The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E Class, its mid-size line, is offered in a breathtaking array of body styles and the choice of multiple engine options. The four-door sedan is the most common, but there’s also a Wagon and a Cabriolet, and engines range from a 3.5-liter V-6 up through the turbocharged V-8 of the hot-rod E63 AMG model, with its 518-hp 6.3-liter V-8.
The greenest option, however, is the torquey 3.0-liter turbodiesel V-6. With literally tens of millions of miles a year racked up on Mercedes-Benz diesels in Europe, the company knows its diesels. In the U.S., it offers this engine in four models for 2011: the E-Class sedan, the ML-Class five-seat sport utility, the GL-Class seven-seat full-size sport ute, and the R-Class wagon.
The diesel comes only in the sedan, however, leaving diesel wagon fans out in the cold. The E 350 Bluetec model pairs the turbodiesel to the company’s seven-speed automatic transmission, and garners EPA ratings of 22 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined. Like many modern diesels, especially those used for sustained high-speed Interstate travel, the fuel mileage delivered by the E 350 Bluetec may actually exceed the EPA ratings—or, at least, so say many owners. Regrettably, 4Matic all-wheel drive is not offered with the 2011 E-Class diesel sedan.
Styling is a tad busy, with many, many accent lines, creases, and joint lines occurring close together on the front end. The new look is decidedly tougher than the friendly, oval-eyed look of the two previous generations. But overall, we find the latest E Class is indisputably a Mercedes-Benz in appearance, just as decades of its predecessors have been. It could be from no other maker—a hard act to pull off for that long.
The E Class suspension is firm, but the handling is impeccable, and after some dubious years, the cars seem to have regained that rock-solid, hewn-from-billet-steel feeling that always characterized Benz sedans. And the new car is slightly larger inside than its predecessor, with the usual oodles of standard equipment, safety features, and options for every conceivable desire that carry an almost S-Class full-size feel of luxury. Massaging seats, anyone? They’re available.
The one off note we found was the vinyl seats in the base model. They’re undoubtedly very good vinyl seats, and would like last through hundreds of thousands of miles of taxi duty, but in a car starting just below $50,000 before you’ve ticked any expensive boxes, cloth would have been better.
For more details, see the review of the complete 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class range on our sister site, TheCarConnection.