It all adds up
The new 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 350 sedan arrived in the country mid-year priced initially at $127,100 plus on-road costs, up $9200 over the previous E 300 model.
That list price has since increased to $130,400 plus ORCs, and with two optional packages fitted – Innovation ($1300) and Vision ($6600) – our test car carried an all-in price of $138,300 before the on-road costs are added.
The Innovation package features an enhanced MBUX infotainment system, although it’s currently not available for new orders placed in Australia due to production constraints related to the global semi-conductor shortage.
The Vision package comprises a panoramic sunroof with roller sun blind and heat-insulating glass, a head-up display with virtual image windscreen projection and a Burmester surround-sound audio system with 13 speakers and 590W output.
Standard equipment for the Mercedes-Benz E 350 includes 20-inch AMG alloy wheels, Graphite Grey metallic paint, black leather upholstery, ambient interior lighting, electrochromatic (auto-dipping) rear-view mirror, heated front seats with electric adjustment and three-position memory function, and dual-zone climate control.
The MBUX infotainment system interfaces the user with digital radio, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, voice control and navigation.
Warranty coverage for the Benz E 350 runs for five years and unlimited kilometres with five years of roadside assistance included, and the service intervals are 12 months or 25,000km, whichever occurs first.
Stars don’t align
ANCAP collated crash test data compiled by Euro NCAP for the W213 series of Mercedes-Benz E-Class back in 2016 for a five-star rating. Unfortunately, that rating doesn’t apply to the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 350 sedan, even though the basic crash structure is the same.
Standard secondary safety features for the E 350 large sedan consist of an active bonnet to protect pedestrians and nine airbags, among them side-impact bags for the rear passengers and a knee bag for the driver. Benz also provides the E 350 with ISOFIX child safety seat anchorage points for the two outboard rear seats.
Driver assist systems include 360-degree camera monitoring, driver fatigue monitoring, traffic sign recognition, lane change and lane keep assist, cross traffic alert, active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking (AEB), Mercedes’ PRE-SAFE crash mitigation, tyre pressure monitoring and route-based speed adaptation.
Torquey, flexible performance
With turbocharging and an integrated electric motor/generator unit working together, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 350 sedan musters prodigious torque for launching off the line, but also slogging around town at low engine speeds.
At 100km/h the engine quietens down to zero decibels, turning over at just under 1600rpm.
A slightly gruff note at lower revs offers some character, although the engine lacks the sporting soundtrack of an equivalent BMW engine. It’s only when loaded up in Sport mode with plenty of revs (up to the 6300rpm redline) that the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine delivers more of an aural thrill.
Relying on the 48-volt EQ-Boost integrated electric motor to recover energy and supplement the turbocharged petrol power, the E 350 also restarts very quickly and smoothly when the driver lifts the foot off the brake pedal for a green light.
It doesn’t translate to super-economical running however, with the E 350 posting a fuel consumption figure of 9.8L/100km on a 70km test run.
That’s markedly worse than the official figure of 7.7L/100km, which itself is not spectacular when a BMW 530i without any mild-hybrid tech is rated at 6.7L/100km and is just 0.2 seconds slower to 100km/h from a standing start (6.1sec).
The combination of mild-hybrid tech and the nine-speed automatic transmission leads to the occasional miscue – a mild thump when the transmission shifts up on light throttle, for instance. But the transmission does effect swift changes with the paddles and keeps the turbocharged engine on the boil.
The first pothole encountered on the way home after picking up the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 350 sedan packed a rather nasty wallop – the suspension set to Sport mode at the time.
Despite its sophisticated multi-chamber air suspension, the ride quality of the E 350 was by no means supple, even in the car’s Comfort mode. Most owners will likely leave the E 350 in Comfort mode permanently, unless the car is never driven on anything rougher than a racetrack.
In the Comfort setting, however, the steering is light and lacks feel. It’s more tactile and responsive in Sport mode, but in either of the Sport modes (Sport or Sport+) the E 350 is prone to skip slightly over mid-corner bumps.
You can tailor the suspension and steering to suit yourself with an Individual setting. And that’s probably the best choice.
Even with the suspension set to one of the Sport modes, the roadholding of the rear-drive E 350 on a perfectly smooth section of road is not leading edge. We’ve driven similarly sized cars from other manufacturers – including non-prestige brands and one local manufacturer – that felt equally secure at higher speeds.
The original-equipment tyres on the E 350 (Goodyear Eagle F1 245/35R20 at the front and 275/30R20 at the rear) are generally considered to be good tyres, but they seem to have their work cut out for them in this application.
The Benz handles reasonably close to neutral, with just a touch of front-tyre slip evident near the limit. Lift off the throttle, furthermore, and the E 350 won’t step out. It remains on course with a little intervention from the stability control system.
The Goodyears are the only obvious source of noise inside the E 350 at touring speeds, but the car does rattle and squeak over bumps and through corners on country roads.
While the LED headlights work very effectively, even on low beam, the active shadowing and high beam assist don’t respond as quickly as oncoming drivers would like, if the flashing headlights from reciprocating traffic were any indication.
Audi seems to lead the way for this sort of technology.
The virtual navigation system in the Benz is ahead of its competitors, however. Enter the destination with voice command and the E 350’s satellite navigation system not only shows your current location on the map display in the infotainment screen, it also provides graphic instructions in the head-up display.
