Mercedes-Benz currently builds almost as many models off the basic E-class platform as General Mills has flavors of Cheerios. Whole grains processed into toroid toddler kibble can be had in 15 varieties at last count. Count up the sedan, wagon, cabriolet, and coupe bodies; tally engines with four-, six-, and eight cylinders; and then stir in high-performance AMG editions, and we count 14 E-class models for 2015 without even stretching to include the five CLS-badged four-door “coupes” on this chassis.
For this test, we have the newest flavor of Stuttgart’s midrange sedan, the E400 4MATIC. Consider it the Cheerios + Ancient Grains edition. Propelled by a more environmentally friendly twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6, this 329-hp E400 replaces the E550 as the top non-AMG sedan and wagon for 2015. The E550 with its 402-hp V-8 continues in the coupe and cabriolet, where this new turbo six instead replaces last year’s base engine, the naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 (it continues in E350 sedans and wagons). Performance gluttons can still opt for a stonking E63 AMG sedan with up to 577 horsepower, if they really must have a V-8 in this body style and have lines of credit to match its bulging power curve.
Transplant Succeeds, Mostly
Giving up two pistons and 73 horsepower while the base price swells to $65, 775 from the $62, 325 2014 E550 4MATIC does not, on its surface, make this look like a change targeted to please the driving enthusiast or the value seeker. It does please regulatory agencies on both sides of the Atlantic, though, and EPA ratings on 4MATIC sedans improve from the E550’s 18/24 mpg city/highway to 20/28 on the new E400. Our observed fuel economy of 22 mpg bested our test of the V-8 version by 2 mpg, or 10 percent.
The Rest? It’s An E-class Benz
For those seeking luxury more than excitement, it’s gratifying to drive the E400 in daily use. Like its many stablemates, the chassis feels stout and the body solid in ways that we’d feared—not without reason—that Mercedes had forgotten about after the early 1990s. The interior looks rich and the controls all work without fuss or bother. This example included optional porcelain/black nappa leather ($1370), a panoramic sunroof ($1090), and the $660 multi-adjustable driver’s seat with massage functions. We could live without the $1290 Parking Assist package, but the car was mercifully free of the more intrusive “active” blind-spot and lane-keeping equipment we’ve argued with in other Stuttgart products. The car still issues warnings, but it doesn’t try to take over for the driver with unwanted steering and braking inputs. The other big-ticket option was the $1500 Lighting package with full-LED headlamps, adaptive high-beam assist, and active curve and corner illumination. These worked great as both functional lighting and driveway bragging points.
We’d have been happier with this engine transplant if Mercedes had managed to squeeze a bit more power out of the 3.0-liter, but one must recognize this isn’t the only application for it. It also serves, for instance, as a new entry-level mill for the CLS400. Those seeking a more invigorating driving experience have plenty of alternatives even within the E-class range, so if Ancient Grains isn’t your thing, you just need to set your own priorities and browse the shelves a bit.