2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Driving Impressions


We have driven the E-Class from the San Francisco Bay area to winding roads in Portugal, and have experienced everything from docile to frenetic, from four-cylinder to twin-turbo V8.

But even with the docile powertrain it’s fairly quick, able to accelerate from zero to sixty in 6.2 seconds (on the way to 130 mph). Its 273 pound-feet of torque comes on down low at 1300 rpm, giving good early acceleration. Its paddle-shifting 9-speed transmission helps keep it in the perfect spot of the powerband. Too bad the four-cylinder sounds gruff.

Two suspensions are available for the E 300. There is a firm multi-link suspension with adaptive dampers in either base or sport (firmer) tune, or an air suspension with adaptive dampers. In addition to that, the wheel sizes range from 17 to 20 inches, mounted with different tires.

The 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system splits power front to rear at 45:55.

The air suspension (called Air Body Control) and driving modes give the E-Class breathtaking versatility. It can cruise with lots of suspension travel, slow and smooth shifts and light-touch steering in Comfort mode, or approach AMG levels of heft and stiffness when set in Sport Plus mode. The modes are Comfort, Economy, Sport and Sport Plus. Comfort offers languid steering and shifting, and lengthy suspension travel. We often preferred Sport mode, which brings the best compromise of a good ride and quickness from the throttle, steering and transmission.

The air suspension system uses springs with two chambers per front strut and two chambers per rear strut; the chambers inflate and deflate at lightning speed based on sensor readings from the road. It lowers the ride height on the freeway for better aerodynamics and fuel mileage, and can raise it when more ground clearance is needed.

The E 400 makes few compromises. Its 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 makes 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque at 1600 rpm, powering it from zero to sixty in 5.5 seconds in the rear-wheel-drive Coupe; in the all-wheel-drive sedan, with better traction from the standing start, it does that sprint in 5.2 seconds.

All that torque at such a low engine speed makes the E 400 feel even quicker. Unlike the four-cylinder, it feels smooth and refined. Its 9-speed automatic transmission does quick and smooth shifts.

The Coupe and Convertible have a distinctive driving feel, slightly lower than the sedan. The air suspension and adaptive dampers are available, and they transform the ride and handling. In Comfort mode it’s stable and poised for daily driving, while it begs for Sport mode on winding roads.

The E 43 sedan boosts that V6 to 396 horsepower and 384 pound-feet of torque, mated to a stronger 9-speed that shifts like a racecar’s. It does zero to sixty in 4.5 seconds, and 155 miles per hour. The all-wheel drive stretches the front/rear bias to 39/61.

In Sport Plus, the throttle is lightning quick. The transmission will hold a gear through tight curves, or manual mode can be used. Individual mode allows the driver to soften the steering that can feel unsettled in Sport Plus. The ride is very firm but comfortable enough.

The AMG E 63 S, sedan or wagon, uses twin-turbocharged, 4.0-liter V8 making 603 horsepower and 627 pound-feet of torque. Try 3.3 seconds from zero to 60, and 180 mph top speed, without drama.

The all-wheel drive can go 0/100 front/rear, meaning you can take the wagon on the track and throw the tail around, drift it in the corners, then go 180 mph on the long straight.

The E 63 S will nail the corner apex with its taut suspension, four links in front and a multi-link rear with more bracing and stabilizer bars, thick tubes. The front brake rotors are 16 inches, with available carbon-ceramic for the track. Pirelli P Zero tires are mounted on 20-inch wheels.

It’s at home on the Nurburgring or American streets, with the air suspension and adaptive dampers that were developed on the S-Class. When you realize that the AMG models weigh more than two tons and are 190 inches long, it’s a reminder how far the E-Class has come.

Base MSRP excludes transportation and handling charges, destination charges, taxes, title, registration, preparation and documentary fees, tags, labor and installation charges, insurance, and optional equipment, products, packages and accessories. Options, model availability and actual dealer price may vary. See dealer for details, costs and terms.

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