Mercedes runs deep in my family. From my grandma’s inimitable diesel S-Class—white with pink pinstriping—to the late-’80s E-Class models my parents drove for years, I grew up road-tripping from their backseats. Later, I learned to drive in a 1988 300TE, the same wagon I’d taken naps in during long highway drives a decade earlier. Although my parents moved on to other brands, MotorTrend has a history of its own with the E-Class. We recognized the E-Class as our 1996 Import Car of the Year before experiencing the all-around excellence in the updated E-Class, our 2021 Car of the Year.
Now we get to spend an entire year with the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and we have some questions. There’s more at stake here than you might think: Although far more consumers will purchase a GLC or GLE, the E-Class still helps drive overall perception of the brand. So we’re eager to see what we’ll think after a year of ownership. Will our 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic sedan remain a luxury sedan favorite? Or will it get lost in the shadows of the redesigned 2022 C-Class, 2021 S-Class, and 2022 EQS sedans?
How Our E450 4Matic Carries a $72,770 MSRP
If the $72,770 as-tested price of our one-year E-Class comes as a surprise, you won’t want to hear that our car lacks real leather, a panoramic glass roof (ours has a standard sunroof), and ventilated front seats. Don’t forget we opted for the E450’s 362-hp 3.0-liter turbocharged mild hybrid I-6 instead of the standard E350 model’s 255-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4. That 107-hp jump means Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system comes standard but doesn’t guarantee you top status in the E-Class lineup—not even close. The two AMG models take things in a sportier direction; first there’s a 429-hp E53 model that also uses an I-6 engine. If embarrassing muscle cars is more your style, Mercedes offers the six-figure, 603-hp E63 S.
By choosing the E450 4Matic model, we’re staying closer to the heart of the market. Moving past the E350 adds a dose of sportiness, but not so much that we forget this is a luxury sedan first and a sporty sedan second. To put this E450 4Matic’s $72,770 as-tested price into perspective, our one-year 2017 BMW 530i had an MSRP of $72,135, and unlike our Mercedes, that BMW was a base-engine model.
Our E450’s options include a $2,300 Premium package with a 360-degree camera system, Burmester sound system that looks and sounds good, parking sensors, and a parking assist system. A $1,100 Acoustic Comfort package will hopefully keep things hushed inside the cabin thanks to increased insulation as well as a specially treated windshield and side windows.
We couldn’t finish our virtual build without the best active safety tech Mercedes offers on the 2021 E-Class, so we checked the box for the $1,950 Driver Assistance package. This suite of tech includes adaptive cruise control with Active Steering Assist and the ability to slow around curves, an Active Lane Change Assist, automatic emergency braking with a cross-traffic function, lane keeping assist, and Evasive Steering Assist. Then there’s the $350 augmented-reality feature for the navigation system—it’s a new technology we’re starting to see from other luxury brands, too. Will it become a must-have feature that spreads across the industry or mostly ignored, like night vision? We’ll see.
We’re almost done! A dashcam set us back $200, moving up from 18-inch wheels to 19s cost a reasonable $1,000, and the Mojave Silver Metallic exterior color carries a $720 upcharge. Almost every color costs extra on the E-Class, but to be fair, that’s a game every car in this class plays except the value-priced Lexus ES. Last but definitely not least, we opted for Mercedes’ $1,900 air suspension (dubbed Air Body Control).
Beyond the Three-Pointed Star
The allure of the three-pointed star is a big part of any Mercedes purchase. But the appeal of the 2021 E-Class should go beyond the brand’s well-earned prestige; this is a two-time Car of the Year winner, after all. Will we still like it after 12 months? That’s what we hope to find out, and you have our word—we won’t add pink pinstriping.
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