A hundred metres before and after each intersection, it also toggles the display from 2D map to a forward-looking camera view with house numbers, street signs and directional arrows superimposed on the fly.
It’s amazingly good technology, although it also takes your eye off the road (to view a camera display of the road ahead). It’s very ‘meta’…
The switches on the steering wheel spokes are now touch-sensitive slide and press-type controls, which may take users a little while to find familiar.
Mercedes-Benz has come quite close to delivering a flexible and informative infotainment/instrumentation combo that’s a match for BMW’s Live Cockpit Professional counterpart, but the BMW system remains slightly ahead for ease of use.
Set the controls
The controls in the Mercedes are generally simple to use, although the starter button is on the dash, out of sight – obstructed from view by the steering wheel rim and left spoke.
To engage or disengage the parking brake, it’s necessary to reach below the dash on the right side. And the volume control for the audio system can be adjusted by the switchgear on the steering wheel or a scrolling wheel located close to the driver.
The control for the different drive modes is another scrolling wheel closer to the front passenger. It would be preferable for the two scrolling wheels to be interchanged – with volume control easier for the front passenger to reach and the drive mode control closer to the driver.
Apart from those ergonomic issues, other concerns with the driving position included the narrow foot rest and the encroachment of the transmission tunnel in the driver’s foot well on the left side.
The E 350 regains brownie points with the driver’s seat, which is adjusted using the traditional switchgear on the door card. Both front seats feature three-position memory and seat heating.
While the seat cushioning is firm and initially uncomfortable, it feels more supportive over longer journeys. Slightly more aggressive contouring ensures the driver is held securely in place when the E 350 is being thrown around harder.
The cabin of the E 350 delivers a handsome visual presentation, as seen in the jewel-effect dome lighting for example, and it’s a rich tactile experience too.
But the overall design is functional also, with three USB Type-C ports under the centre fascia and in the centre console storage bin. Benz provides a Type-A adapter as well. There’s also a 12V power outlet ahead of the two cup holders under a folding lid for the purpose of powering portable devices without a USB attachment.
In the rear seat, passengers benefit from the adjustable vents, two more USB-C ports and another 12V power outlet in a fold-down bin underneath the vents.
Headroom in the rear is adequate for taller adults, given the optional sunroof fitted. Legroom is not as generous for adults in the rear, however. Like the front seats, the cushioning in the rear is quite firm. The fold-down centre arm rest features a lidded storage bin and two fold-out cup holders.
Around the rear of the car, the motion gesture function to raise the boot lid with a kick under the bumper actually produced the desired result. I’m always surprised when this technology works for me.
In the boot, the volume is rated at 540 litres, which is good for a large passenger car like the E 350, and the compartment is fully lined. There’s no spare wheel below the boot floor, a fold-out crate stowed there instead to hold loose items that might otherwise roll around in the boot.
An additional fold-down hook deploys from inside the boot to suspend a couple of grocery bags, plus there’s a luggage net on the left side of the boot behind the wheel-arch.
Hand pulls inside the boot unlatch the rear seats for folding. They don’t fold completely flat, although they do lie flush with the boot floor which is raised over the rear axle, leaving a dip in the boot floor behind the rear axle.
Not an easy decision
There are many aspects of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class that are commendable, even though the current W213 series is arguably getting on in years, having launched in Australia back in 2016.
This particular vehicle on test, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 350 sedan, doesn’t feel like it builds on the acknowledged strengths of the W213 generation of E-Class.
The mild-hybrid powertrain offers little apparent benefit in the real world, and you can save the environment better with the plug-in hybrid BMW 530e for less money, although the E 350 has the edge on the BMW for roadholding and boot space.
If you yearn for a badge with the three-pointed star, the E 350 could be the car you’ll choose.
But in any case, both cars are really aimed at niche buyers, and neither quite work for mainstream consumers.
How much does the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E 350 sedan cost?
Price: $130,400 (plus on-road costs)
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Fuel: 7.7L/100km (ADR Combined)
CO2: 175g/km (ADR Combined)
Safety rating: Not tested
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The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has a predicted reliability score of 75 out of 100. A J.D. Power predicted reliability score of 91-100 is considered the Best, 81-90 is Great, 70-80 is Average, and 0-69 is Fair and considered below average.How reliable is the 2021 Mercedes E-Class? ›
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Luxurious, refined, safe, well equipped and supremely comfortable, the E-Class is one of those cars that it's easy to think is overpriced, until you buy and run one. Then you'll soon see that it's worth every penny.Is E350 good on gas? ›
The 2022 Mercedes-Benz E 350 should have more than 530 miles of max range on a single tank of gas. This comes from the estimated mileage numbers of the base E 350, which is expected to return 23 city mpg and 31 highway mpg, which makes for a combined 27mpg.Are Mercedes E-class expensive to maintain? ›
Mercedes-Benz maintenance costs are pretty expensive compared to other brands. In one study by YourMechanic.com, it came in second place just behind BMW's maintenance costs. Drivers pay about $908 on average per year to maintain and repair their Mercedes vehicles, according to RepairPal.com.What is the life expectancy of a Mercedes E-class? ›
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Mercedes is a well-known and loved luxury brand for a reason, and they're the car that many folks dream of owning one day. ranks fairly average. The brand gets a 3/5 on RepairPal and ranks 27th out of 32 in reliability for all car brands.Is Mercedes discontinuing the E-class? ›
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