The 2012 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is considered by many to be the standard by which other luxury cars are measured. 2012 saw the addition of two new, more powerful gasoline engines in the E350 and E550, as well as a new wagon variant for the high-powered AMG trim. 4Matic all-wheel drive is made standard on the E550 sedan, while more features are added to the standard equipment roster. The AMG sedan and wagon are equipped with a system that shuts down the engine at idle and quickly starts it again once the accelerator is depressed, aiming to save fuel while simultaneously reducing overall emissions.

The look of the E-Class is sophisticated and sporty, its build quality and attention to detail second to none and its luxury amenities more plentiful than some newer rivals. Although the coupe rides on a smaller wheelbase and has less rear-seat passenger space than the sedan, it is the more elegant of the two cars. Powerful, comfortable and poised, the E-Class is also a shining example of the commitment of Mercedes-Benz to occupant safety, with numerous safety and protection systems part of the car's standard equipment list.

Despite the excellent resale value of the E-Class, you can still save a few thousand dollars by purchasing a previously owned model over a new one. However, if mileage or age pushes your pick out of its warranty period, future repairs and routine maintenance can be costly.

What We Like

Broad model range; BlueTec diesel engine; good balance between comfort and handling; open-air feeling with coupe's windows rolled down; excellent resale

What We Don't

Poor fuel economy with the V8; diesel only offered on the sedan; more expensive than similarly equipped Lexus, Acura or Cadillac models; cramped rear seat on coupe and convertible

Fuel Economy & Engine Specs

The E350 sedan, coupe, convertible and wagon are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine rated at 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Mated to a 7-speed automatic transmission, this engine earns an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimate of 20 miles per gallon city/30 mpg hwy in the sedan and 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy in the coupe and convertible. Models with 4Matic all-wheel drive earn 19 mpg city/29 mpg hwy, except for the wagon, which drops to 19 mpg city/27 mpg hwy.

The E350 BlueTec is the high-mileage champ of the lineup, using a 3.0-liter turbodiesel V6 to produce a modest 210 hp but a massive 400 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy for this engine is rated at 21 mpg city/32 mpg hwy.

The E550 sedan, coupe and convertible employ a 4.6-liter twin turbocharged V8 engine that delivers 402 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque. EPA estimates for the E550 sedan are 16 mpg city/26 mpg hwy, while the coupe attains 17 mpg city/27 mpg hwy and the convertible a slightly lower 16 mpg city/25 mpg hwy.

The E63 AMG possesses a high-output 6.3-liter V8 engine, delivering up 518 hp and 465 lb-ft of torque. An optional performance package bumps output to 550 hp/590 lb-ft of torque. This engine is attached to Mercedes-Benz's Speedshift 7-speed automatic with rev-matching technology, and returns an EPA-estimated 16 mpg city/24 mpg hwy for the sedan and 15 mpg city/23 mpg hwy for the wagon.

Standard Features & Options

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz E-Class comes in three trims and four body styles. The E350 and E550 offer two trim packages -- Sport and Luxury -- and are offered as a sedan, wagon, convertible or coupe, while the all-wheel-drive cars include the sedan, the wagon and the E63 AMG.

The E350 sedan includes as standard MB-Tex synthetic leather seating surfaces, a power sunroof, 8-speaker audio, Bluetooth cellphone connectivity, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel, 17-inch alloy wheels, COMAND infotainment control system and dual-zone automatic climate control. Standard safety equipment includes nine airbags, electronic traction and stability control and the Pre-Safe accident preparation system.

The E350 coupe adds a panorama glass sunroof, sport seats and full leather seating surfaces.

The E350 convertible adds leather seats, 14-way power driver's seat, Aircap air deflection system and triple-layer power folding soft-top.

The E350 wagon brings 4Matic all-wheel drive, a power rear tailgate, rear-facing third-row seat and rearview camera.

The E550 sedan ups the ante by adding a 4Matic, a twin-turbo V8 engine, air suspension, heated rear seats, leather seating surfaces, 14-way power front seats, including power lumbar support, rain-sensing wipers with heated washers and 18-in AMG style wheels (sport sedan only).

The E550 coupe/convertible include 18-in wheels, a sport suspension and exterior ground effects. Heated front seats are optional, not standard.

