Mercedes' bounty of offerings

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 is part of a range of E-Class body styles, including a coupe, cabriolet, sedan, and wagon. GREG JAREM / Mercedes-Benz USA
The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 is part of a range of E-Class body styles, including a coupe, cabriolet, sedan, and wagon. GREG JAREM / Mercedes-Benz USA
Posted: February 09, 2014

The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is like a classic gray suit. It's a safe, conservative choice that looks good no matter where you travel.

That might explain not just its popularity but also why Mercedes-Benz offers a full range of body styles including a coupe, cabriolet, sedan, and wagon with all-wheel drive. And the variety doesn't stop there. There's a sizable choice of power trains, as well.

In an unusual move, the least expensive E-Class sedan, the E250 BlueTEC - with a $51,400 base price - has a 195-horsepower 2.1-liter four-cylinder twin-turbocharged diesel engine. An extra $500 nets the E350 and a gas-powered 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V6. Stepping up to the E550 gets you not just another 100 horsepower from its 4.6-liter turbocharged V8, but standard all-wheel drive, as well.

If that's not enough power for you, opt for the E63 AMG with its 5.5-liter turbocharged V8, good for 550 horsepower with all-wheel drive, or the E63 AMG S-Model with the same engine and an extra 27 horses under the hood.

Finally, there's a gas-electric hybrid model, the E400, with the same horsepower rating as the E350, and the same EPA rated highway mileage, but an extra 3 m.p.g. in city driving.

If you prefer two doors, opting for the coupe or convertible will limit your choice to the E350 or E550, while the wagon is offered as an E350 or E63 AMG S-Model. That's significantly more variety than the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6/A7, or Cadillac CTS.

For 2014, all E-Class models get a new proboscis capped by one of two grilles, depending on which option package you choose. Cars equipped with the Performance Package wear a giant three-pointed star in the middle of the grille. Choosing the Luxury Package on the E250 or E350 means you'll have the traditional stand-up hood ornament atop the grille.

Unless you must see a three-pointed star at the end of the hood, the Sport Package looks much better. Its more aggressive look has a more modern feel, yet doesn't detract from the newly refined front-end styling. There's a touch of softness to its looks that buffs off the harshness of the previous model.

E-Class sedans get a further design revision that significantly enhances their visual appeal: They lose the pontoon over the rear fender. Unfortunately, coupes and cabriolets retain it.

All interiors have been redesigned, imparting a richer and sportier feel that's more in keeping with the price. Even the seats have been reworked, and unlike a typical Mercedes-Benz seat, which is about as unyielding as a cinder block, these thrones are comfortable.

At the press launch for the E-Class in Portland, Ore., I sampled the E250 and 350 sedans, and an E350 Cabriolet.

The E350 has more than enough power for most drivers, but not so much more that you might choose it over the diesel, which has 369 foot pounds of torque, rather than the E350's 269. Yes, the E250 is slower, taking 7.9 seconds to reach 60 m.p.h., compared with the E350's 6.5 seconds. But mileage was significantly better, returning 39.2 m.p.g., compared with the 20.5 m.p.g. from the V6.

The standard seven-speed automatic transmission is responsive when left to its own devices, but shifting manually with paddle shifters mounted on the steering wheel is disappointing. Gear changes take too long to actuate, especially if you drop down two gears.

Steering is nicely weighted but largely devoid of feel. As you'd expect of a Mercedes-Benz, the car stays planted no matter what you throw at it while transmitting more road imperfections through to passengers than some folks may like. This is not a pure driver's car, but it has enough ability and agility to be enjoyed by an enthusiast. In all, it's a very well-rounded package.

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