Full 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Review
What's New for 2014
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class receives numerous styling changes, including a streamlined front end. There are also interior tweaks, a new suite of safety technologies and an auto stop-start system. On the diesel front, the four-cylinder E250 Bluetec sedan replaces last year's V6-powered E350 Bluetec. Finally, a more powerful E63 AMG now features standard all-wheel drive and an available S-Model package with more power still.
Although the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has received only a midcycle refresh, the list of updates is dizzying. Compared to last year's model, the 2014 E-Class is a lot sleeker and a little safer, while two of its specialty variants -- the diesel E250 Bluetec (formerly the E350 Bluetec) and the E63 AMG -- have undergone major mechanical surgery.
The current-generation Mercedes E-Class has been one of our favorites since it debuted back in 2010. This car impresses us time and again with its trifecta of refinement, performance and cutting-edge technology. But the 2014 version's improvements are quite compelling, starting with that sleek new shape, which ditches the previous E's blocky front end in favor of a streamlined flow from nose to tail. The sedan and wagon have also lost their prominent rear fender flares, leaving the coupe and convertible to carry this torch.
The evolution continues under the skin, particularly in the turbodiesel E250 Bluetec, which swaps in a four-cylinder engine for the outgoing E350 Bluetec's V6. Fuel economy gains are substantial, yet the smaller diesel's robust 369 pound-feet of torque ensures that there's still adequate get-up-and-go. Most other E-Class models are mechanically unchanged apart from a new electric power steering system, which actually doesn't feel much different from the previous steering system. However, the outrageous E63 AMG gets a bump in horsepower (now rated 550 on the base version), standard all-wheel drive, electronically adjustable shock absorbers with rear air springs, and an optional S package that increases output to a more tolerable 577 hp.
Throw in a slew of new safety technologies borrowed from the latest S-Class, including an available advanced lane-keeping system that involves an object-sensing stereoscopic camera, and you've got a recipe for one of Mercedes' best all-around automobiles yet. Of course, there are plenty of good cars in the midsize luxury class, most notably the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Lexus GS, though none of them can match the sheer variety of body styles and engines in the E-Class lineup. If you're looking for the best all-around luxury sedan (or wagon, coupe or convertible), the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a good place to start your search.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is available as a midsize sedan, coupe, convertible (Cabriolet) or wagon. Each body style offers various trim levels: turbodiesel E250 Bluetec (sedan only), V6-powered E350 (all body styles), gas-electric E400 Hybrid (sedan only), V8-powered E550 (all except the wagon) and V8-powered E63 AMG (sedan and wagon only).
A simplified options structure splits the E250 and E350 four-doors into two basic types: Luxury and Sport. Luxury models come with 17-inch alloy wheels and a traditional grille with a separate hood ornament, while Sport models switch to 18-inch wheels, a two-bar grille with an integrated three-pointed star, and a sport-tuned suspension. Inside, the Sport boasts subtle white-faced gauges and a three-spoke steering wheel in place of the Luxury's four-spoke design. As an option, you can get the three-spoke wheel with a flat bottom, which comes packaged with 18-inch AMG alloys.
Both Luxury and Sport offer standard niceties such as automatic LED headlights, LED taillight accents, adaptive suspension dampers, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, a center-mounted analog clock, a choice of three wood trims, 14-way power front seats with memory functions, MB-Tex synthetic upholstery, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming mirrors, the COMAND electronics interface, Bluetooth, and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer and an iPod/USB audio interface. The E350 wagon also includes a power liftgate, a rearview camera and a rear-facing third-row seat.
The E400 Hybrid is essentially a Sport model by default (though its wheels are 17-inchers), as is the E550 sedan, which gets the flat-bottomed, three-spoke steering wheel and 18-inch AMG wheels as standard. The E550 sedan also features leather upholstery (optional on lesser four-door models).
The E-Class coupe and convertible come standard with most of the sedan's Sport accoutrements, including 18-inch alloys, and they add heated leather sport seats to the mix. The E550 coupes and convertibles also have an adaptive suspension to go with their standard 18-inch AMG wheels. All convertibles receive a power-folding soft top, a rear center pass-through and a pop-up air deflector.
