In July, reports broke that Mercedes-Benz would be chopping seven cars from its U.S. lineup, including the E-Class coupe and convertible. More recently, Daimler CEO Ola Källenius confirmed that Mercedes-Benz would cut 20 percent from its operating costs and slash several underperforming models by 2025, but he isn’t naming names yet. Indulge me for a moment as I yell into the wind: Are we really dumping the handling nuance, the top-down romance, and the sheer grace of a long chassis with chest-high rooflines just to cart home a new big, square box every eight months? Or to see through all the similarly stilt-high SUVs lumbering around you? Am I wasting my time saying this? Completely. But I do feel better.
On top of the bloodbath already underway to fund EV drivetrains and autonomous technology, the economic downturn has pushed even Mercedes into accepting that its duplicate lineups of cars and SUVs is unsustainable. That means seven of its children will likely be heading to the Stuttgart museum’s collection—where I hope the placards set before them will somehow explain how all this happened. What’ll remain on Mercedes’ sedan shortlist are its perennial, ever-popular pair: the S-Class and E-Class sedans, the latter represented here by the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 4Matic. And what a glorious vintage of E this is, despite being merely an updated edition.
But between us, this is no ordinary shoeshine of its pre-vamp fifth generation, which made its debut in 2017. It’s more like the last hammer tap by Stuttgart’s diamond cutters as they cleave their gem’s final facet and it suddenly sparkles.
Visually, the E 450’s nose is more rippled with angled eyes and power domes on the hood, and it’s butt benefits from a new bumper, trunk lid, and more trapezoidal taillights (the whole shebang rendered in three new colors: Graphite Grey metallic, Mojave Silver metallic, and Cirrus Silver metallic). It’s still subdued—but it depends on the time frame you’re thinking of. Which car in this category would you like to still see in your driveway seven years from now? Probably this one.
Climb in, and you’ll face the interior’s showcase feature, its twin 12.3-inch displays. Straight before you is the instrument display; to the right, a second, same-size display is for reach-and-touching. Or, alternately, it can be manipulated by a finger pad on the center console (which is easy to mistakenly brush reaching for coffee). Or by gesture recognition. Or by an updated version of the “Hey, Mercedes” voice interface. I’m not aware of there being any way to communicate using your toes, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
I wound up using the finger pad and sometimes the screen directly, plus a lot of lateral swiping and scrolling through drop-down lists. A whole lot. Like being in an electronic game where you’re searching along corridors and opening side doors trying to find a hostage in the bad guy’s confusing 150-room compound. Hmm, not here. Better backtrack.
A few editors regarded the infotainment system as more like the Winchester Mystery House, with long hallways and the occasional staircase to nowhere. Once you’ve landed on the destinations you actually care about, though—for me, the car’s version of the compound’s refrigerator, bathroom, and TV set—all’s good. The trouble is that these essentials are spread out over all those 150 rooms. (Shortcuts would be nice.) And more staff demerits were tallied for the steering wheel spoke’s miniature touch-sensitive switches that are commendably rendered in slick, black plastic but are as fumbly to touch control as tying baby shoes in the dark.
Maybe I’m inclined to see silver linings, but both the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450’s screen and steering wheel nevertheless possess two of my favorite features in all of automobile-dom. When using lane centering, the wheel senses a hand on its rim via inductance (typically, through a change in the electromagnetic field of the rim’s existing heating elements). If you’ve used a good lane-centering system that instead senses steering torque to confirm hand presence, you know how silly and tiresome it is to periodically tweak the wheel to avoid scoldings (talking to you, Tesla). Here, you just loosely hold it, and it magically knows. Although the interior is swathed in top-drawer fabric with top-notch stitching, I was pausing at the question of whether the screens and chrome round-bevel vents complement each other or are simply a discordant clash of eras.
Within that loved-hated infotainment display (which, as I remember, is down the hallway and on the right, through a door, and in a closet), you’ll find this car’s massaging seat option ($1,320). A 1 percenter topic, I know, but ohmygod is it addictive on a several-hundred-mile drive. In every single car I’ve been in since driving the E 450, the occasional squirm to reposition my derriere has had me repeating out loud how much I miss the Mercedes’ seats. Yes, a couple of drivers murmured that the bottom cushions were kinda firm (both front and back). They are newbies. Infrequent Mercedes drivers have repeated such a sentiment since the 1885 Benz Patent-Motorwagen, but folks who live with these cars know their design is no happenstance. It’s the opinion of billions of butts sitting over billions of miles. Mercedes-Benz has served more buns than McDonald’s.