The E63 AMG sedan and wagon bring a 518-hp V8, paddle shifters, sport seats, adaptive sport suspension and upgraded brakes. The wagon gains the panorama glass sunroof.

Optional equipment for the E350 and E550 includes a Sport Package (upgraded seats, suspension and wheels), Distronic intelligent cruise control with Pre-Safe braking, Night View Assist, multicontour and ventilated front seats, panorama glass sunroof, rearview camera, voice-activated navigation, Harman Kardon audio, automatic high beams, rear side airbags, adaptive bi-xenon headlamps, blind spot and lane-departure warning, keyless entry and start, parking sensors, rear-seat DVD entertainment system and upgraded leather interior.

The Cabriolet can be outfitted with Mercedes-Benz's Airscarf system, which blows warm or cool air around the front-seat passenger's head and neck.

The E63 AMG can be equipped with a performance package that adds a limited-slip rear differential, 19-in AMG alloy wheels and a stiffer sport suspension. The AMG Performance package adds more horsepower and torque, a stiffer suspension and a sport steering wheel.

Pricing

As the Mercedes-Benz E-Class holds excellent resale values, finding a good price may mean going with a private party over a dealer. Down the road, however, the Mercedes-Benz certified pre-owned (CPO) program might be worth the extra cost (see Warranties section for more details). You could buy a used Acura RL, Audi A6 or Cadillac CTS and spend less than you would for a used E-Class, but for some there is no substitute for a Mercedes-Benz. To get an idea of the E-Class's price range, we suggest the used-car values at KBB.com. You also can search the AutoTrader Classifieds to see which models are for sale in your area.

Recalls

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued the following recalls for the 2012 Mercedes-Benz E-Class:

  • For the E350 and E550 coupes, due to possible improper stitching on the passenger side window curtain airbag that may cause the bag to deflate more quickly than designed
  • For the gasoline-powered E350, due to a possible defect in the fuel filter flange that may crack and lead to a fuel leak

Recall repairs are required by law even if the vehicle is out of warranty. Your dealer can check to see if the repairs were performed and, if not, will fix the car at no charge to you.

Safety Ratings & Warranties

NHTSA gives the Mercedes-Benz E-Class excellent safety ratings, scoring four out of five stars in the front end and five stars in the side-impact and roof-strength crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety also gives the E-Class sedan and coupe top marks in its moderate overlap, roof-strength and side-impact crash tests, and named the E-Class as a Top Safety Pick. Neither agency has crash tested the convertible or wagon.

Mercedes-Benz provides the E-Class with a 4-year/50,000-mile fully transferable warranty for the engine, powertrain and bumper-to-bumper coverage. This warranty also includes free roadside assistance. If you buy a CPO E-Class, you'll receive a vehicle that has undergone a rigorous inspection by a certified Mercedes-Benz technician. The CPO vehicle warranty covers the car for 12 months from date of sale or up to 100,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Also, buyers of low-mileage cars receive the remainder of the car's original 4-year/50,000-mile warranty coverage. Buyers also can opt for Extended Coverage after the Limited Warranty expires for up to two years/135,000 miles from the original service date. All CPO cars must be less than six years old to qualify for the program.

Other Cars to Consider

Audi A6 -- Luxury buyers may find the A6's interior more lavish, and the A6 offers the advantage of front-wheel drive over the E-Class's rear-wheel-drive setup.

BMW 5 Series -- The 5 series is a better-handling, better-performing car than the E-Class, but its ride is also not as smooth or comfortable.

Cadillac CTS -- The CTS is not as powerful as the E-Class, but it can be more entertaining in the turns and offers the option of a manual transmission on the base model.

AutoTrader's Advice

The E350 is all the Benz you'll need. Its V6 has plenty of power, delivers decent fuel economy and can be equipped with all-wheel drive. Look for one nicely optioned and you'll save a bundle over a similarly equipped V8-powered E550. Want better fuel economy? Get the E350 BlueTec clean diesel.

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Joe Tralongo started in the industry writing competitive comparison books for a number of manufacturers, before moving on in 2000 to become a freelance automotive journalist. He's well regarded for his keen eye for detail, as well as his ability to communicate complex mechanical terminology into user-friendly explanations.

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