Google+

BBC Autos

If You Like...

If you like the Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Facelift and new technology reinforce the appeal of the E-Class sedan. (Mercedes-Benz USA)

Facelift and new technology reinforce the appeal of the E-Class sedan. (Mercedes-Benz USA)

The new 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class mid-size luxury sedan is a standard-bearer for automotive prestige.

Sure, there are bigger models with limousine aspirations and sportier models with racetrack fantasies, but the E-Class strikes an optimal balance between size, luxury and performance. And for 2014, Mercedes is pouring it on, kitting out the E-Class with enhanced telematics and imbuing the cabin with the kind of opulence reserved for flagships.

While the E-Class family includes coupe, convertible and wagon body styles, it is the basic four-door sedan that seems to be an obligatory purchase with promotion to the corporate vice-presidency. In the United States, Mercedes offers the vehicle with a 302-horsepower normally aspirated V6, a V6 hybrid powertrain and a fuel-sipping, 2.1-litre four-cylinder diesel (both new for 2014), and a 402hp turbocharged V8 engine. All are equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission.

The car can semi-autonomously steer itself to follow in-line traffic on the highway. It can brake automatically to avoid hitting pedestrians in the lane of travel. It can be outfitted with all-LED headlights for a contemporary nighttime appearance. Its surround-view camera shows a birds-eye image of the area around the car on the dash display for easier maneuvering in parking lots. In sum, the E-Class has its driver’s back.

Outside, a character line climbs from the front wheel and arches forcefully over the rear fender, giving the appearance of greater length. Toss in a revised grille incorporating a large three-pointed emblem, and the E-Class is more visually striking than it has ever been; to think it would continue to be used as a taxi in its native Germany borders on the criminal.

Then try…

Though aspiring to the vice-presidency, or at least to its automotive trappings,  may inspire craven coveting of the E-Class, the smarter money may be spent elsewhere.

Chrysler builds a superb 300 sedan. Though the Pentastar may not carry the cachet of the Mercedes three-pointed star, the 300 has an ace in the hole: Mercedes-engineered hardware under its skin.

Fortuitously left over from Chrysler’s fraught partnership with Daimler, Mercedes’ parent, were a number of prior-generation E-Class chassis parts. These were brought to bear on the first-generation 300 in 2004 and were further refined for the car’s redesign. This lineage is still appreciable in details such as the location of the 300’s battery – in the trunk, just like in its posh German counterpart.

The 300 was face-lifted for the 2012 model year, receiving upgraded cabin appointments and more sophisticated handling and ride tuning. Now the 300 feels properly like a frugal sibling of the E-Class rather than a cut-rate cousin.

Though chassis hardware is shared, the 300 uses Chrysler engines. For the efficiency-minded driver, the 300hp 3.6-litre V6 is a fully contemporary engine, though it is not on the cutting edge, lacking direct fuel injection. A diesel is not on offer in the US, but the European-spec 300’s 3-litre V6 turbodiesel seems a likely option in coming years.

On the V8 front, Chrysler giddily obliges. The familiar Hemi engine of Nascar, drag racing and “That thang got a Hemi in it?” TV-commercial fame appears here. Although those blue-collar credentials might seem unbecoming of an E-Class aspirant, the 363hp, 5.7-litre Hemi V8 engine is a piece of engineering worthy of respect, with features like cylinder deactivation to conserve gasoline.

Also burnishing the 300’s reputation is its being named, along with the E-Class, a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The bottom line on a 300 purchase depends, of course, on the sedan’s exact configuration, but a well-optioned 300C, with that smooth Hemi V8, can be had for under $40,000. An E350 cannot be approached for under $52,000. So when that big promotion happens and the urge for an E-Class upgrade strikes, consider a stop by the Chrysler dealership first. Fiscal conservativism is, after all, in.

THE ALTERNATIVE: Stealth, style and E-Class underpinnings. (Chrysler Group)

THE ALTERNATIVE: Stealth, style and E-Class underpinnings. (Chrysler Group)

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.