Without a doubt the E-Class is the heart of the Mercedes-Benz family. It represents 25% of the company’s overall sales, configured in various levels of formality including coupes, convertibles, wagons, sedans, hybrids, diesels, AMGs, and 4MATICs. If you fail to meet consumer’s versatile and diverse needs then you potentially miss out and literally hand-deliver them to your competitor. If a young woman decidedly walks into a Benz dealer with a sense of ambivalence, she’s certainly going to drive home with a better sense of confidence knowing they offered a vehicle of choice for her lifestyle. The German brand from Stuggart simply sees this as “all things Mercedes.” Why, I wouldn’t expect anything less from the country’s number one luxury brand.
For the 2014 E-Class a bevy of design improvements and solid engineering and technology updates were made to keep the momentum flowing on the 15 E-Class models. That’s right, I said 15! Now you understand how broad and deep the “E” is. A few highlights include aggressive facials with new grilles and chin spoilers on the sport models; the BlueTEC diesel receives 4MATIC AWD; an S Model is added to the E63 AMG increasing horsepower to 577 and shaving a second off its 0 to 60 mph time which advances performance to 3.5 seconds. Additionally, new design changes were implemented in the LED taillamps, LED headlights, rims, both bumpers, steering wheel, instrument cluster, and buttons on the center stack. I’m elated to see the dials are still analog and not digital as many auto manufacturers are offering. They are too cartoonish and leave that area bland when the vehicle is turned off since the display blacks out.
To begin my drive experience I picked up a BlueTEC upon landing at the Portland International Airport in route to our destination. I’m quite enamored with clean diesel engines due to their extended mileage range, increased power and torque, and durable powertrains. Mercedes first coupled the E-class with BlueTEC in 2007 and has witnessed success every since. Many auto brands dredge for a breakthrough advancement they can hone as their own, but rarely triumph. The E250 BlueTEC features a 2.1-liter, bi-turbo, 4-cylinder engine with 195 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque and is offered as a rear-wheel drive or 4MATIC all-wheel drive with a 7-speed automatic transmission. Acceleration was steady with juice in every gear and the engine remained fairly quiet, which is atypical of what we have known about diesels since their inception. The complete BlueTEC line includes E, GLK, ML, GL and Sprinter models. Collectively this diesel squad trumps the sales competition by nearly three to one.
Next, we spent time in the 2014 E550 Cabriolet during a chilly morning driving through the mountainside. It was a good thing our vehicle was equipped with AIRSCARF, a heated air system within the headrest to warm your neck and torso from the convertible’s flowing winds. In fact, the $67,300 convertible was garnished with 11 options and packages which raised the stakes to $81,615. Of course they all seem necessary when you’re actually driving the vehicle, but for that price I think I’m going with the BMW 6 Series Convertible with the M Sport Package. The E-Class Coupe and Cab are pristine and articulate but not aggressive enough. Yet, you will never get any complaints from the loyal, twin-turbo, direct-injection 4.6-liter V8. Its 402-horsepower and 443 lb-ft of torque felt powerful as we blazed through open pastures without a care of how breezy it became. The E350 gets down with a direct-injection V6 with 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Since the DIRECT SELECT shift stalk is positioned on the steering column I did inadvertently miss my gear points a few times when trying to put the E550 in reverse or park. Though, the square shifters integrated into the new 3-spoke steering wheel were very timely as I used them judiciously. Speaking of steering, the E Coupe and Cabriolet feature electromechanical Direct-Steer system which uses speed to determine sensitivity. It had a lot of weight to it and immediate response unlike many industry electric steering systems.
The Cabriolet’s specificity is partial to your taste and style. Its acoustic soft top can be ordered in Red, Blue, Brown or Black and paired with 8 interior hues such as Red or Deep Sea Blue and 12 exterior paints with Metallic as a $720 option. Of course Mercedes-Benz is zealous with their interior craftsmanship inclusive of Nappa leather, fine wood trims on the dash and steering wheel, chrome trim, and heated, ventilated, and perforated leather sport seats with huggable bolsters to keep you in proper position. My Mars Red convertible clamored mellow tunes through the optional harman/kardon LOGIC7 surround sound system.
Mercedes-Benz COMAND with a 7” color LCD will become your best friend as it is has been relegated to the task of controlling audio functions to navigation to operating mbrace2 which is a safety and infotainment portal. Social media apps, internet connectivity, local search and more are all housed under mbrace2. COMAND uses two separate controllers on the dash and center console for functioning. It takes a bit of time to figure out how to manipulate the system, but they do say patience is a virtue.
Another very strategic and meaningful technology in the new E-Class is Mercedes-Benz Intelligent Drive, a network of over 30 systems to alert the driver of various road situations. “We are setting clear trends in terms of safety, design and efficiency with the new E-Class. It puts many technical innovations on the road and undoubtedly is the best E-Class ever,” said Dr. Joachim Schmidt, executive vice president Sales and Marketing for Mercedes-Benz. A few highlighted systems are DISTRONIC PLUS with Steering Assist, Active Lane Keeping Assist, Adaptive Highbeam Assist, Active Blind Spot Assist, and the Surround View Camera. I purposely allowed the vehicle to drift out the lane without using my signal and magically it steered the vehicle back into its lane by self-braking one of the wheels. PRE-SAFE Brake for example notices pedestrians on the road and helps to keep the vehicle from impacting them. A Stereo Multi-Purpose Camera is the central technology behind the functioning of the aforementioned systems and has 40/40 vision up to 550 yards.
To end the day I selected an Iridium Silver 2014 E350 4MATIC Sedan worth $66,135 with options ($54,400 base). With 18” AMG rims, and the Sport Package I cruised in style to the Nike Campus to visit friends and pick up some fresh gear. Did I play the part? Certainly, many thought I was a Nike Pro athlete stepping out of the Benzo. Hey, I’ll take it!