Reviews

2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Grows Sweeter with an Inline-Six

Of the myriad E-class models that Mercedes-Benz offers, the six-cylinder E450 sedan is perhaps the most traditional example of Benz’s long-serving mid-size offering. For the 2021 model year, the E450 becomes an even more compelling midrange option, thanks to the adoption of Benz’s latest turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six engine in place of the previous twin-turbo V-6.

The new powerplant comes as part of a mid-cycle update that also brings revised styling and updated technology features to the full 2021 E-class lineup. And in every objective category, this inline-six is a winner. Its 362 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque are identical to the outgoing V-6’s. But it’s a fully modern design, incorporating a 48-volt hybrid system with an electric motor-generator that can add up to 21 horsepower and 184 pound-feet to assist the engine while the turbo spools up.

HIGHS: Silky inline-six, cushy and composed ride, luxurious cabin.

Aided by a standard nine-speed automatic transmission and 4Matic all-wheel drive, our test car ran to 60 mph in 4.3 seconds and completed the quarter-mile in 12.9 seconds at 108 mph. Both of those times are 0.2 second quicker than those we recorded for a 2019 E450 4Matic sedan. The new engine is also more fuel efficient than the old V-6, earning a 26-mpg combined estimate from the EPA versus the previous 23 mpg. Remarkably, the E450’s combined rating is now 1 mpg greater than that of the far less powerful four-cylinder E350 4Matic model. We averaged 24 mpg.

In the stately E-class, the new six’s smooth power delivery is as welcome as its efficiency. While the engine will emit a sonorous growl when pushed hard, it idles quietly enough that you hardly can tell that it’s running. And the 48-volt hybrid system allows for a remarkably unobtrusive start-stop operation, shutting off the engine as you approach an intersection and imperceptibly starting it back up when you set off.

LOWS: Overly complex infotainment system, long stopping distance.

We won’t knock the E450 for not being very sporty; it wafts down the road like a true luxury sedan should, which makes it easier to enjoy its sumptuous and beautifully trimmed cabin. Ride quality is buttery smooth with our test car’s combination of standard 18-inch wheels with all-season tires (19s are optional), adaptive dampers, and optional $1900 air springs. There is a Sport mode that tightens up the steering action and body motions, but the E450’s composure feels best at a relaxed cruise. Although our test car posted a respectable 0.88 g of grip around the skidpad, its long 187-foot stop from 70 mph is closer to what we’d expect from a full-size pickup.

Benz’s latest MBUX infotainment system is also included in the E-class’s most recent update, yet it often feels like a step backward from the previous COMAND system in terms of ease of use. Compared to the old setup’s relatively straightforward central control knob, the new system’s combination of a touchscreen, a touchpad on the center console, voice control, and a mix of touchpads and buttons on the new steering wheel make for a complex interface. The displays have a crisp, modern design, but the learning curve for navigating the system’s many sub menus is steep.

Yet, we won’t hesitate to say that the E450 feels worth its $63,050 starting priceā€”a $5250 upcharge over the E350 4Matic. It may not be as exciting as AMG’s more-powerful versions of the E-class. But even at our well-equipped example’s $76,140 as-tested figure, the smooth, effortless power provided by Mercedes’s new inline-six only adds to the E450’s impressive levels of luxury and refinement.

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