Is the E-Class a good car?

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mercedes-benz e-class Full overview

As long as “getting behind the wheel” means something, cars like the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 should command respect. What sets the E-Class apart as a premium luxury sedan isn’t the technology that looks ahead to our future of autonomous driving, but the way it drives. However, after living with a 2021 E450 for a year, we found ourselves having to constantly re-evaluate how well the car handles the demands of the $70,000 luxury sedan segment. If the electric Mercedes-EQ EQE midsize four-door is too new or unproven for you, the E-Class is a solid option that has served dozens of buyers. But do you still feel good about choosing the E-Class after a year?

This is why you get an E-Class

Let’s start with the E450’s mild-hybrid straight-six powertrain, the very best of the car. Engines are so much more than just horsepower and torque, which is why we feel privileged to have driven a car with this engine for a year. The turbocharged 3.0-liter I-6 is complemented by a 48-volt mild hybrid assist system that can deliver a temporary electric boost of up to 21 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque under conditions where the engine peaks at 362 hp and 369 lb-ft. ft are not yet available. With AWD as standard and a nine-speed automatic transmission, the E450 makes the most of that combination with a luxury-first approach. It’s not an electric car, but the E450 always has torque left.

What makes the experience special isn’t the car’s 4.6 second acceleration to 60mph, but how the power is delivered with such refinement and quiet. No buzzing idling won’t affect your fast food drive-through experience either. As for the lesser E350, we haven’t driven it recently, but we didn’t have the best experience with its turbocharged four-engine in the GLE350 SUV. With our six-cylinder E450, we often used a modified drive mode to see how far we could drop the luxury sedan with the engine off.

This is a have-cake-and-eat-it-too Mercedes. We’re talking about a car that’s not only faster than the stock model (obviously), but just as efficient (not so obvious). In the E-Class, the 2022 E450 4Matic’s 23/30/25 mpg city/highway/combined compares well with the 2022 E350 with AWD (21/29/24 mpg) and 2022 E350 with RWD (23/31/26) — 2021 EPA numbers differ slightly. The 500-plus mile range of the E450 is fantastic, outperforming both the E350 and direct competition from Audi and BMW. It’s the kind of convenience you don’t think of on a test drive, but after a year, we still love the infrequent refills.

We appreciate the E450’s combination of refinement, quietness, smoothness and ever-present power so much that we recommend it over an E350 for anyone who can make that financial leap — currently $5,300 higher than an E350 4Matic.

Look beyond how the Mercedes drives, and it continues to impress. Passengers — and the driver — really liked the E450’s 64-color ambient lighting. That sounds frivolous until you spend long highway miles with the subtle color-changing lights on your periphery. The setting is reminiscent of luxurious swimming pool or jacuzzi lighting, in both cases a wonderful addition. Want more content? How about this: The Mercedes E-Class is both a 2022 IIHS Top Safety Pick+ and a 2022 IIHS Top Safety Pick+, earning five stars in every NHTSA crash test.

Where the E-Class can improve

Obviously, the age of this generation E-Class (six years and counting) doesn’t hold it back as much as you might expect. But there is still plenty to improve upon, starting with the technology. Again, the numbers don’t tell the full story. A 12.3-inch digital instrument panel and an equally huge infotainment screen are both standard. The instrument cluster has plenty of different modes that we explored over the course of our year, but it’s not quite as sophisticated as the newer system in the S-Class.

The other screen’s inability to maximize the Apple CarPlay display proved to be a constant frustration. A few editors wondered what the point of a 12.3-inch screen was if it didn’t use everything for the phone mirroring feature. Although we had a Subaru Outback for a year, the carmaker improved the application of CarPlay, but we were not that lucky with the E-Class. The lack of a one-step track-forward/backward button was also mentioned by a few MotorTrenders, and we wish the 360-degree camera system was the standard instead of the automatic parking system it shares a button with. We changed the camera views in the 360 ​​system a lot more often —”Am I out of the red?“—than we used the parking system. More open storage space in the front would have been great too.

The biggest surprise was the decline in ride quality. The last E450 we drove was during our 2021 Car of the Year test, when we praised the Benz’s ability to be comfortable when you want it to be, yet deliver sporty response when the moment comes. That test car drove on 18-inch wheels; our longstanding E450 rolled on more attractive 19s. And while both cars used air suspension, the ride just didn’t measure up. While our E450 still offered acceptable ride quality, we would easily sacrifice the bigger wheels in hopes of a better ride with the 18s.

What does the E-Class want to own?

Overall, the E-Class proved reliable over the course of our ownership, with the exception of two mysterious here-now, tomorrow issues that disappeared toward the end of our loan. For two consecutive mornings the car would not start but had no problems putting itself into accessory mode. Needless to say, the car started as soon as the Mercedes emergency response tow truck driver arrived (we had no similar problems before or after). We did take the E450 to our local dealer, where he found an error code and inspected the car, but found no other useful solutions.

About a week later and again for two consecutive days, the car’s rear view camera — and indeed the 360-degree camera system — refused to engage. Our E450 clearly has a sense of humour, as on the morning of our appointment, the cameras all displayed flawlessly on the large touchscreen. This time, three software updates were installed by the dealer: one for the infotainment system, another for the rear view camera and a third for the 360-degree camera system.

We spent $216.13 over the course of our 15,598 mile loan for one service. A 2017 BMW 5 Series and a 2019 Volvo S60 we each drove cost us nothing more than about 20,000 miles each thanks to free maintenance, but a 2017 Audi A4 cost us $561.36 over about 19,000 miles.


We understand the temptation to get the biggest and most attractive wheels you can get. And the 19s on our E450 look great. But riding for over a year, ride quality and a few technical issues stood out as areas for improvement. With the former, you can at least maximize that Mercedes magic by trying a car with 18’s first. Be sure to consider the E450 if you can – the drivetrain is one of the very best.

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