The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been revamped in terms of looks and models, and it also tingles with technology aimed at making driving safer. When the first cars in this revised range go on sale in May, buyers should find plenty to get excited about.
Outward and Inward Bound
The new E-Class displays a face more in keeping with other Benzes. And as new models and new generations of Mercedes-Benz vehicles come along, the E-Class should continue to look like part of the family. Ditching the previous "4-eyes" look, two headlights now integrate dipped and high beams along with LED strips for daytime running.
Buyers have the choice of two front-end styles. Luxury trim offers a more traditional grille and a 3-pointed star hood ornament, while Sport trim puts a larger star emblem smack into the middle of a sparser-looking grille.
What applies to the exterior goes for the interior as well. What was once a pleasant cabin becomes an even more attractive space, with sharper lines and efficient ergonomics. The square analog clock in the center console looks especially classy. It might take a while to pair an iPhone with the infotainment system without reading the manual (music can be streamed via Bluetooth). Once it's hooked up, though, it's simple to navigate the menus. Rear passenger space remains generous; as does the size of the trunk.
The freshened E-Class offers state-of-the-art safety features. Many of the same systems are coming in the next generation of S-Class, the company's flagship sedan (making its debut later this year). These include a pair of cameras set into the rearview mirror that work in conjunction with radar and ultrasonic sensors to form a three-dimensional picture of what is going on around the car at all times. It detects the direction and speed of moving objects, and is able to apply braking and steering to avoid accidents. Or at least reduce the effects of them.
Basically, the thing's kitted out like a nuclear submarine with an ever-alert, decision-making system.
It also helps keep the driver alert. An enhanced Attention Assist feature now incorporates a broader range of speeds, and the driver can adjust its sensitivity.
Engines of Change
Another major aspect of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class involves what's under the hood. The entry level engine is now a diesel, the 2014 E250 Bluetec. This 2.0-liter 4-cylinder unit makes 204 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, thanks in part to two turbochargers. There's enough muscle for overtaking situations and getting up to highway speeds with a minimum of stress.
Then there's the whole "you'll forget it's a diesel" argument. Being a Benz, only rarely does any engine noise stray into the cabin. Since highway fuel consumption is anticipated in the high 30s, it might take several of those infrequent refueling trips to form a habit of pulling immediately up to the correct pump.
Gasoline die-hards need to wait until next year for the 2014 E-Class E400. It also has a new 3.0-liter V6 engine. Two turbos help create 333 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque. It provides the effortless glide we expect from a premium German sedan.
Those seeking greater thrills should inspect the E63 AMG, available in sedan or wagon form, both with all-wheel drive. Driving all four wheels is a recent development for AMG cars, and it's so good that it's a shame it hasn't been available before.
Power from this 5.5-liter V8, all 557 hp and 531 lb-ft of it, is distributed between the rear and front axles in a 67/33 split, giving a predominantly rear-drive feel. But the way the car can apply its kinetic energy to the road through this all-wheel-drive system is nothing short of astonishing. There's hardly a hint of tire squeal -- just acceleration, acceleration and acceleration.
Add one more "acceleration" to the E63 AMG S-Model, which brings 585 hp and 590 lb-ft to the party. The S-Model is a new form of badging for Mercedes-Benz, replacing the Performance Package option. It's serious money (stretching into six figures) but serious fun. Perhaps that's where the "S" comes from.
If most people were being really honest, they probably wouldn't need anything bigger, more luxurious or more lavishly appointed than an E-Class. That doesn't stop them from getting those larger limousines, nor should it. Freedom of choice is a good thing, but the E-Class always hits the sweet spot.