Pressing the On button wakes a whole new powertrain under an E-Class hood, a preposterously complicated 3.0-liter inline-six, coupled to a nine-speed transmission that twirls all four wheels (hence 4Matic). The historic portion of the power unit—the straight-six configuration—is as old as the hills and legendary for its silkiness. And then Mercedes’ lab coats lathered it in every tech trick they could cook up. Although I remain a staunch fan of Formula 1 despite 80 percent of the races being dead boring, the uncomfortable truth is that all that crazy tech delivering Lewis Hamilton championship after championship has zilch to do with edging through traffic on the way to work. Right? Well …
Like Hamilton’s Mercedes-Benz W11 race car, the E 450’s 362-hp power unit fiendishly intertwines electric motors, a battery, and turbocharging to swell drivability and magnify efficiency. Based on a 48-volt architecture (shrinking the component sizes and gaining efficiency), it pancakes a 21-hp electric motor between the combustion engine and the transmission while shuttling energy back and forth from a 0.9-kWh battery to restart the engine, harvest regened energy under braking, sometimes aid the car’s sailing (ignition-off with no sense of engine braking), fill the inline-six’s traditional torque holes, plus spin a small compressor for instant intake pressure while the turbo spools up. Beltless, all the accessories are electrically powered so they can spin at whatever speeds they individually need to, saving energy.
And to think that this Beethovenian symphony of technology is being so quietly performed beneath a plastic cover and a newly shaped hood, you wouldn’t even notice it? (And maybe more motivation why Mercedes is hustling to get its vastly simpler EVs to market.)
What you will sense is how unexpectedly the E 450 pampers you with posh while your hands on the steering wheel sense the soft pulse of an astute driver’s car, like two fingers on a carotid artery. Both derive—as these things always have—from Mercedes’ fabled granitelike foundation. Although the brand has occasionally substituted soapstone for its cheaper cars (even recently), it’s reopened the grand old granite quarry for this one, and you can sense the solidness just about constantly. On the highway, the E 450’s unusually quiet and silken ride is abetted by added insolation, quiet glass ($1,100), and air suspension ($1,900).
If that drive brings it to our test track location, you’d hear dragstrip savant and road test editor Chris Walton comment about its acceleration. “There’s no launch control per se, but it ‘knows’ you’re asking it to go as fast as it can and modifies the shift speed,” he says. “Releasing the brake as the tach winds up toward 2,500 rpm provides the quickest launch; upshifts are a little harsh but quick, and over 100 mph in the quarter mile ain’t too shabby.” Numbers? Zero to 60 mph in 4.5 seconds, the quarter in 13.3 at 103.2 mph. After Walton’s brake tests: “Good initial tire bite, modest nosedive, but no grip from these tires. A typical amount of distance creep (stop after stop). In order: 127, 131, 131, 135 feet.” We quote the best we see, which is 127.
Now hop in as I take you around the figure-eight course. My notes: “Around these corners its ride—though very compliant on the highway—gets a little pitter-pattery in Sport+ mode, which slightly upsets aiming it. I’m trying to use second gear exiting the corners, but it’s sometimes jumping to fourth (adding a gearchange on its own) by the end of the straight. I have to keep checking the display to know which gear I’m actually in. The brake’s pedal feel is fine, but the car isn’t as eager as I’d like to turn in (a 55 percent front weight bias will do that), and although its body motions are reasonably damped, there’s moderate to strong understeer. These alternately inflating seat side bolsters are slightly distracting but are sure keeping me situated behind the wheel.” The tabulated results? An OK 26.2-second lap, generating an unremarkable 0.83 g in the corners.
So the E 450 graduates from our test track driving test, though not exactly cum laude.
But some of us (moi) just aren’t very good test-takers. We’re better at free-form problem-solving, such as heading up Mt. Baldy Road’s unraveled ribbon of asphalt in the hills above Ontario, California. The quirks we noticed at the test track in Fontana suddenly dissolve as the Mercedes confidently carves through varying-radius, tilting-camber corners. The E 450 is a little soft in its suspension’s Comfort setting and firm in Sport+; Sport is the Goldilocks compromise. But everyone who drove it said it suited every situation—from curves to commute.
At an as-tested $79,280 (base is $63,050), there are a lot of gummy bears and M&M’s sprinkled on this particular Stuttgart sundae—$1,000 for the panoramic sunroof, $1,100 for the head-up display, $1,950 for a comprehensive driver assist package, $2,300 for parking assist and a Burmester sound system. And, well, there’s even more than that.
Yeah, it’s a pricey automobile. Is the cheaper E 350 a better value, with its 255-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four and steel spring suspension? Stay tuned. But even at almost 80 grand, this E 450 is not the Dixie cup so many of its cheaper rivals are. It’s the latest interpretation of what Mercedes-Benz has been doing better than anybody for 94 years: building sedans that don’t so much age as they simply get older. The world’s running out of cars like this. You might want to get one while you can.
|2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 4Matic Sedan|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$79,280|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan|
|ENGINE||3.0L/362-hp/369-lb-ft turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6, plus 21-hp/184-lb-ft elec motor; 362 hp/369 lb-ft (comb)|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||4,330 lb (55/45%)|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||194.5 x 73.7 x 57.8 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.6 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||13.3 sec @ 103.2 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||127 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||26.2 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||23/30/26 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||147/112 kWh/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.75 lb/mile|
The original post 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 450 4Matic First Test: A Glorious Vintage
Date: 03.12.20 Views: 136