What's New for 2016
The E400 Hybrid has been discontinued, as have the regular E63 AMG models, leaving the hopped-up E63 AMG S sedan and wagon as the only AMG offerings this year. Otherwise, the E-Class receives only minor equipment changes.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class lineup is so extensive that it could almost be its own brand. With four body styles (sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible); countless feature combinations; and no fewer than five engines (ranging from a fuel-sipping diesel four-cylinder to a fuel-swilling twin-turbo V8); this midsize Mercedes would have no trouble filling a showroom by itself. Pleasingly, there is also a consistent level of excellence despite the car's dizzying diversity. There are certainly newer rivals on the market, but the Benz continues to appeal with its tasteful styling and remarkably broad skill set.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is available in four body styles.
If you're up on the news, you'll know that an all-new E-Class is on the horizon. But there are still good reasons to give the 2016 E-Class a chance. For one thing, there's the old bit of wisdom that cars at the end of their production cycles are more reliable, as the engineers have had time to "work out the kinks." For another, the current E-Class remains fully competitive against its fresher foes, lacking only a certain sportiness when you're driving it around turns -- a familiar Mercedes trait that its successor may well share.
Also familiar is the controlled yet supremely supple ride, which only falters in the AMG S trims with their unyielding performance suspensions. Moreover, the E-Class offers world-class engines in every body style, and its safety technologies are second to none. The simple fact is that this Mercedes is one of the best all-around cars in the world, and that will continue to be the case regardless of how its replacement turns out. It's hard to imagine feeling disappointed from behind this Benz's wheel.
The midsize luxury segment is chock full of alluring alternatives, most notably the 2016 Audi A6, the BMW 5 Series and the Lexus GS. Although none of them can match the variety that Mercedes offers, the Audi and Lexus are more athletic, while the BMW can match the E-Class for curbside appeal. There's also the brand-new 2016 Jaguar XF with its slinky styling and spirited performance. Nonetheless, we'd be hard-pressed to say there's any midsize luxury car on the market that's out-and-out better than the Benz. It's not to be missed if you're shopping in this segment.
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Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is available as a midsize sedan, coupe, convertible (Cabriolet) or wagon.
Each body style offers various trim levels that correspond to the engine: diesel E250 Bluetec (sedan only), V6 E350 (sedan and wagon), turbocharged V6 E400 (all but wagon), V8 E550 (coupe and convertible) and turbocharged V8-powered E63 AMG S (sedan and wagon only).
The E250 and E350 sedans are split 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 feature different wheels, a two-bar grille with an integrated three-pointed star and a sport-tuned suspension. Inside, the Sport boasts aluminum pedals, subtle white-faced gauges and a three-spoke steering wheel in place of the Luxury's four-spoke design.
Both Luxury and Sport come standard with LED headlights, LED taillight accents, adaptive suspension dampers, a sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, 10-way power front seats (with four-way lumbar), front-seat memory functions, MB-Tex simulated leather 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 is also offered in Luxury or Sport form, and it includes a power liftgate, a rearview camera and a rear-facing third-row seat.
The E400 sedan comes only in Sport form and adds 18-inch wheels, keyless entry and ignition, leather upholstery and both the Premium and Lane Tracking packages (detailed below).
The E400 coupe and convertible come standard with most of the E350 Sport sedan's accoutrements, and they add LED headlights (non-adaptive), a panoramic sunroof and heated leather sport seats to the mix. The E550 coupes and convertibles also have adjustable suspension dampers to go with their standard 18-inch wheels. All convertibles receive a power-folding soft top, a rear center pass-through and a pop-up air deflector.
Numerous packages can be specified on the E-Class if they aren't already standard. The Premium package adds a rearview camera (standard on wagon), power-folding mirrors, heated front seats (standard on coupe and convertible), split-folding rear seats (sedan only), COMAND with navigation, voice controls, 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).
The Lighting package (sedan and wagon only) features adaptive LED headlights and automatic high-beam headlight control, while the Keyless Go package tacks on keyless entry and ignition, a power trunk lid (sedan only) and, for the sedan and wagon, a hands-free feature that either opens or closes the trunk or liftgate when you wave your foot under the rear bumper.
