2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 review: It’s good to be the king
In a segment where backers have been battling each other for decades, with very few intruders actually making their way into the mix, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has accomplished an impressive feat. In what amounts to a hefty mid-cycle update, the latest E-Class collects a number of tricks that make it the best mid-size luxury sedan by a country mile.
- Effortless luxury
- Delicate and lively hybrid
- In-car technology galore
I do not like
- Steering wheel volume slider
- Less cargo space than competitors
The model I’m in, the E450, gets the most tweaks from any variant. Gone is the V6 biturbo of yore, in its place a 3.0-liter turbo I6 paired with a 48-volt lightweight hybrid system. It produces 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, while the electric motor stuck in the equation can produce 21 horsepower and 184 lb-ft on its own, although its main focus is on improving efficiency by allowing long inertia travel at low load and longer stop-start durations.
Regardless of the intended purpose, the E450’s powertrain is smooth from start to finish. Whether it’s from the electric motor or the straight six, there’s so much torque available at low revs that stepping away from the lights or entering the highway feels effortless. Refinement is the name of the game here: Compared to the old twin-turbo V6, the new I6 sounds better and translates less vibration into the cabin. Its nine-speed automatic transmission is also at the top of its game, providing smooth shifts in both directions and having a damn good idea of which gear is needed at what time.
2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 is a high-end, no-frills luxury car
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The 2021 E-Class is a true luxury car in the most literal sense, prioritizing luxury at every turn. A good portion of that comes from my tester’s optional three-chamber air suspension, a $ 1,900 upgrade that seems mandatory if I want to delight as much as possible. Turn the E450 into a cloud, navigating rough roads with very little access to the cabin, aided by smaller 18-inch alloy wheels and sufficiently chunky Pirelli Sottozero winter tires. The larger wheels will add style points, sure, but they’ll compromise on ride quality. Despite being as smooth as all get-outs, the E450 doesn’t feel like a boat cornering and switching to a sportier vehicle mode eliminates most of the roll, adding that just enough sporty character without distracting from the true purpose of the bike. car.
Every other component that my hands or feet come into contact with only reinforce the idea that this is the best luxury car in its segment. The steering is well thought out regardless of mode. The brakes want bring the E450 to a stop quickly, but there’s a great deal of pedal modulation available, making stops smooth every time. The throttle is similarly programmed, which makes it easy enough for me to meet and beat the EPA’s E450 fuel economy estimates of 23 miles per gallon of city and 30mpg on the highway.
The interiors of the E450 2021 continue the theme of cool elegance. The interior of the E-Class has always been a comfortable place to burn time, with soft, supportive leather seats offering ample head and leg room in both rows, as well as some high-quality wood finishes. My tester’s $ 1,620 leather upgrade makes the seats softer, but the stock vinyl dashboard still feels very premium without the need to drop thousands more on a leather suit. Physical controls for the climate control feel expensive with every push, and the entire instrument panel is mounted low enough, ensuring great forward visibility. Storage isn’t too bad either, with deep door pockets and a roomy compartment under the armrest, although at 13.1 cubic feet, the trunk space leans out to the smaller side, lagging behind the BMW 5 Series and to the Audi A6 while shooting also with the Genesis G80.
Most of the E-Class’s interior updates involve technology. A new steering wheel refreshes the controls, replacing the individual levers and knobs with a fully capacitive setup that feels smooth. It works pretty well, except for the volume slider, which is difficult to fine-tune, so I end up reaching for the correct volume knob on the center console to actually control the volume. Its piano-black finish is also a stain magnet, so keep that in mind. A new touchpad also graces the center console, with handwriting recognition working really well.
As part of the $ 200 MBUX Interior Assistant upgrade, if I’m alone in the car and reach my arm towards the passenger seat to grab something – a mask, wallet, whatever – the map light on the right side will come on turned on, then turn off again once my hand is back on my side of the car. It’s clever little things like these that really enhance the experience of a luxury car, always making things as simple as possible for anyone in control.
The most notable technological upgrade lives front and center. The MBUX infotainment system now resides on the two 12.3-inch screens that cover most of the dashboard, and it’s just as good as elsewhere in the lineup. The system is quick to start up and quick to respond to commands, whether they come directly from the touchscreen, or the steering wheel, or the trackpad, or even MB’s built-in natural language recognition. A $ 350 option adds turn-by-turn directions in augmented reality, overlaying a video feed of the road ahead with lane and turn suggestions, which is a fun parlor trick that actually helps navigating unfamiliar areas. Navigation is standard on the E450, as is, and car services connected with 4G LTE Wi-Fi hotspot.
Mercedes-Benz has been pretty good with its standard safety systems over the past few years and the E450 holds the course. The standard kit includes automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and one of the highest resolution backup cameras on the market. My tester takes it one step further with the $ 1,950 Driving Assistance package which adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Change Assist, and Route-Based Speed Adaptation, which combines for a system handy that does a great job of keeping the car at pace in traffic. Some extra peace of mind also comes from the $ 2,300 Premium package, which features a surround view camera system and parking sensors, plus a Burmester sound system.
Of course, being the best luxury car in its class comes at a cost. The 2021 E450 starts at $ 63,050 including destination, with my well-equipped tester ringing at $ 76,140. It’s competitive with the segment’s two other supporters, the Audi A6 and the BMW 5 Series, but the Merc does the best job of prioritizing driving opulence. However, there is a new competitor from the Far East: the Genesis G80. This redesigned Korean luxury sedan is damn impressive, giving Mercedes a run for its money in sheer softness and breadth of available technology. While the Genesis lacks the cachet of the usual three players, it deserves a serious look from anyone who wants a luxury experience with a capital L.
But even with its new (and closer) rival, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is easily the king of its segment. With the best technology the automaker has to offer, a car that was already powerful and luxurious has grown even further, offering its occupants a top-notch ride that offers serenity separate from the crazy outside world.