Walkaround and Interior

By May 27, 2008

Walkaround

Before the launch of the gorgeous CLS sedan/coupe, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class was widely considered to be the most successful design among the company's current sedans. The slight increase in overall length and wider front and rear tracks introduced on the 2007 models did nothing to dispel the car's suave look.

The four-headlight theme was refined for 2008, with transparent louvers over their top sections, a striking effect, and white LEDs used for the parking lights. The front bumper and radiator grille were given a pronounced V-shape, and the spoiler stretched lower.

The front end's new look was carried to the rear along deeper side skirts to a new rear bumper and taillight configuration. New mirrors provided a better view with even less wind resistance. These changes have kept the E-Class looking fresh and youthful, yet elegant.

No further appearance changes have been made for 2008.

The current E-Class introduced many innovations not necessarily apparent to the eye. This was the first Mercedes sedan to use aluminum body components extensively, starting with the hood, front fenders, trunk lid, front crossmember and front subframe. Aluminum is lighter and potentially stronger but more expensive than steel. Aluminum amounts to 10 percent of the body's weight. About 37 percent of the total is modern high-strength steel alloys.

From the aerodynamic perspective, the E-Class is one of the slipperiest sedans extant. Its 0.27 coefficient of drag is a benchmark for sedans and helps minimize wind noise and maximize fuel economy.

The E-Class wagon, available only in E350 and E63 AMG versions, will never be mistaken for anything but a wagon. Nonetheless, it is impressively sleek, and some critics find the tear-drop taper of the rear roof more aesthetically pleasing than the trunk deck on the sedans. Certainly, the wagon's added cargo-passenger flexibility is welcome. If the E350 wagon is too stodgy for your taste, there's always the E63 AMG version.

The E63 AMG sedan and wagon look meaner than the other E-Class cars. With their lower body cladding and 18-inch wheels, the E63s look racy and aggressive. As is often the case, the body add-ons add slightly more drag, if you can call a super slippery 0.28 Cd more drag. The aerodynamic aids are for downforce, to improve grip in fast corners.

Interior Features

We really enjoy the Mercedes E-Class interior. Like its exterior styling, we consider the E-Class cabin to be some of the marque's best design work, with a successful mix of attributes. The E-Class sedan delivers plenty of passenger space, yet it maintains some level of intimacy. It's luxurious, yet functional, and loaded with features without being excessive. The E-Class has all the traditional Mercedes interior cues, starting with its standard dark stained burl walnut trim. The cabin is conservative in some respects, daring in others, and impressively executed throughout.

The freshened styling introduced for 2007 gave the car a more elegant look, distinguished by sweeping curves, soft surfaces and effective use of chrome trim. A handsome four-spoke steering wheel with elliptical thumb-operated buttons was new as well, along with revised controls for the automatic climate system and additional interior color choices.

The dashboard sweeps from each side and blends into the doors and center console. The wood trim is complemented by splashes of chrome. Plastic panels are generally rich in appearance and have a soft-touch finish. All are sprayed with a polyurethane coating that delivers impressively consistent color.

The instrument cluster uses black script on white gauges with LED lighting. There's a big speedometer in the middle, with a menu-operated display for diagnostics, feature selection, ambient temperature, date and other information in its center. To the left sits a large analog clock, to the right the tachometer. On either end of the cluster are neat bar gauges that resemble thermometers, displaying fuel level and coolant temperature.

A cluster of switches between the visors on the headliner controls cabin lighting and the Tele-Aid SOS call button. The panel also includes a switch to operate the sunroof. HomeLink buttons are located on the bottom of the rearview mirror and can be programmed to control garage doors, house lighting, gates, etc. Redundant controls on the steering wheel hub operate the phone, radio and information display.

A single row of switches at the bottom of the center stack operates door locks, flashers and seat heaters. The main audio, telephone and navigation controls are located in a Comand module, spread around a 16:9 ratio LCD display screen. The system is a big improvement over Mercedes' previous control center, and while it still requires some learning, it probably takes less time to master than the menu/joystick system in many E-Class competitors.

The CD changer is located behind a flip-up switch panel in the center of the dash, which, at the touch of a button, opens for access. The changer can play audio CDs and MP3s, and an auxiliary input plug in the glove box allows personal audio devices to be played through the 12-speaker sound system. An optional kit connects an Apple iPod to the audio system and provides information in the center display while allowing control via the multi-function steering wheel.

Mercedes re-learning that people who drive cars carry stuff with them. This E-Class has less storage space than some of its competitors, but acres more than any Mercedes did five years ago. The center console has a funky pop-up cupholder and a large storage bin (two bins if you don't order the telephone package). Storage bins are also located in each door along with map pockets on the front seatbacks.

The 10-way adjustable front bucket seats are firm enough for good support when driving fast, but not hard on the back when cruising. They grip bodies of various sizes nicely, and there's more than enough adjustment via Mercedes' patented door-mounted seat controls to accommodate just about everyone. The sport seats have enough bolstering to keep a bronze bust in place. But if you don't dive into corners like Stirling Moss, you probably don't need them. They make getting in and out a little more difficult. We especially enjoy the op