On the safety front, the available Lane Tracking package alerts you if you're drifting out of your lane and also includes a blind-spot monitor. The Driver Assistance package (roughly equivalent to the Premium 3 package on two-door models) includes adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, active blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and forward collision warning/mitigation (with automatic braking).
Note that the coupe and convertible can be equipped with a Premium 2 package that essentially combines the Lane Tracking and Lighting packages.
The E400 coupe and convertible are additionally eligible for a Sport package that includes 18-inch wheels, a body kit, a sport-tuned suspension, upgraded front brakes, a flat-bottom steering wheel and upgraded (multicontour) front seats. The E550 coupe and convertible come standard with nearly all of these features, so their Sport package consists merely of the multicontour seats.
Finally, the speed-freak E63 AMG S sedan and wagon boast numerous AMG-developed or tuned components (engine, transmission, adjustable suspension, steering, brakes, exhaust, exterior and interior trim); 19-inch wheels; a limited-slip rear differential; and sport seats with adjustable bolsters and driver massage functions. They also come standard with the Premium, Lighting, Lane Tracking, Driver Assistance and Keyless Go packages. Any E63 can be outfitted with carbon-ceramic brakes.
Other notable options include an automated parking system, illuminated door sills, heated rear seats, a panoramic sunroof (standard on the E63 AMG S-Model wagon), a 14-speaker Bang & Olufsen audio system and a WiFi hotspot.
Powertrains and Performance
Most trim levels of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class lineup are available with either rear- or all-wheel drive (4Matic). However, the E550 coupe and convertible are rear-wheel drive only, while the E350 wagon and both E63 AMG S models are 4Matic only. Note that the AMG version of 4Matic sends more power to the rear wheels -- 67 percent versus the usual 55 percent -- for a sportier driving feel.
Every E-Class except the E63 employs a seven-speed automatic transmission. 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 shift paddles on the steering wheel, and all cars have 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 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The E350 has a 3.5-liter V6 that generates 302 hp and 273 lb-ft.
The E400 packs a turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that produces 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, while the E550 upgrades to a turbocharged 4.7-liter V8 pumping out 402 hp and 443 lb-ft.
Finally, the E63 AMG S gets a turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that cranks out 577 hp and 590 lb-ft.
In Edmunds acceleration testing, the E-Class ran the gamut from the E250's respectable 7.6-second effort to the E63 AMG S sedan's scorching 3.7-second sprint (4.0 for the E63 AMG S wagon), with the E350 sedan nearly splitting the difference at 6.0 seconds in all-wheel-drive form (expect rear-wheel-drive variants to be a few tenths quicker). The E550 versions are seriously quick, as they're able to rip off 5.0-second 0-60 bursts. We clocked an E400 Cabriolet with the turbo V6 at 5.3 seconds.
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class features a wide range of engine choices, from a fuel-sipping diesel to the stonking 577-horsepower V8.
As one would expect from such a diverse group of powertrains, EPA-estimated fuel economy varies widely. The E250 Bluetec predictably leads the way, checking in at 33 mpg combined (28 city/42 highway), and we saw an astounding 43 mpg on our 120-mile evaluation route. Opt for all-wheel drive and you can still expect 31 mpg combined (27/38). The E350 models drop to 23 mpg combined (20/29), losing 1 mpg highway with 4Matic, with the E400 impressively matching the E350's efficiency on both counts.
The E550 coupe rates 21 mpg combined (18/26), with the E550 convertible coming in at 20 mpg combined (17/26). The AMG S sedan earns an 18-mpg combined figure (15/21), while the wagon drops to 21 mpg highway.
The E-Class comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability control, a driver drowsiness monitor, front and front-side airbags, front pelvic airbags, side curtain airbags and a driver knee airbag. Also included is the mbrace telematics system, offering smartphone integration and Web-based apps that include remote controls, driver monitoring and emergency services. The convertible additionally features automatically deploying rollover hoops.
