If you want to drive around in something elegant with four doors and room for five adults, you’ll find that there’s no shortage of excellent options out there competing for your attention.
Take the midsize premium segment for example, where trying to decide between rivals like the E-Class, 5-Series and A6 will hardly ever come down to which of the three is a superior product, but rather the best package at certain points throughout their life cycles.
It also depends on what you think of the styling, which is a major factor now for the E-Class since Mercedes decided to opt for a horizontal tail light design. Not everyone is a fan, so it would seem.
You might think that driving a mildly polarizing Benz would leave you with at least some mixed emotions, but it really doesn’t. As long as you nail the spec, inside and out, you might begin to wonder why on Earth anybody would spend more money on a CLS.
As you can probably deduce, our test car was fitted with the AMG Styling kit inside and out, and what this means for the exterior is that you end up with more aggressive-looking bumpers and side skirts. The car looks really good when viewed from the front or the side. As for the rear, let’s say it looks good enough, even though the older model’s tail lights arguably worked a little better with the car’s overall design.
Something very few people actually noticed about the 2021 E-Class is that you can get the sedan variant with the same double crease hood as you get in the proper AMG versions, or the Coupe and Cabrio variants. That wasn’t always the case, and it makes the time you spend behind the wheel a bit more interesting as you’re always staring at those creases like you would at two little sporty bulges.
Other exterior highlights include the Selenite Grey Metallic paint, as well as 18-inch five double-spoke wheels, although the latter can seem a bit undersized from certain angles. Thus, you might as well get 19-inch rims in order to fill in those arches a bit better.
Props for that new steering wheel
Technically, Mercedes did not do a great deal to change the interior of the E-Class during this mid-cycle refresh. However, the revised instrument panel graphics, latest-gen MBUX system and the brand new steering wheel design really do add up to a considerably more modern and elegant ambiance.
All the buttons on the spokes are touch capacitive and the spokes themselves can be pressed for various functions. The graphics meanwhile are excellent, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a higher-definition 360-camera system out there. Granted, they do exist, but this one is up there with the best of them.
Then there’s the ARTICO leather / DINAMICA microfiber combo, AMG Line and Premium Pack combo, with the latter adding the wide instrument panel, heated seats and MBUX sat-nav with Augmented Reality, the Night Package (tinted windows), plus the 360 parking package with PARKTRONIC, Keyless-Go, panoramic sunroof (1,770 euro / $2,000 option here in Romania), a Burmester sound system, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless charging, Lane Assist and contrast stitching for the upper dashboard, among a number of other options.
How good is it to drive?
It’s an E-Class. It’s smooth, quiet and extremely easy to maneuver around town. The Agility Control suspension is a good thing to have, but I actually found myself putting the car in Sport+ on the highway just to tighten up the steering a little bit. You can also set it up whichever way you want in the Individual settings.
Usually you’ll be in Comfort Mode though, and you’ll surely enjoy Mercedes’ exquisite 9G-TRONIC gearbox, which is available with all engines. This brings us to the E 200 4MATIC configuration.
It’s a bit of a weird combo in the sense that when you’re cruising around in Comfort Mode and you need to put your foot down, there will be lag, and there won’t always be enough torque at your disposal unless you nearly “floor” the gas pedal. Technically it’s not slow or underpowered, but it’s not the most perfect of marriages either.
This is a mild-hybrid 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine with EQ Boost, good for 193 HP (197 PS) and 236 lb-ft (320 Nm) of torque. It can accelerate to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 7.6 seconds, before maxing out at 144 mph (232 km/h). Unless you really need the extra grip, we wouldn’t bother getting the 4MATIC system. In the end, if we’re being honest, it’s probably a good thing this engine won’t be available in the U.S. in this particular configuration.
In the land of the free, starting this fall you can get the 2021 E-Class range in E 350 guise, where the 2.0-liter turbocharged inline- four produces 255 HP (258 PS) and 273 lb-ft (370 Nm) of torque. For Europe, our pick would be the E 220 d for most buyers, or the E 300 e / E 300 de.
As for fuel economy, the E 200 4MATIC will sip a combined 7 liters / 100 km (33.6 mpg) of gasoline on average, which isn’t bad, but it’s more than 2 l/100 km more than the previously-mentioned E 220 d.
How can I get the best value?
U.S. pricing for the 2021 E-Class was announced earlier this week, with the E 350 starting from $54,250, while $56,750 will land you the E 350 4MATIC.
In terms of specs, all we can do is suggest that you get whichever powertrain you prefer, followed by interior and exterior AMG styling kits with the sporty steering wheel, double-creased hood and 19-inch wheels – and then try to tick as few other options as possible so as to not end up spending S-Class money on an E-Class.
Our E 200 4MATIC had a base price of €47,235 ($55,930), but went all the way to €62,839 ($74,410) because of that long options sheet. Add taxes and the final figure climbed to €74,778 ($88,550).
Will I regret buying one?
As long as you get the spec right, definitely not. The E-Class continues to strike a beautiful balance between comfort and driver engagement, with a typical Mercedes-style emphasis on the former.