For Mercedes-Benz, its executive sedan is a big deal.
It’s currently called the E‑Class, so named since 1993; and when looking historically, the brand has sold more than 16 million of them since 1946. Indeed, the E‑Class has a rich heritage, and while sedans aren’t exactly flying off dealer lots in North America these days, the automotive landscape in Europe is rife with them.
With that bit of context, the redesigned 2024 Mercedes-Benz E‑Class arrives in Canada with the choice of two gas-powered engines: one four-cylinder, the other six, and both turbocharged. Both also use a 48-volt mild hybrid system and a nine-speed automatic transmission, along with all-wheel drive.
Styled Up Right
The E 350 and its 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder puts out 255 hp and 295 lb‑ft of torque from 2,000 to 3,200 rpm. Moving up to the E 450 nets a robust 375 hp and 369 lb-ft of torque from its 3.0L straight-six, and the torque band is broader, to – from 1,800 to 5,000 rpm. The 48-volt mild hybrid system’s integrated starter-generator contributes 23 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque to the proceedings, while also helping with fuel economy.
As would be expected, this redone E‑Class is bigger than the outgoing model. It’s taller, slightly wider, and with a slightly longer wheelbase, rear passengers enjoy close to S-Class levels of legroom. The designers have given this new E-Class some pretty slick duds. It’s quietly elegant – smooth, unadorned bodywork points to an impressively slippery drag coefficient of 0.23. All Canadian models get the AMG body styling seen here. Not so in-yer-face, but rather more sporty than the “classic” look (trad ‘Benz hood ornament, lots of chrome) some other markets get.
Viewed from the side, the 2024 E‑Class has a pronounced cab-rearward profile – long hood, short rear deck, and minimal front overhang. Up front is a new grille with a substantial tri-point star central to a plastic panel sporting a pattern of smaller stars, a design motif that will be seen more on future Mercedes products. Optional will be an illuminated grille surround. The taillights get the star treatment, too, while this tester rode on 21-inch alloys – the largest on offer.
Open the driver’s door and you’re greeted by an interior rich in materials and design. This tester looked especially fetching trimmed in saddle brown perforated leather. Open pore natural wood trim will be standard. The front buckets (here with ventilation and massage) are comfortable and supportive, and those familiar with ‘Benz vehicles with recognize the thin electronic gear selector sprouting from the steering column and the ergonomically-friendly seat controls (with hard buttons for seat, ventilation, and massage) on the door panel.
A New Electronic Architecture
The 2024 E‑Class is the first vehicle to run the automaker’s all-new electronic architecture, making this sedan the most technologically advanced vehicle in the ‘Benz stable. Just about everything from infotainment to all mechanical and safety aspects of the car are now run by a single in-house processor, significantly streamlining and speeding up computing functions. Previously, Mercedes was relying on many third parties to supply electronic control modules for a myriad of functions, adding to complications and expense.
Standard issue in the new car will be a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster along with a freestanding 14.4-inch central touchscreen like what’s in the current S-Class. This tester was fitted with the optional MBUX “superscreen” – an evolution of the “hyperscreen” introduced a couple years back in the fully electric EQ range. The superscreen breaks up the imposing swath of glass with a 10.25-inch free standing instrument display in front of the driver. The rest of the glass panel, which stretches to the passenger door and incorporates a large central touchscreen and 10.25-inch passenger display, is integrated into the dash with a metallic border, the upper of which houses HVAC vents. Adding some flair is the new active ambient lighting strip that sweeps across the upper dash and into the door panels. It will take its cues from the music, pulsing in rhythm and changing colours.
There’s also a haptic panel for HVAC control at the bottom of the central screen, and below that a panel with a few hard controls for selecting drive modes, audio power, volume, mute, and camera view.
Banging the connectivity drum, the E-Class can be set up to do Zoom meetings, there’s a selfie camera function, and the passenger screen can serve up navigation, radio, media, various apps, etc. Available at launch will be Angry Birds, TikTok, and web browser Vivaldi. I watched a bit of CNN while cruising along the Autobahn. If the driver happens to glance at the passenger screen, it will dim.
There’s a new digital key function (initially just for Apple users), and additionally, the all-seeing driver-facing camera will use facial recognition to call up the driver’s profile. Up to seven different profiles with a total of around 800 parameters are possible in the vehicle. Dubbed “Routines” by Mercedes, the onboard system uses AI to learn the driver’s preferences.
Most basic safety functions are standard, although to get adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and the semi-autonomous driving function that goes with these systems, one must pony up for the Assistant Plus package. New with the E‑Class is a self-driving feature that has the car automatically passing slower traffic when on the highway without the driver having to tap the turn signal. It works as advertised, and will abort a pass if the army of sensors detect anything amiss – in our case, a fast approaching car on the left.
A Delightful Driver
While I could probably write a War and Peace-length tome solely based on the new tech alone, let’s step back, get in, and drive. After all, a premium luxury sedan should be a conveyance to reduce stress, not cause it. A mobile cocoon to carry one through this crazy world in calm and luxury. On that front, the 2024 E 450 succeeds. Mercedes has not lost sight of the core values here, no matter how much computing power is churning away below decks and behind the dash.
The cabin is impressively hushed, and here, with the optional Technology package that adds adaptive air suspension and rear-wheel steering, the 450 glides down the road, seemingly impervious to imperfections. (Although it should be noted that the roads in Austria put our pot-holed and frost-heaved byways to shame.)
The engine is an impressive piece, and while not quite on the level of the inline sixes from rival BMW, it moves the E-Class down the road with an impressive turn of speed. The so-called “torque-fill” provided by the mild hybrid system smooths out turbo lag and shift points. And here’s a top tip (only with the E 450): by selecting progressive sport sound in the infotainment system’s vehicle menu, the six-cylinder magically – albeit audibly only – transforms into a V8 thanks to a totally convincing and suitably subtle soundtrack that gets piped through the audio system. It’s an obsessively engineered bit of audio trickery that rises with the revs, follows the shift points, and even delivers the odd woof on lift off. When cruising there’s just the faintest V8 rumble, too.
Reading the press material for the 2024 Mercedes-Benz E‑Class and trying to experience as much of the techy stuff in a brief two-day visit is overwhelming to say the least. But again, let’s step back. It doesn’t ask too much of the driver. It seems just as happy to let the pilot hop in, dip the shift wand down to drive, and glide away, cocooned, caressed, and calmed.
The 2024 Mercedes-Benz E-Class arrives in Canada later this year, with the six-cylinder to follow in early 2024. Pricing will be announced closer to arrival date.