Pros: Powerful engines; excellent ride and handling; variety of body styles; abundance of luxury features; high level of safety; roomy cabin.

Cons: Pricey next to competitors; finicky COMAND electronic interface.

What's New: New E400 Hybrid; standard mbrace2 telematics; standard heated front seats and electromechanical steering for coupe and cabriolet; new wheel designs; coupe available with 4MATIC all-wheel drive; Premium2 package standard on AMG models; Panoramic sunroof standard on E63 AMG Wagon.

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the brand's premier mid-size offering, aptly bridging the wide chasm between the entry-level C-Class and the executive-caliber S-Class. Aside from its expectedly high level of comfort, performance and style, the E-Class has one of the most diverse upscale model lineups offered by any automaker. It's available in 5-passenger sedan, 4-passenger coupe, 4-passenger cabriolet and 7-passenger wagon body styles with multiple powertrain options. A new-for-2013 hybrid model, the E400; an advanced clean-diesel offering, the E350 Bluetec; and a potent AMG model, the E63, round out the E-Class lineup.

For 2013, the E350 and E550 models keep their respective 2012 powerplants, a 3.5-liter V6 and 4.6-liter V8. The E400 Hybrid, offered only as a sedan, uses the V6 paired with an electric motor and a lithium-ion battery. The hybrid can maneuver at low speed without using gas.

The sophisticated modern design carries across the lineup. The sedan has a well-sculpted profile and a substantial presence. The coupe takes on a sleeker and more stylish personality, thanks to a faster roofline and the absence of a B-pillar. The cabriolet shares many exterior cues and styling elements with the coupe, but with a soft fabric roof that gives the car a classic look in both top-up and top-down positions. The E350 Coupe and Cabriolet now sport larger, 18-inch wheels, while the C550 Coupe and Cabriolet get 18-in wheels in a new design. The wagon smartly blends E-Class elegance with the shape of a more practical family mover.

The E63 gets AMG body and wheel upgrades for a more aggressive exterior appearance than the rest of the E-Class lineup. It's available in both sedan and wagon form.

For those looking for a well-balanced mix of drivability, luxury, technology and build quality, the E-Class is steadfast on virtually all fronts.

Comfort & Utility

The E-Class's interior is finely appointed, meticulously designed, spacious, comfortable and loaded with amenities. All models offer well-contoured seats, superior ergonomics and the high level of craftsmanship that's expected from Mercedes-Benz.

Each model in the wide variety of body styles and trims is fitted differently with its own roster of standard and optional equipment. Some notable higher-end features include leather upholstery; wood trim; power front seats with heat and memory functions; automatic dual-zone climate control; a rear power sunshade; and keyless ignition. The E63 AMG livens up the E-Class interior with unique elements such as sport seats, a unique AMG gauge cluster and carbon fiber trim. The AMG wagon now includes a standard panoramic sunroof.

There are three passenger configurations for the E-Class: four seats for the coupe and cabriolet, five for the sedan and seven for the wagon. While front head and leg room are in abundance across all E-Class models, the rear seat of the coupe and cabriolet can be a little tight for taller adults, with suboptimal entry and exit comfort. The sedan and wagon are quite the opposite for rear-seat occupants. Each offers plenty of shoulder, hip and elbow room, and the wagon's 2-place rear-facing third row is very usable for children and shorter adults (under 5'4").

Technology

Mercedes's COMAND interface is the central point from which many of the E-Class's electronic features can be managed. However, COMAND takes some getting used to, and some find it to be overly complicated if not overwhelming. The latest Mercedes-Benz telematics platform, mbrace2, is standard for 2013. It offers a host of cloud-based functions, from apps to remote access.

Other advanced electronics available in the E-Class include navigation, a backup camera system, rear DVD, Bluetooth connectivity and a USB interface.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The mid-size luxury segment is certainly populated with sportier offerings than the 2013 Mercedes E-Class. This Benz is neither the fastest nor the most powerful among its competitors. That said, the E-Class benefits from one of the most varied engine lineups on the market. And the addition of the hybrid E400 only further expands the choices.

