Sunday, August 17, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Mercedes-Benz E250 ages gracefully

Gallery: Mercedes-Benz E250 ages gracefully

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec 4matic luxury sedan is a peculiar exercise in putting old wine in a new bottle. It has a fine new diesel engine and Mercedes' latest semi-autonomous driving technologies, but trails competitors' luxury, lacks some common features, and soldiers on with a design theme Benz' other models have deserted.

The powerful and thrifty engine and the platform's underlying goodness battle the car's age to a draw, but the 2014 E-class is clearly a freshening to keep Mercedes' midsize model relevant versus newer competitors until an all-new model arrives.

Prices for the 2014 E-series start at $51,400 for a rear-wheel-drive E250 Bluetec sedan with a capable little 2.1-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel. The base price rises to $53,900 for an all-wheel drive 4Matic E-class. Gasoline models start with a rear-drive E350 sedan that uses a 3.5-liter V-6 and base price of $51,900. A hybrid starts at $56,700. All versions use Mercedes' quick and efficient seven-speed automatic transmission.

Mercedes builds a plethora of E-class models, including a coupe, convertible, station wagon and high-performance sedan. Prices for those can top $100,000.

I tested a nicely equipped E250 4Matic all-wheel-drive diesel equipped with advanced driver assistance systems, Harman/Kardon audio, navigation and more. It stickered at $63,370. These prices exclude destination charges.

The E-class competes with midsize luxury sedans such as the Acura RLX, BMW 5-series, Cadillac CTS, Infiniti M, Jaguar XF and Lexus GS. The diesel E250 Bluetec 4Matic's direct competitors are the all-wheel-drive Audi A6 TDI Quattro and BMW 525d xDrive, front-drive Lincoln MKZ hybrid and rear-drive Infiniti M35h, Lexus GS 400h and hybrids. The AWD Acura RLX hybrid will join that group when it goes on sale later this year.

The sedan I tested had a comfortable and accommodating interior, but was a study in contrasts. The low-gloss ashwood trim and satin-finish chrome had an elegant, modern appeal, but the trim and upholstery don't look or feel as good as in many lesser cars.

The exterior styling got attractive new LED lights for 2014, but the overall shape looks out of step with Mercedes' newer designs.

The E-class offers plenty of new features. Automated driving systems can steer the car back into its lane, brake and accelerate in traffic and halt completely to avoid a collision.

It's as comprehensive a set of safety and driver assistance systems as anything on the road. They all function reliably and unobtrusively. With that level of sophistication available, I was surprised that relatively basic systems like blind-spot and cross-traffic alert were options, not standard.

The voice recognition manages phone calls and other functions well. The controls are reasonably easy to use, but Mercedes continues to avoid touch screens. A lack of push-button start or doors that sense the keys approaching and unlock without the driver pressing the fob betray the E-class as older than its competitors.

The engine is a little marvel. At just 2.1 liters, it's smaller than the four-cylinder gasoline engine in a Honda Accord, but the turbodiesel and quick-shifting transmission team up to provide the E250 with confident acceleration on the highway and around town. That's largely thanks to 369 pound-feet of torque, more power than the base 5.3-liter V-8 in a Chevrolet Silverado pickup generates.

Engine noise and vibration are noticeable when the E250 accelerates hard from a stop, but the turbodiesel provides plenty of power at highway speeds.

The E250 Bluetec's EPA fuel economy ratings are impressive. Rear-drive models score 28 mpg in the city, 45 on the highway and 34 combined. The all-wheel-drive model I tested handily exceeded its rating of 27/42/32, averaging nearly 39 mpg in a couple of hundred miles of mixed city, highway and country driving.

The E-class is also fun, with a capable chassis and responsive steering that reward enthusiastic driving.

Mercedes' wine may be old, but it hasn't soured yet.

–––

2014 MERCEDES-BENZ E250 BLUETEC 4MATIC SEDAN:

–Type of vehicle: Rear-wheel drive, five-passenger luxury sedan

–Rating: Three out of four stars

–Reasons to buy: Fuel economy, advanced features, handling, all-wheel drive

–Shortcomings: Dated styling, lack of some common features, inconsistent interior materials

–Engine: 2.1-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel

–Power: 195 horsepower at 3,800 rpm; 369 pound-feet of torque at 1,600-1,900 rpm

–Transmission: Seven-speed automatic

–EPA fuel economy rating: 27 mpg city/42 highway/32 combined. Diesel fuel

–Wheelbase: 113.2 inches

–Length: 192.1 inches

–Width: 73.0 inches

–Height: 57.1 inches

–Curb weight: 4,354 pounds

–Base price: $51,400

–Price as tested: $63,370

Prices exclude destination charges.

–––

ABOUT THE WRITER

Mark Phelan is the Detroit Free Press auto critic. He can be reached at mmphelan@freepress.com.

–––

(c)2014 Detroit Free Press

Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Mark Phelan Detroit Free Press (MCT)