There was a time when Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans were the best. The best mid-size sedan, the best luxury car that didn't come with a stratospheric price tag, the best Mercedes-Benz.
The arrival and rapid rise of the Lexus brand in the 1990s upended a lot---including that approach to building the E-Class. Attempts were made to compete with Lexus on feature content, to compete with Lexus as much as possible on price and to increase volume at any cost. All of those things, in ways big and small, took the E-Class out of the position of being the standard for luxury sedans in this size class.
The 2021 E-Class attacks its mission with the old-school Mercedes focus of simply striving for excellence. New sheetmetal gives what had been a too-soft, rounded appearance some visual muscle---broader shoulders and a more chiseled face.
Under the hood is a 3-liter turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine with Mercedes' EQ Boost, a mild hybrid system used for added performance rather than fuel economy. Mated to a nine-speed G-TRONIC automatic transmission, it makes a total of 362 horsepower with 369 pounds per foot of torque. Sixty miles an hour happens in 4.7 seconds and the EPA fuel economy estimate is 22 miles per gallon city/30 highway. And there's Mercedes' 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC doesn't give the feeling of settling for a lesser Mercedes by not choosing the biggest one. In fact, the entire Mercedes line (we've driven the GLA 250, the AMG GT-C , the AMG CLA 35, the A 220 , the AMG GLE 53, the AMG GLS 63 , the GLC 300 , the GLB 250 and the CLA 250 4MATIC in the last 12 months) has moved into that direction. You're choosing excellence. The remaining choices are about size, number of drive wheels, power, and passenger and cargo space.
The base price for the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC is an even $62,000. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard features at that price are dual-zone automatic climate control, a 12.3-inch widescreen digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch widescreen digital display, navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, heated front seats and a moonroof.
Our tester did have extra-cost options, and as with most European luxury marques, they did add significantly to the bottom line: $720 for the Cirrus Silver Metallic paint; $1,620 for the Nut Brown and Black leather interior; $350 for augmented video for navigation; $450 for ventilated front seats; $1,000 for an upgraded panorama roof; $1,320 for active multicontour front seats with massage; $1,100 for a head-up display; $1,900 for Air Body Control air suspension; $200 for MBUX Interior Assistant; $580 for heated rear seats.
There were also packages added---$1,950 for the Driver Assistance Package (DISTRONIC cruise control, active steering assist, active lane change assist, active emergency stop assist, active speed limit assist, active brake assist with cross-traffic function, evasive steering assist, active blind spot assist, Pre-Safe Plus rear-end collision protection, Pre-Safe side collision protection and route-based speed adaptation). $900 for the Exterior Lighting Package (LED intelligent light system and adaptive high-beam assist). $1,100 for the Acoustic Comfort Package (increased cabin insulation, windshield and side windows with acoustic and heat-absorbing membrane). $2,300 for the Premium Package (PARKTRONIC with active parking assist, surround view system, Burmeister Surround Sound audio system and SiriusXM All Access trial). And $840 for the Warmth and Comfort Package (heated armrests, rapid-heating front seats).
The window sticker also shows a $100 credit for missing standard Hands-Free Comfort Package and hands-free access, so with $1,050 destination and delivery charge, the as-tested price of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC Sedan is $79,280.
And you know what? A shade under 80 grand is not a shocking number for the capability, the content and above all the quality of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC. This is the standard.