Long a favorite in the midsize luxury segment, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class has provided an appealing mix of comfort, performance and safety for decades. The trademark qualities of Mercedes-Benz vehicles, such as vaultlike solidity and leading-edge technology, have also contributed to the E-Class' great popularity among luxury buyers. No matter what model year you're considering, this midsize Mercedes should be an excellent choice.
The current car bolsters itself with truly impressive variety. With four different body styles, and engines ranging from a fuel-efficient diesel to an ultra-high-performance AMG V8, there's an E-Class for just about anyone -- provided they have the financial resources to procure one, of course. As always, you get the expected amount of luxury and convenience equipment for the class, along with standard-setting craftsmanship and engineering.
Current Mercedes-Benz E-Class
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan comes in four trim levels: the gasoline V6-powered E350 (302 horsepower), diesel-powered E350 Bluetec (210 hp), the twin-turbo V8-powered E550 (402 hp) and the pavement-scorching E63 AMG, which boasts a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 good for either 518 or 550 hp depending on whether you opt for the AMG Performance package. Rear-wheel drive is standard on all but the E550, which gets "4Matic" all-wheel drive standard. It's optional on the gasoline E350.
There are also three other body styles: coupe, convertible and wagon. The coupe and convertible are available in all but Bluetec and AMG trims, while the wagon is E350 only. Rear-wheel drive is standard on the coupe and convertible, while the wagon gets all-wheel drive standard. All models are equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission.
All E-Class trims come with the expected luxuries, such as a dual-zone climate control, leather seating, power front seats and a powerful audio system. The convertible gets an innovative AirCap system, which reduces top-down turbulence significantly. The E63 AMG has unique exterior styling and interior trim, sport seats, upgraded brakes and an adaptive sport suspension.
In reviews, we've noted that the performance of any Mercedes-Benz E-Class is impressive. The E350 can hit 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds, while the E550 sprints to that speed in around 5 ticks and the AMG sedan will run it in well under 5. The handling and ride balance should please most folks, though the AMG's hard-core suspension may be too stiff for some. There are very solid reasons for the E-Class' popularity, namely strengths in every area that counts in this segment, such as luxury, performance, safety and prestige. If you can afford one, you can't go wrong with a Mercedes-Benz E-Class.
Used Mercedes-Benz E-Class Models
The current car represents the fourth-generation E-Class, which debuted for the 2010 model year. In that initial year, Mercedes only offered the E-Class as a gasoline-powered sedan and coupe. The wagon, convertible and E350 Bluetec arrived for 2011.
Until 2012, all but the Bluetec featured different engines. The E350's 3.5-liter V6 produced 268 hp, which was rather weak considering its competitors often offered 300 hp or more. The E550 came with a 5.5-liter naturally aspirated V8 good for 382 hp, which was class-competitive. Finally, the E63 AMG had a naturally aspirated 6.2-liter V8 that produced 518 hp and glorious sounds that made you smile for days. Both of these V8 engines were superb even in light of their turbocharged successors. Another key difference is that models with all-wheel drive featured the same hydraulic power steering system as the other models -- 4Matic currently comes with electric power steering.
The third-generation E-Class was produced from 2003-'09. The initial lineup consisted of the E320 sedan and wagon (221-hp gasoline V6) and the E500 sedan (302-hp V8). The wagon continued in previous-generation form for '03. Later that year, the E55 AMG sedan came online with a 469-hp supercharged V8. The 2004 model year brought the "new" generation wagon, which could be had in both E320 and E500 versions. Mercedes also began offering the option of 4Matic all-wheel drive for both sedans and wagons. The 4Matic system was standard on the E500 wagon (which was discontinued after the '06 model year). In 2005, Mercedes added an E55 AMG wagon to the lineup, and for 2007, the AMGs were renamed E63 with the arrival of the larger V8 engine sans supercharger.
Also for '05, a diesel E-Class, the E320 CDI, returned to the family after a five-year hiatus. The E320 CDI was only available in 45 U.S. states due to stricter emissions standards in the remaining five states (California, Maine, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont) but was quick for a diesel; it could run to 60 mph in under 7 seconds. In 2006, the gasoline E320 became the E350, with the name change indicating a new 3.5-liter V6 making 268 hp. The E500 became the E550 for '07, marking the arrival of the 5.5-liter V8, and the tweaked diesel-powered E320 featured a new "Bluetec" clean-burning diesel engine. For 2009, the E-Class received an updated audio system and a new hard-drive-based navigation system.
In reviews, we consistently praised this E-Class's restrained styling, luxurious interior and confident performance. In fact, there's not a lot of difference between the third- and fourth-generation models beyond the design language and the latter's unique coupe variant, so a pre-owned third-generation E-Class should deliver nearly as much satisfaction as a new E. With all those running changes, though, it will behoove used-car shoppers to pay close attention to the model year of the E-Class in question.
The second generation of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class ran from 1996-2002. This generation initiated the marque's signature cue, the four ellipsoid headlights. Although a few inches longer than the car before it, this E-Class had basically the same chassis as its predecessor. Offered at debut were sedans called the E300D diesel (134 hp), the E320 with an inline six-cylinder engine (217 hp) and the E420 V8 (275 hp). By '98, the diesel had gained a turbo and more power (174 hp), a wagon returned, 4Matic all-wheel drive was offered and the gasoline inline-6 was replaced by a 221-hp V6. The E420 also became the E430 via a slightly larger (4.3-liter) V8. The following year, the hot-rod E55 AMG with its 349-hp V8 bowed. Side curtain airbags came in '99, while the 2000 model year saw a revised cabin and front end, the exit of the diesel and more standard safety equipment (including stability control, as well as front and rear side airbags). Changes were minimal for the next couple of years.
Durable and well built, a second-generation E-Class from this generation should serve you well. As with any used car consideration, look for a complete and up-to-date maintenance history, since upkeep on an E-Class can be quite expensive (as with any German car).
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class (1986-'95) was praised for its excellent combination of performance and safety. At first, it was available with either an inline-6 (300E) or a turbodiesel (300D), with V8 power coming a few years later. In addition to the sedan, coupe and wagon versions were offered.
The 300E furnished strong performance for a midsize luxury sedan of its day -- zero to 60 mph took less than 8 seconds and top speed approached 140 mph. Serious enthusiasts might be interested in the limited-edition 500E sedan, which packed a Porsche-designed 322-hp V8 and was offered from 1992-'94.
Still desirable and known for a long service life, a well-kept E-Class from this generation will nonetheless be a costly vehicle to own when repairs are required.
Read the most recent 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class review.
If you are looking for older years, visit our used Mercedes-Benz E-Class page.
For more on past Mercedes-Benz E-Class models, view our Mercedes-Benz E-Class history page.