A few packages are optional on the E250, E350, E550 and E400 models. The Premium 1 package adds a rearview camera (standard on the wagon), COMAND with navigation and digital music storage, satellite radio, a 14-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system and a power rear window sunshade (except on the convertible, which gets the AirScarf neck-warming system instead), as well as active ventilated front seats for the E550 sedan and heated front seats for the other sedans.
The Lighting package contributes adaptive LED headlights and automatic high-beam control, while the Parking Assist package adds a surround-view camera system with front and rear parking sensors along with an automated parallel-parking system. Finally, the Keyless Go package tacks on keyless entry and ignition, a power trunk lid (sedan only; wagon has a standard power liftgate) and, for the sedan and wagon, a hands-free feature that both opens and closes the trunk or liftgate when you wave your foot under the rear bumper.
Note that the Coupe and Cabriolet are additionally eligible for a Sport package that throws in 18-inch AMG wheels, painted front brake calipers (standard on E550), the flat-bottomed steering wheel (also standard on E550), multicontour front seats and aluminum pedals.
The speed-freak E63 AMG sedan boasts numerous AMG-developed components (engine, transmission, adjustable suspension, steering, brakes, exhaust, exterior and interior trim), 19-inch wheels and sport seats with adjustable bolsters and driver massage functions. It also comes standard with the contents of the Premium 1, Lighting, Keyless Go and Parking Assist packages (except for the surround-view camera, which costs extra), along with heated rear seats (optional on wagon) and leather upholstery. The AMG S-Model package (optional on sedan, standard on wagon) adds a limited-slip rear differential, different 19-inch wheels, even more power and red brake calipers. Any E63 can be outfitted with carbon-ceramic brakes.
The E63 AMG's driver-seat massage functionality is available on other E-Class models as an option. Other notable options, depending on trim and body style, include an air suspension, an illuminated grille star, a panoramic sunroof (standard on the E63 AMG S-Model wagon), a premium Bang & Olufsen audio system, split-folding rear seats, a 120-volt household-style power outlet, and twin iPad docks behind the front headrests.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class rides on a rear-wheel-drive platform, but 4Matic AWD is widely available. The E400 Hybrid, E550 coupe and both convertibles are the only E-Class models that don't offer it, while both wagons (E350 and E63 AMG) as well as the E550 and E63 AMG sedans come standard with 4Matic. Note that the AMG version of 4Matic sends more power to the rear wheels -- 67 percent versus the usual 55 percent -- to facilitate performance driving.
Every E-Class, except for the E63, employs a seven-speed automatic transmission, and for 2014, every E-Class features shift paddles on the steering wheel. The E63's automatic has seven speeds as well, but it uses a multiplate clutch pack instead of a torque converter for enhanced response and control. Both transmissions come with an automatic stop-start function that turns off the engine when the car stops to save fuel.
Under the hood, the E250 Bluetec relies on a turbocharged 2.1-liter diesel-fueled four-cylinder engine rated at 195 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque. The E350 has a more traditional 3.5-liter V6 that generates 302 hp and 273 lb-ft. This engine also powers the E400 Hybrid, but there is an additional lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor that contribute 27 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. The E400, by the way, can travel up to half a mile, and reach speeds up to 22 mph, on electric power alone.
The E550 goes big with a twin-turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 that's good for 402 hp and 443 lb-ft. These numbers would be even more impressive were it not for the E63 AMG's twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8, which lays down 550 hp and 531 lb-ft -- or 577 hp and 590 lb-ft with the S-Model package.
In terms of acceleration to 60 mph, the E-Class runs the gamut from the E250's expected 8-second sojourn to the E63's 4-second sprint, with the E350 sedan nearly splitting the difference at an Edmunds-tested 6.0 seconds in all-wheel-drive form (expect rear-wheel-drive variants to be a few tenths quicker). The best bang for the buck here comes from the understated E550, a seriously fast car that will rip off 5-second 0-60 bursts for tens of thousands less than the AMG.
