Long a favorite of shoppers in the market for a midsize luxury car, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class has provided an appealing mix of comfort, performance and safety for decades. And, unsurprisingly, the trademark Mercedes-Benz qualities — vaultlike solidity, classic design 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 lineup offers truly impressive variety. With four different body styles, and engines ranging from fuel-sipping hybrids to pavement-wrinkling V8s, there's an E-Class for just about anyone. 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 and wagon were completely redesigned for the 2017 model year, with new powertrains, updated technology and a host of the latest advanced safety and driver-assist features. Many of its styling cues are taken from the seriously upscale S-Class flagship line, and the revamped interior features elegant design and top-quality materials.
The base E300 sedan is powered by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 241 hp. It comes mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels, with all-wheel drive (AWD) as an option. The E400 wagon and AMG E43 sedan step up to a turbocharged V6 that makes 329 hp in the wagon and 396 hp in the E43. Both come standard with a nine-speed transmission and AWD. The E400 coupe and convertible are powered by the wagon's 3.0-liter V6 engine but have a seven-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the rear wheels. AWD is available as an option for the coupe only. Finally, the E550 coupe and convertible get a turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 that puts out 402 hp.
The well-equipped base model sedan comes standard with such features as LED lighting, heated power-folding mirrors, a sunroof, selectable drive modes, dual-zone automatic climate control and power-adjustable front seats with driver memory functions. Among the latest safety features are a new communication system that networks with other Mercedes vehicles to alert drivers of possible hazards and a Pre-Safe Sound system that emits a specific noise before a collision that triggers a muscle reflex in the inner ear to reduce hearing damage.
In reviews, we've found that even the base four-cylinder engine provides adequate power for the E-Class sedan. It has proven to be a strong performer at speed, while still delivering the quiet, smooth driving experience that is expected by buyers of this class of vehicle. The standard turbo V6 in the two-door models ups the ante for those interested in a bit more zip and tauter handling, but even more serious performance can be extracted from the V8 models.
On-the-road refinement comes courtesy of an updated, sophisticated suspension system and steering that is light yet provides decent feedback. Although the standard E-Class models are tuned for comfort and a smooth ride, the E43 comes with AMG's more performance-oriented suspension for tighter handling and better control.
Used Mercedes-Benz E-Class Models
The previous fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class lineup, produced from 2010 through 2016, was available in sedan, coupe, wagon and convertible body styles. Compared to the third-generation model, significant changes included revised styling, a higher-quality interior and a new coupe model, as well as a host of technology upgrades and new comfort and convenience features.
Powerplants for this generation varied depending on the year. Near the end of production, Mercedes offered a base 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 (329 hp), a turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 (402 hp), and a turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 (550 to 577 hp). There was also a turbocharged 2.1-liter diesel-fueled four-cylinder engine rated at 195 hp and a hybrid variant powered by the standard 3.5-liter V6 in combination with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack. Of the latter two powertrains, the diesel was the more fuel efficient.
Sedans and wagons in this generation were available in Luxury and Sport trims. Both came with such features as LED lighting, an adaptive suspension, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats and an infotainment system with Bluetooth connectivity. The Luxury models leaned toward more traditional styling and ride, while the Sport versions included tighter suspension and sleeker design elements. The coupe and convertible models included most of the Sport features with a few extra touches, such as heated leather seats.
In reviews, we found the performance of the fourth-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class impressive. The handling and ride balance should please most buyers, although the AMG's hard-core suspension may be too stiff for some. There are some very solid reasons for the popularity of the E-Class, namely strengths in every area that counts in this segment, such as luxury, performance, safety and prestige.
In 2010, the first year of production for this generation, Mercedes only offered the E-Class as a gasoline-powered sedan and coupe. The wagon, convertible and E350 Bluetec diesel arrived for 2011. Until 2012, most trim levels 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 V8 good for 382 hp, which was class-competitive, and the E63 AMG had a 6.2-liter V8 that produced 518 hp. The E400 Hybrid was introduced in 2013, along with a 4Matic version of the E350 Coupe.
The third-generation E-Class was produced from 2003 to 2009. 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. At this time, Mercedes also began offering the option of 4Matic all-wheel drive for both sedans and wagons. 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 returned to the family after a five-year hiatus. 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 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 early fourth-generation models beyond the naming conventions and the latter's unique coupe variant, so a pre-owned third-generation E-Class should deliver nearly as much satisfaction as a newer 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 Mercedes-Benz E-Class ran from 1996 to 2002. This generation initiated the marque's signature styling cue: 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.
In reviews, we found the second-generation E-Class to be stylish, durable and well built. A model from this generation should appeal to a wide variety of shoppers and will serve buyers quite 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.
The first-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class (1986-'95) — available in sedan, coupe and wagon body styles — 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 reviews, we noted that 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 to 1994. 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.