The Mercedes-Benz E-Class is one of the most recognizable luxury executive sedans in the market. With over 14 million Saloon and Estate models delivered since its introduction, the E-Class is the best-selling model series in the brand’s history. The first E-Class saloons rolled off production lines since 1953, and the brand has sold over 418,000 units in 2019. Mercedes-Benz says it is the “Heart of the brand”, and I’m inclined to agree. The dawn of the W213 generation E-Class saw the introduction of many elements of the larger S-Class into this lesser model.
But it’s been three years since this fifth-generation model came onto the market. And like they did with the previous W212 generation, it’s due time for a mid-cycle update. And with the other brands constantly vying to be the best E-Segment car, this new 2021 model here has some big shoes to fill to keep it current with its closest German rivals.
Visually, this facelifted model has seen a few distinct changes to its design. Starting with the upturned grille and headlights. The lower half of the front end is still relatively similar to the pre-facelift model. But the front fascia of this model appears to be heavily inspired by the latest W223 S-Class. The slimmer taillights do help the front of the car appear lower and wider than the pre-facelift model. It’s a more grown-up upscale look, though it might not be for everyone. The AMG line model pictured here gets the same diamond-style grille seen on recent AMG-Line models in Mercedes’s line-up, as well as a sportier front bumper with flared vents on either side.
Round back, the taillights are also slimmer and longer than the outgoing model, adopting a similar design to the CLS-Class and, you guessed it, the new S-Class. The sportier rear bumper looks rather kosher at a distance, but upon closer inspection, one would notice the fake “exhaust” tips. And a shoddily done job, if I’m being honest.
You’d be forgiven if you mistake this facelifted E-Class for the new S-Class. But the original W213 model looked strikingly similar to the W222 S-Class back when it launched, so no harm no foul. And at least the AMG-Line package comes with nice 18-inch AMG five-spoke rims and massive drilled brake rotors.
As standard, the new E-Class models feature the two digital displays on the dashboard (no more analog dial gubbins). Most of the switchgear and buttons are identical to the pre-facelift model, including the gear lever, window switches, climate control buttons, indicator stalks and seat controls. Former E-Class drivers would also find the same four air conditioning vents within the black open-pore wood trim on the dash.
In the rear, passengers really wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the previous W213 model and this new facelift. Everything from the rear air conditioning vents to the armrest is identical to the older model. But it is still suitably comfortable, with leather and metal covering most surfaces. The E200 I drove also came fitted with a large panoramic sunroof that extends past the driver’s head over the rear passengers. Rear boot space is also identical post-facelift, measuring in at 540 liters (Still beating both the BMW 5-Series and Audi A6).
However, the multi-function steering wheel is all new. As with the exterior, the wheel looks lifted right off the new S-Class. And it’s a more elegant affair with a smaller airbag/horn cover, plenty of gloss black buttons on the spokes, and redesigned paddle shifters hewn from solid metal.
The biggest change in the interior however, is the integration of the new MBUX infotainment system instead of the rather obsolete COMAND system. With the new MBUX system comes a few changes; Two new touchpads on the steering wheel for navigating through your gauge cluster and infotainment screen, and the haptic touchpad/trackpad on the center console.
The position of the two touchpads is a bit of a reach from the wheel rim, which makes it that little bit more challenging to customise your gauge cluster. The buttons are also too closely spaced together, and the gloss black plastic makes it a little harder to discern where the actual touch sensitive portions are. Not to mention it’s a real fingerprint magnet. But I can forgot those little grievances because the MBUX system is a joy to use, when it works. And after I turn off the “Hey Mercedes” voice assistant.
The parking package fitted in this E200 AMG Line comes with a full 360-degree camera system, which is surprisingly sharp and high definition. In the top-down view mode, the footage is butter smooth with virtually no lag. Frankly, it’s amazing to see how Mercedes has managed to stitch the various camera angles so seamlessly. The rear-view camera even pans left or right depending on your steering input.
From a cold start, the engine purrs to life surprisingly quickly, no doubled helped along by the mild-hybridization tech in this new facelifted E-Class. The 2.0L inline four-cylinder engine and electric motor produce a combined 197 horsepower and 320Nm of torque. You get a new EQ boost gauge as well as a regenerative charge meter in the gauge cluster. The switch for the various driving modes in the E-Class is located beside the MBUX touchpad on the centre console, identical to the pre-facelift model.
In comfort mode, the car is composed and the powerband feels incredibly linear. But it almost feels sluggish. I wouldn’t call it slow, but the drivetrain doesn’t feel perky or responsive despite the addition of the mild hybrid system. Gear changes in this 9-speed transmission are imperceptible, almost like a low-revving CVT powertrain, settling into 6th or 7th at just about 70km/h. The car takes a while to respond to your input if you floor the pedal. But at the very core, the comfort mode does work as advertised. The E-Class is a comfort biased car after all. The well insulated cabin shuts out most of the tyre and wind noise, unless you’re travelling at autobahn speeds. The Agility Control Suspension system works well at damping imperfections in the road. Though its nowhere near perfect, you’d need to have a bottom made of glass to really complain about the ride quality. Body roll is noticeable in tight corners, especially at speed. No surprise in a car that weighs over 1.7 tons.
Put it into Sport or Sport+ however, and the engine noticeably sharpens up. There is still a very slight delay (that I’m not entirely sure is attributed to turbo lag) but the mild hybrid system fills in the gaps to give you almost seamless gear shifts as the transmission blips through the gears to get you past highway speeds in a matter of seconds. 7.5 seconds to 100km/h, to be exact.
But the E-Class isn’t a car you drive to hammer down twisting back roads in. Where it excels best, is in the city or on the highway. And that’s where most E-Class buyers will find themselves most of the time. And with the Mild Hybrid tech and intuitive MBUX interface, even the least tech-savvy drivers wouldn’t struggle to get to grips with this car. But if its power you want, the more powerful E53 AMG with 429 horsepower would be your best bet.
Words: Jay Tee
Images: Lawrence Loy
Special thanks to Hua Yang Group for loaning us the new E200 AMG Line.