Rear airbags are a stand-alone option. The Lane Tracking package adds lane-departure warning and blind-spot monitoring. The Driver Assistance package (or the Premium 3 package for two-door models) adds lane keeping assist, active blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking. All models are available with an automated parking system.
In Edmunds brake testing, an E250 with all-season tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet, an average performance. An E350 sedan, also on all-seasons, needed 121 feet. When tested with summer performance tires, however, the E350 sedan stopped in just 110 feet, while an E350 4Matic wagon with summer tires stopped in 109 feet -- mighty impressive for a hefty family hauler. As one would expect, the E63 sedan's 105-foot stop is the shortest of the bunch (107 feet for the E63 wagon), and that was without the optional carbon-ceramic brakes. But an E400 Cabriolet with summer tires was right on its heels at 106 feet.
In government crash testing, the E-Class earned an overall rating of four stars (out of a possible five), with four stars for total frontal-impact protection and five stars for total side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarded the E-Class sedan its top rating of "Good" in its small-overlap frontal-offset, moderate-overlap frontal-offset, side-impact and roof-strength tests. The E-Class sedan's seat and head restraint design was also rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts. Furthermore, the IIHS awarded the E-Class sedan a rare "Superior" grade for front crash prevention when equipped with the Driver Assistance package. The E-Class coupe was similarly rated "Good" in all tested categories.
Interior Design and Special Features
The cabin of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is at once handsome and functional. A "three-tube" gauge cluster adds visual interest, while all but the AMG versions have a steering-column-mounted gear selector that frees up space on the center console. A Mercedes-brand analog clock adds a touch of class, as do multiple wood-veneer options that range from warm to austere.
All E-Class models come with the COMAND electronics interface, which combines a large display screen with a console-mounted control knob and auxiliary buttons on the dashboard. This is actually Mercedes' older COMAND system and, as such, it lacks some of the upgrades found in the newer C-Class and S-Class, but its operation is pretty easy to learn and the available voice controls are also first-rate.
Each E-Class body style is relatively comfortable and spacious by segment standards. The seats are certainly on the firm side, but they offer impressive comfort and support for the long haul, especially if you get the fancy "multicontour" chairs. 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-Class models lose a lot of rear passenger space, but you can still squeeze two adults back there if need be.
Interior build and materials quality is excellent, with supportive seats that make it easy for you to take a trip in extreme comfort.
The sedan's trunk measures a slightly above-average 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 of trunk space, while the convertible brings up the rear at 11.5 cubic feet (8.8 with the top down).
The 2016 Mercedes-Benz E-Class may lack the nimble character of, say, an Audi A6, but it compensates with an exceptionally absorbent suspension (E63 AMG S aside) that's nonetheless taut and controlled, too. There's a distinctive sense of solidity here that has long been a Mercedes trademark, yet the 2016 E-Class is also a very capable handler by the numbers. In any form, it's a special car to drive. The only real downside is the growing collection of electronic driver aids, which certainly mean well but have the potential to interfere with your enjoyment. Fortunately, some can be turned off if you find them overly intrusive.
You'll be hard-pressed to distinguish the E250 Bluetec from its six-cylinder E350 Bluetec predecessor, as the diesel four-cylinder engine pulls with vigor from very low rpm. You might notice some vibration through the pedals while idling at a standstill, but the exceptionally refined auto stop-start system essentially makes that a nonissue. Once under way, the diesel's soundtrack won't stir the soul, but neither is it crude or off-putting. Remember, the E250 may be the slowest E-Class, but it's also the cheapest and most fuel-efficient.
As for the gasoline engines, the E350's workhorse 3.5-liter V6 is strong and smooth, while the E400's turbo V6 adds a big dollop of eerily constant torque from idle to redline. A hidden gem is the E550's mellifluous, effortlessly powerful 4.7-liter V8, which used to be offered in the sedan but is now relegated to two-door duty. The E63 AMG S goes completely bonkers with its 577-hp V8, providing acceleration on par with that of exotic sports cars. In sum, there's a whole lot of winning going on beneath the E-Class's bonnet.