Automotive

Review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class shines, in luxury and sport forms

Review: 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-C...
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a comely, well-done luxury sedan in any format – the E450 model is seen here
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a comely, well-done luxury sedan in any format – the E450 model is seen here
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The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class gets a variation of 60 horsepower from this one engine
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The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class gets a variation of 60 horsepower from this one engine
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a comely, well-done luxury sedan in any format – the E450 model is seen here
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The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a comely, well-done luxury sedan in any format – the E450 model is seen here
Behind that big Mercedes-Benz logo is a large variety of styles for the E-Class, including coupes, sedans, wagons, and sports car variants
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Behind that big Mercedes-Benz logo is a large variety of styles for the E-Class, including coupes, sedans, wagons, and sports car variants
For the new model year, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class adds technology and tuning upgrades
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For the new model year, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class adds technology and tuning upgrades
One upgrade in the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a forward-facing camera that is activated every time the car stops, allowing the driver to see pedestrians and traffic lights easier
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One upgrade in the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a forward-facing camera that is activated every time the car stops, allowing the driver to see pedestrians and traffic lights easier
The "Limousine" model of the AMG E53 adds several interior changes for those wanting uber-luxury to go with their sports sedan
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The "Limousine" model of the AMG E53 adds several interior changes for those wanting uber-luxury to go with their sports sedan
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 has several sport styling additions to go with its upgraded suspension, braking, powertrain and steering
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The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 has several sport styling additions to go with its upgraded suspension, braking, powertrain and steering
The full family of E-Class cars from Mercedes-Benz
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The full family of E-Class cars from Mercedes-Benz
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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 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 has several sport styling additions to go with its upgraded suspension, braking, powertrain and steering
The 2021 Mercedes-AMG E53 has several sport styling additions to go with its upgraded suspension, braking, powertrain and steering

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.

The full family of E-Class cars from Mercedes-Benz
The full family of E-Class cars from Mercedes-Benz

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

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6 comments
guzmanchinky
I love love love my E400 convertible with air suspension. When in comfort it's like a 60s Cadillac but with much better handling, and in Sport Plus it lowers 2 inches and is aggressive as hell. I drove it on the Nurburgring when I picked it up 2 summers ago and still can't get enough of that car. And the back seats are decent too.
Spud Murphy
I really don't get why people keep getting excited about new ICE cars, they are so agricultural once you have driven an EV. Why would anyone spend so much money on a new ICE vehicle when it will be worthless in a few years when the world shifts to electric, which it already is. Once the majority or even a large proportion of new cars are EVs, the ICE market will collapse and manufacturers won't be able to give the things away, except to the diehard dinosaurs stuck in last century.

Don't agree? Go to a local dealership, ask to test drive an EV, you will be shocked how much better and how much more sense it makes compared to an ICE - instant torque, instant power, no noise, no vibrations, and no maintenance costs, and you charge at home so it always has a full "tank" ready to go. Once you've owned an EV, getting in an ICE vehicle is like being sent back 50 years, the contrast is amazing, but you have to experience it.
guzmanchinky
Spud, I TOTALLY agree with you, however we aren't quite there yet. I take my car on long trips regularly and can't sit at a charger for the time it takes to recharge. I know superchargers are fast, but nothing is as fast as putting fuel in a tank (for now). Also, where I rent there is nowhere to charge (as is the case with a lot of people who either rent, park in a communal garage or do street parking). The day will SOON come where you can charge an electric car in 5 or ten minutes at a Chevron or Shell and have a 90% charge. What I do wish is that all cars came with an electric option, if I had my own house and garage I would have picked the electric version of my car. As such, NO ONE makes a luxury convertible like that in an electric version. Yet.
Ted
I have been an admirer of the E-Class for decades. In the past an E-Class was instantly recognizable on the road - unmistakable. Unfortunately, today it can be easily mistaken for a C or S class if you cannot see the model identification on the trunk. The new to be released S-Class from the rear looks like a Toyota Camry or Lexus sedan from 2010.
McDesign
The plastic starter house in the background shows you the target market . . .
Jason Catterall
@Spud Murphy I drove a Tesla Model 3 Performance but chose an E Class Mercedes. The Merc is a nicer car, sorry.