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.
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.
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 price—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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