Review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class shines, in luxury and sport forms
Currently in its fifth generation, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class of midsized cars is an unusual case of what happens when an automaker does both road-going (touring-class) and sports models really well. We had the chance to drive examples of both, for a week each.
At a Glance
- Comparing the E450 and the E53 model illustrates the differences between a stately luxury sedan and a sports sedan
- The E450 incorporates a mild hybrid system into its powerplant
- The E53 from AMG adds 60 HP to the car
The 2021 E-Class models that we find most interesting are the E450 and the AMG E53 variants. These are the "mainstream" models for Mercedes-Benz, and encapsulate luxurious driving and powerful sports handling respectively. Both use the same turbocharged 3.0-liter six-cylinder engine and nine-speed automatic transmission. Both are also available as coupe, convertible, or sedan models, while the E450 is also available as a wagon (aka the "All-Terrain"). All-wheel drive (called "4Matic" by Mercedes) is standard on the sedan, wagon, and AMG variants.
Engine output for the E450 is a respectable 362 horsepower (270 kW) and 369 pound-feet (500 Nm) of torque. Turbocharging means that these peaks come relatively low in the RPM band ... the torque even more so, as the E450 also incorporates a 48-volt mild hybrid system that adds some extra twist to the transmission, and which regenerates power from slowing and stopping to improve economy.
The best way to describe the handling and drive quality of the new E450 sedan is to say that it’s comfortable, competent, and stately. There is little in the way of "sport" for the E450, beyond its somewhat quick acceleration from a stop. The engine noise is strong enough to add confidence, and the car will lean into corners nicely if pushed, but it’s not the vehicle for track enthusiasts or those who relish windy country roads.
The optional air suspension and AMG-supplied adaptive dampers are a nice upgrade if that kind of estate driving is your bent. One of the greatest faults to find in the E450, in fact, is that lack of standard air ride, as the non-air models are far less refined.
The AMG variants for the E-Class include the E53, which takes the same 3.0-liter engine and pushes output to 429 hp (320 kW) and 384 lb-ft (520.5 Nm) of torque. The transmission, AWD system, steering, and suspension are all sport-tuned in the AMG model, and the optional air suspension on the E450 becomes standard (and sport-centric) on the AMG E models.
With the E53, descriptors such as "sports sedan" and "cornering sedan" aren’t adequate. This is an all-around great drive for the driving enthusiast, which combines excellent comfort and road dynamics with the grunting confidence of its power output and finesse. The E53 probably isn’t what most would consider "track ready," but that’s no deterrent. It will gladly twist corners and run country gauntlets with glee when pressed into it.
Perhaps the greatest difference between these two versions of the same sedan is in their approach to good roadworthiness. The E450 smoothly rides over imperfections and gently glides around corners. Its luxurious way of handling speed with confidence is exactly what estate cars and saloons have aimed for since the first automobiles began finding deep-pocketed customers.
The E53, however, while retaining some of that luxurious refinement, adds stiffer handling and more responsive power to the equation ... something that thrill-seeking automotive customers have been after since Karl Benz first introduced a motorcar.
While the qualities of "comfort" and "sporty" are normally very separate from one vehicle model to the next, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class manages to incorporate them into the same model car. And while some who wish all things to be electric might vituperatively dismiss these E-Class offerings as being outdated, they’ll also struggle to find something truly comparable on today’s market.
Pricing for the E450 starts at US$58,280, while E53 prices begin at $73,900.
Product Page: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class