On the fuel economy front, the E250 Bluetec predictably leads the way, with preliminary estimates in the neighborhood of 40 highway mpg, well above the outgoing E350 Bluetec's 32 highway mpg. The E350 sedan drops to 21 mpg city/30 mpg highway and 24 mpg combined (20/29/24 with 4Matic), but the E400 improves a bit to 24/30/26 mpg. The E550 4Matic sedan nets a respectable 17/26/20 mpg, with the rear-drive coupe and Cabriolet in the same ballpark, while even the E63 AMG sedan is surprisingly efficient, giving up just an mpg or two compared to the E550.
The E-Class comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, front and front-side airbags, front pelvic airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Rear airbags are a stand-alone option.
The 2014 E-Class also introduces the next generation of Mercedes safety technologies, including a revised driver-drowsiness monitor, front and rear collision-mitigation systems and an updated Driver Assistance package with adaptive cruise control and a "Steering Assist" feature that uses a stereoscopic camera to help keep you in your lane.
Also included is the mbrace telematics system, offering smartphone integration and Web-based apps that include remote controls, driver monitoring and emergency services. The Cabriolet additionally features automatic rollover hoops. All models are available with both a surround-view camera and an automated parking system.
In Edmunds brake testing, an E350 sedan with all-season tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 121 feet, an average performance. When tested with summer performance tires, the E350 sedan stopped in just 110 feet, while an E350 4Matic wagon with summer tires stopped in 109 feet -- pretty impressive for a weighty family hauler.
Interior Design and Special Features
The cabin of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class looks almost identical to its predecessor at first glance, but there are meaningful changes here. A revised "three-tube" gauge cluster adds visual interest, while the gear selector on two-door models has been moved from the center console to the steering column, leaving the E63 AMG as the only trim level with a shifter between the seats. A new Mercedes-brand analog clock adds a touch of class to every E-Class dashboard. The three available wood veneers range from warm to austere -- a nice no-cost opportunity to personalize your Benz.
All E-Class models come with the COMAND electronics interface, which combines a large display screen, a control knob and dash-mounted buttons. As with every knob-based infotainment system, there's a learning curve, but we generally prefer COMAND to rival systems due to its relatively simple menu structure. Its voice command functionality is also first-rate.
Each E-Class is relatively comfortable and spacious by segment standards. The seats are firm, but offer impressive comfort and support for the long haul -- especially the optional multicontour driver seat. The two-door and AMG models feature snug front sport seats that capably hold you in place during aggressive driving. The backseat in four-door models is pleasantly spacious, matching the BMW 5 Series for most hospitable in the midsize luxury class. Two-door E-Classes lose a lot of rear passenger space, but you can still squeeze two adults back there without too much hassle.
The sedan's trunk measures an average-plus 15.9 cubic feet, while the wagon offers up to 57.4 cubic feet of maximum cargo volume in addition to its trademark rear-facing (and strictly-for-kids) third-row seat that gives it seven-passenger capacity in a pinch. The coupe drops to a still-commendable 13.3 cubic feet, and the convertible brings up the rear at 11.5 cubic feet (8.8 with the top down).
Notably, the E400 Hybrid sedan has the same trunk capacity as any other E-Class sedan, as its lithium-ion battery pack is housed in the engine bay rather than in a space-eating trunk location.
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class stakes out a sublime middle ground between comfort and sport. There are both cushier cars and more athletic cars in the midsize luxury segment, but none marries these traits as harmoniously as the Benz. Regardless of body style or engine, the E-Class also provides that unique sense of solidity that has long set Mercedes vehicles apart. It's a special car to drive.
If there's a downside here, it involves the growing collection of electronic driver aids, which certainly mean well but have the potential to interfere with driving enjoyment. Fortunately, some can be turned off if you find them overly intrusive.
You'll be hard-pressed to distinguish the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec from its six-cylinder E350 Bluetec predecessor, as the diesel four-cylinder engine pulls with vigor from very low rpm. Its soundtrack doesn't stir the soul, but neither is it loud nor immediately identifiable as a diesel. For environmentally minded E-Class buyers, the E250 is a good way to go.
As for the E63 AMG, the addition of standard all-wheel drive this year means the subtraction of smoky burnouts from the car's repertoire, but in every other way, AWD is big plus. Gone are those frequent moments in the old car when you asked for power and got a blinking traction control light instead; now, you simply put your foot down and prepare for takeoff. The extra power doesn't hurt, either, although the E-Class AMG cars were already stupendously powerful a decade ago.