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Reviews

2012 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Introduction


After a 2010 redesign and the addition of a convertible for 2011, Mercedes-Benz continues to refine its midsize E-Class lineup with new engines, more models, and increased availability of its 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system for 2012.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz E-Class lineup includes sedans, coupes, convertibles, and wagons with diesel, V6, or V8 power.

The E-Class Cabriolet, or convertible, features an innovative soft top that's nearly one-inch thick with three layers of acoustic sound dampening. The design leaves good trunk space, and provides wind protection with the top down. The soft top disappears in 17 silent seconds, as Mercedes says.

The 2012 Mercedes-Benz E350, E550, and E63 AMG models are each a technological tour de force, yet none of the technology is intrusive. On the street, the cars are robust and exhibit the engineering excellence that has defined them for decades.

The E-Class sits in the middle of the Mercedes car line, between the compact C-Class and the big S-Class. It's the company's best-selling car worldwide, and as such it defines the brand's essence. Every E-Class model delivers an excellent balance of passenger space, luxury, style, and impressive performance in a practical, manageably sized package.

The E-Class looks more angular and technical than it used to, but it is quite pleasing to the eye. The chassis is strengthened to improve crash protection, reduce vibration and sharpen handling, without adding weight. Yet if this generation E-Class cars have a theme, it might be their high-tech control and management systems. That's not surprising for a car that introduced a host of now-familiar features, from antilock brakes to airbags, to mass production.

The 2012 E-Class represents the most electronics-intensive model line Mercedes has offered to date, and most of the computer-managed systems focus on safety. An Attention Assist system monitors up to 70 driving parameters to determine whether the driver is getting drowsy behind the wheel and uses both visual and auditory warnings to tell the driver to pull over for rest. The Distronic Plus cruise control option features both blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning technology, while automatic self-adjusting headlights automatically dim the brights. And those systems are just the start.

Beyond the technological wizardry, the E-Class remains what it has always been, only a little nicer. Every model is smooth, quiet and appointed in elegant, understated fashion, with comfortable space for four or five passengers and a substantial load of luggage.

The gasoline V6 in the Mercedes E350 models is new for 2012, though it displaces the same 3.5 liters. Power improves from 268 to 302 horses, and it is more efficient as well. Similarly, a twin-turbocharged 4.6-liter V8 in 2012 E550 models replaces the previous 5.5-liter V8. Though smaller, the new 4.6-liter engine is more powerful and more efficient, and it delivers the turbine-like, overpowered feel that characterizes Germany's best autobahn blasters. The turbocharged diesel engine in the Mercedes E350 BlueTEC sedan is the smoothest, quietest diesel available in the United States. It delivers amazing bursts of acceleration for passing, with mileage that surpasses most other cars in this class by about 30 percent.

2012 E63 AMG models also get a new engine. A twin-turbocharged 5.5-liter V8 that cranks out 516 horsepower replaces the previous 6.2-liter V8. The E63 AMG comes standard with start/stop technology. The 2012 E63 AMG is also offered as a wagon.

Those seeking help through the worst of a northern winter can choose the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system for the E-Class sedans, wagon, and now the coupe.

The E-Class created a category of mid-sized luxury cars that has become one of the most competitive (and enjoyable) in today's automobile market. The 2012 E-Class models simply reinforce Mercedes credentials at or near the top of the class.