three-spoke sport steering wheel and electric gear selector (column-mounted in the sedan and wagon; console-mounted in the coupe, convertible and AMG).
All E-Class models come with Mercedes' COMAND electronics interface, which combines a large display screen, a control knob and dash-mounted buttons. There's a bit of a learning curve involved, but it's generally neither better nor worse than similar systems from Audi or BMW.
In terms of space and comfort, the E-Class sedan, convertible and wagon are excellent. The seats are firm, but offer endless comfort and support over the long haul. The coupe and AMG models feature sport seats that offer a closer fit, designed to keep you in place through turns. The sedan's backseat is quite spacious, matching the BMW 5 Series as the most welcoming rear quarters in the midsize luxury class. With the wagon, you get a generous 57 cubic feet of maximum cargo capacity, and a rear-facing third-row seat. The convertible offers comfortable seating for four, provided rear passengers are about 5-feet-9 or less, and its cabin is one of the most serene of any convertible due to its AirCap system. In the coupe, the rear seat's legroom is about the same as in most luxury two-doors, but headroom is limited.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class strikes a brilliant balance between ride quality and handling ability. Within its segment, the E is by far the most adaptable, rewarding and confident car for the widest variety of surfaces and situations. Although it's not the most athletic pick, it nevertheless offers highly tactile steering, strong engines and a chassis that inspires confidence. Regardless of body style or engine, the 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a remarkable luxury car to drive.
The Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG is even more remarkable. Anything that can seat five people in comfort and go from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds would certainly warrant that descriptor. Its myriad performance upgrades -- suspension, steering, brakes, wheels, tires and transmission -- make for a serious performance machine.
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