Over the past 4 years we've been lucky enough to drive 4 different generations of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. While it wasn't officially known as the E-Class until 1994 with the W124, like the E 500 we featured last week, Mercedes-Benz's mid-size executive car has been a strong competitor for luxury since the 1950s. We had a chance to drive the latest W213 E-Class with the 2019 Mercedes-Benz E 450 4matic sedan, while seeing how it's changed from the 1994 Mercedes-Benz E 500.
It's funny that the first official press car we've gotten from Mercedes-Benz since starting our regular new car coverage in Montreal actually ended up happening in Toronto, at their corporate offices off the Don Valley Parkway. The 2019 Mercedes-Benz E 450 4matic sedan is a facelift for the 5th generation E-Class, while adding some innovative safety technology along with an updated exterior design. Shared more closely with the C & S-Class design for the first time since the 90s, the W213 brings a standardized look to the Mercedes sedan fleet.
I always appreciated the dual-headlight front end on the W210 E-Class. Historically the C-Class always shared a very similar design language with it's larger S-Class brother, but Mercedes-Benz's executive car had a unique design making it much easier to distinguish in the German luxury manufacturer's fleet. Personally I like the front end of this 2019 E-Class, even with the AMG appearance package over the luxury-oriented slat-grille & hood ornament.
At $87,000 this E-Class comes well equipped with a number of extra options ticked off from the factory. Here in Canada any E 450 sedan comes with the AMG appearance package as standard, so the E 300 would be the way to go if you want that classic Benz stance. The E 450 also gets a bi-turbo V6 engine with 362 horsepower, 369 lb-ft of torque with a 9G-Tronic 9-speed automatic transmission and 4matic as standard. While a 400-designation previously would be a quick indication of a V8, times are changing with a push towards smaller forced induction engines like this V6. More on the engine and road feel later.
Our test model came with front and rear parking sensors, semi-autonomous highway driving mode, parking assistant, keyless entry, power folding mirrors, and some of the best LED headlights you can get in the segment. Mercedes-Benz says they use 84 individual LEDs per unit to illuminate the road through low beams, adaptive turning lights, and automatic high beams. Being in the Toronto-area for our testing most of the night driving we did was well illuminated by city streetlamps, however we do have the 2019 Mercedes-AMG E 53 coupe coming up and will be able to thoroughly test the lighting in depth.
The interior of the W213 E-Class is impressive and familiar if you're driven any other modern Mercedes-Benz sedan. My only major complaint comes from the dual 12.3" infotainment screens which use Blackberry style controllers on the steering wheel, and a secondary input controller on the centre console for the centre screen. The system felt laggy during our testing, and operation with the input methods weren't intuitive. We feel users will have a lengthy learning curve, but once you become accustomed to this final version of Comand you should feel more at home.
Mercedes also includes voice control with this generation Comand. While it isn't as advanced as the next generation MBUX infotainment architecture, it still allows for a number of easier-to-use functions, such as changing the radio station, or even opening the windows. As cars become more digitized we'll see continued adoption towards voice control, along with other un-realized methods of control. The thought of being able to ask the car to roll down the windows is stuff from a sci-fi show, but today it's our reality.
So while the infotainment may be a love/hate situation, the rest of the E-Class interior is top-notch. Optional extras like an Artico dashboard or a Dinamica headliner can be added, this test vehicle felt more than luxurious as configured. The black-on-black leather seating and open-pore wood was a little too dark for us, but Mercedes-Benz offers a number of different leather colours, styles, and configurations, along with half a dozen trim options. Seating was comfortable with ventilation and heat for the front occupants, and heated outboard seats for the rear. While the rear seating area has manual side window sunshades and a power rear sunshade, no third zone climate zone exists, which is a miss in our books. Manufacturers like Volvo offer it on their S90 mid-size long wheelbase sedan, but also on the smaller S60 sedan which would compete against a C-Class.
On-road feel was excellent with the E 450, and surprisingly had similar power numbers to the 1994 E 500 we drove. The bi-turbo V6 provided instant power on demand, and allowed easy highway passing in the blink of an eye. Mercedes still wants this car to be a luxury cruiser first, so very little engine or exhaust drama interrupted the driving experience. This E-Class was also smooth on the road, with near S-Class level of comfort. The optional AirMatic suspension also helped to give this car a seriously straight ride even along some of Toronto's rougher roadways.
And that's what separates Mercedes-Benz from BMW, relaxing comfort over sporty luxury. BMW has made it's case over the past half-century as being the luxury performance brand, while Mercedes-Benz has focused on the luxury comfort side of the market. Those who complain that Mercedes-Benz doesn't offer the same sporty driving experience that BMW does shouldn't be looking at the three-pointed star in the first place. Even the AMG models of today don't offer that over-the-top aggressiveness you can find from a similar M car. If you want the ultimate luxury experience, you want a Mercedes-Benz.
I suspect buyers will be tempted towards the E 450 over the smaller E 300 based mostly on the engine specs, but also the AMG look. Classic buyers are few and far between, and that timeless Mercedes design is being phased out in favour of sportier looking designs, with more aggressive edges. The 2019 Mercedes-Benz E 450 4matic once again shows why Mercedes is the leader when it comes to ultimate comfort & luxury. It's not enough to be good in this segment, but Mercedes-Benz strives to be the absolute best. Going above and beyond, with heated arm rests, ambient lighting that adjusts based on your temperature settings, and even pre-collision safety to ensure even the most brutal accidents are also the most luxurious.
The E-Class remains the benchmark for luxury in the executive car segment.