Using the same gas-powered V6 as the E350, the E400 sedan also tacks on a 27-hp electric motor powered by a lithium-ion battery. The benefit of the E400's hybrid drivetrain on fuel economy can't yet be determined; the EPA hasn't rated the vehicle.

The rear-wheel-drive E350 Bluetec is propelled by a clean-burning 3.0-liter turbo-diesel producing 210 hp and a stout 400 lb-ft of torque. It yields impressive fuel economy of 21 mpg city/32 mpg highway, permitting an interstate cruising range of more than 600 miles.

The E350 series comes equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 good for 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Available in rear- or all-wheel-drive (4MATIC) versions, its fuel economy ranges from 16/23 mpg to 17/26 mpg, depending on drivetrain and body configuration.

The rear- or all-wheel-drive E550 gets a robust 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8. Output is 402 hp and 443 lb-ft. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 16/24 mpg.

The powerful E63 AMG sedan and wagon use a mammoth, 5.5-liter twin-turbo V8, pumping out 518 hp and 516 lb-ft of torque. Energy is transmitted through an AMG 7-speed automatic gearbox. To promote efficiency, the E63 benefits from engine start/stop technology. Fuel economy is 15 mpg city/22 mpg highway for the sedan and 14/21 mpg for the wagon.

Safety

Safety-related content and technologies include a barrage of front and rear airbags and driver assistance systems that include Lane Keep Assist and radar-based Distronic Plus adaptive cruise control with a Pre-Safe Brake system. Pre-Safe will slow the car down when an unavoidable collision is sensed.

The 2013 Mercedes-Benz E-Class comes standard with ABS; stability and traction control; front side airbags; front pelvic airbags; side curtain airbags; and a driver knee airbag. Also standard are the Mercedes-Benz mbrace2 emergency telematics service and Attention Assist (a driver drowsiness and inattention warning system.) The cabriolet features automatic rollover hoops.

The Lane Tracking package adds a blind spot warning system and a lane departure warning/keeping system. The Driver Assistance package includes the adaptive cruise control and more advanced versions of the Lane Tracking program that can take evasive action should the driver fail to do so. Rear side airbags are a stand-alone option.

Driving Impressions

The E-Class is a smooth road-going vessel that can alter its composure based on the manner in which it's driven. The car firms up nicely during faster maneuvering and quick directional changes, exhibiting an impressive degree of balance and tenacity. In highway cruising, the E-Class feels as substantial and refined as many larger luxury sedans, making it ideal for long-distance travel. This is especially true for sedan and wagon variants.

The coupe and cabriolet models drive smaller than the other E-Class cars, with sportier manners through tight turns and sharp switchbacks. The cabriolet is an excellent choice for sun worshippers who yearn for an enjoyable top-down ride on clear days but require a quiet and contained cabin when the top is up.

For a seriously hard-hitting approach to luxury, the E63 AMG sedan and wagon live on the performance edge of the E-Class experience. The significantly uprated engine, AMG gearbox and performance-tuned suspension make the AMG remarkable in both acceleration and handling.

Other Cars to Consider

BMW 5 Series - It's more of a driver's car than the Mercedes, but the E-Class delivers a plusher ride.

Audi A6 - From a design standpoint, the Audi is more youthful and modern. The E-Class may carry an "old luxury" stigma, but it still has significant innovation and technology.

Infiniti M - The M is less of a status symbol than the E-Class but offers excellent driving dynamics and plenty of luxury amenities for its price.

AutoTrader Recommends

All of the E-Class models are superb, but we're especially impressed with the E350 Bluetec. This clean-burning turbo-diesel is impressive on multiple fronts. It is efficient (33 mpg highway), eco-friendly and delivers plenty of performance and acceleration thanks to its massive 400 lb-ft of torque. And, of course, the E350 Bluetec enjoys all the amenities and creature comforts of the E-Class model line.

author photo

Nick Palermo is an automotive writer and lifelong car nut. He follows new and late-model used vehicles for AutoTrader.com, writes about vintage cars for Hemmings Classic Wheels and blogs on all things automotive at LivingVroom. He lives in Atlanta with his wife and twins.

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