V-6 engines are disappearing, even from luxury sedans such as the Mercedes E-Class, a type of car which used to come standard with one. It now comes standard with a four-cylinder engine, a very small engine given the size and prestige of the E.
It’s been made stronger via turbocharging — something practically every company making luxury cars has resorted to as a way to maintain the power of a V-6 without using as much gas as a V-6 does. There is also pressure to produce less carbon dioxide in order to comply with current government regulations and in anticipation of more to come.
But there’s something about a six … and Mercedes just brought it back.
Just not a V-6 .
What It Is
The E-Class sedan is Mercedes’ entrant in the midsize luxury sedan segment. Its most immediate rival is the BMW 5-Series sedan, which is about the same size, similarly priced and similarly equipped.
Prices start at $54,250 for the base trim E 350, which is powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine driving the rear wheels.
Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system is available optionally, which brings the MSRP to $56,750.
The E 450 comes with a turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six, paired with a 48-volt electrical system and high-speed starter/generator.
Mercedes calls this system EQ boost.
All trims get an upgraded Mercedes-Benz User Experience – MBUX — infotainment system, revised exterior styling and a newly designed steering wheel.
The horsepower is maintained and gas mileage goes up.
The price goes up only slightly.
Regardless of what’s under the hood, the E sedan has a beautifully finished, open-feeling cabin surpassed only by an S-Class cabin — and that not by much.
What’s Not So Good
The new six should never be cycled off (it sounds too good).
Gas mileage gains are slight.
The mouse pad controller is hard to use accurately while driving.
Under the Hood
The E comes standard with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four that makes 255 horsepower. But the big news is the return of the straight six.
The straight six has the virtue of being almost as smooth as an electric motor while making sounds no electric motor can make. This is because the inline six layout is inherently balanced: no side-to-side vibrations. For that reason, it also doesn’t need a heavy external balancer to tamp down the vibrations.
The EQ system can be described as a hybrid system, and the intent is the same, but the means used to achieve that end are different.
Most hybrids have an electric motor which, to one degree or another, can propel the car. The Benz has an integrated starter/generator sandwiched in between the engine and the nine-speed automatic transmission.
This eliminates any feel that you are driving a hybrid.
The output of the EQ-boosted straight six is exactly the same 362 horsepower and 369 foot-pounds of torque as that produced by the old V-6 — by itself. But the new drivetrain’s peak torque is made slightly sooner, at 1,600 versus 1,800 rpm.
It’s slightly quicker, too, than last year’s V-6-only E-Class, getting to 60 mph in about 4.5 versus 4.6 seconds.
There’s another slight difference, as well. The EQ-boosted Benz rates 23 mpg city and 30 mpg highway, which is a slight improvement over the previous V-6 E’s 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.
On the Road
Mercedes touts the seamless transitions and the quiet of the EQ-boosted drivetrain, but it’s the sound of the six that sells this thing. There is something else that makes the E 450 something to be savored.
It is soft .
The seats, the surfaces — the ride . This is not a car for the corners. It is a car for the hours, whether in traffic or headed cross-country.
Mercedes put a lot of work into creating this ensemble, including the visual of the world outside the car, which you can both see and feel a part of because of all the glass. Many new cars make you feel as though you are driving a bathtub; the doors are high and the windows are almost like slits.
Driving the E is relaxing as well as inspiring. It has the legs of a Kenyan marathon runner, the lungs of Pavarotti and the softness of your favorite sofa on a warm summer’s day.
At the Curb
The E-Class, which is Mercedes’ mid-priced, midsize luxury sedan, now comes with or offers essentially the same amenities that used to be exclusive to the S-Class, Mercedes’ top-of-the-line (and full-size) sedan.
These include an entirely flatscreen panel, not just for the main gauges but also the secondary — infotainment — displays.
Mercedes deserves praise for only slightly increasing the price of the new E 450 relative to the 2020 V-6-powered E-sedan, which stickered for $61,550 vs. $62,000 for the new straight-six and EQ-boosted E 450.
The Bottom Line
Mercedes has figured out a way to let you have the cake the government didn’t want you to eat — without charging you an outrageous sum to get it, either.
(SET IMAGE) epe042021adAP.jpg (END IMAGE) (SET CAPTION) View the Mercedes E 450 this week. (END CAPTION)
Eric’s latest book, “Don’t Get Taken for a Ride!” is available now. To find out more about Eric and read his past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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Last Updated: Monday, Apr 19, 2021 17:31:13 -0700