Keeping up with the Jones’s in 2014 can be a little more difficult than in previous years. With the integration of new car tech, some buyers put great value on the latest in-car gadgets. Yet you will still run into the neighbor with more traditional tastes, and understand luxury in a different way. Luckily the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class spans the generations, by offering an upscale sedan that will appeal to Old Money as much as it does to “Nouveau riche.”
The E-Class has been updated for 2014, and though what lies beneath is similar to the 2013 model, the front and rear of the exterior have been restyled. Most notable is the move away from the split-dual headlights which had become a hallmark of the E-Class. Each headlight is now one large LED-compound unit, but makes a visual reference to the old headlights with two separate LED arrays within.
Additionally the grille and lower front bumper areas have all been smoothed over. Out back the E-Class gets new LED taillights and, like the front, a general softening of angles.
The 2014 E-Class is available as the base E250 BlueTEC, which we drove, the V6-powered E350, E400 Hybrid, and V8-powered E550 4MATIC. There is also the E63 AMG, which is a little too potent for covering in this review.
We drove the E250 BlueTEC, which is Mercedes-speak for diesel. Because model number don’t seem to mean much any more, the E250 is powered by a 2.1-liter turbo-diesel engine, making an underwhelming 195 horsepower, but an impressive 369 pound feet of torque. Power is sent through a 7-speed automatic to the rear wheels, or available 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
The E350’s 3.5-liter V6 makes 302 horsepower, while the E400 utilities the same V6 combined with an electric motor and battery pack. The E400 gets 27 additional horsepower and improved fuel economy over the E350 takes its toll on the wallet to get you there.
Finally there is the E550 4MATIC sedan, which features a twin-turbo 4.6-liter V8 making 402 horsepower. Unlike other models where AWD is an option, the E550 comes standard with all-wheel drive.
Acceleration in our E250 BlueTEC 4MATIC test model was competent, but never thrilling. The E-Class can be switched into Comfort or Sport driving modes, each with their own unique throttle and shift patterns. The E250 also comes with an Eco button which activates the Auto Stop-Start mode. When in park or idling at a stop light, Auto Stop-Start will cut the engine to save fuel. It is responsive enough to restart the engine in the time it takes you to move your right foot from the brake pedal to the accelerator. It is still quite smooth, yet I found myself turning off Eco mode and engaging Sport mode for the most rewarding drive.
The great thing about the E250 is that you can have a heavy foot with minimal fuel economy penalty. The EPA lists the E250 at 28 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. In a week of mixed driving, we observed fuel economy of 33.4 mpg.
Inside, the E-Class receives subtle updates that may not register to the untrained eye, but rest assured, it is an improved ecosystem. From the trim around the vents bezels, to the stitching, to the choice and placement of wood accents, the E-Class exudes classic luxury, but with a modern refinement.
Beneath the window sills on either side, about halfway up the door, you will find recessed accent lighting which provides a unique glow to the interior at night.
The dash is dominated by the centrally placed COMAND digital screen, which is operated by the dial in the center console. This controller is placed right where the driver would rest his or her right hand, making for extremely natural usability. That said, marching through the dozens of menus of the system is a little less natural. It’s no secret that automakers are cramming more and more vehicle systems into digital menus rather than tactile controls, but some brands just get how to present that technology better than others. A touch screen is typically the best way to go about this, but the controller is a bit of branded, proprietary technology that Mercedes-Benz will not stray away from.
While some controls are less-than ideal to manipulate, the Bluetooth hands-free connection is simple to set up, and once connected can make voice controlled hands free calls and access the smartphone’s music apps. There is also a digital display in the center of the speedometer, that is controlled by the directional pad on the multifunction steering wheel. This system has less menus than the main COMAND system and as such, is far easier to manipulate.
The E-Class also comes with some serious safety technology, including the latest barrage of lane departure warning system, blind spot monitoring system and forward collision warning system. The sensors used for the later, which can alert you of an impending collision if you are distracted, is also used to operate the intelligent cruise control. This system allows the E-Class to hum along at a predetermined speed, and will slow down if the vehicle in front of it is not going as fast. When that vehicle pulls into a slower lane, the E-Class will jump back up to speed.
So what is the price for all this technology, efficiency and safety? The E250 BlueTEC starts at $51,400, while an E350 starts at $51,900. The E400 Hybrid starts at $56,700 and the range-topping E550 comes in at $61,400. Our test model was fitted with options such as the Premium Package 1 (which includes navigation, heated front seats and voice control), available 4MATIC all-wheel-drive, and the Driver Assistance Package (which features the aforementioned safety tech). When all is said and done, the sedan that starts at just under $52K, rockets to more than $62,000.
And that is the crux of the E-Class. Just like the rise of technology as status in a new vehicle, there has also been a movement towards getting a good deal. The last six years has changed a lot of perceptions, and opulence is not always the best route. Buyers have been flocking to more-for-less cars like the Hyundai Genesis, which you can get fitted with all the above options for the base price of an E250.
It is hard to justify dropping ten grand more than needed for just a name, but if you live in the right neighborhood, the name is what matters most. If getting the most content for the least price, the E-Class may not be the right choice. But if you believe that status in a name is the true measure of luxury, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class will continue to be the defining upscale suburban sedan.