The Mercedes-Benz E-Class represents a field of excellent automotive dreams. Thus, the “E” is appropriate.
The lineup includes practical luxury, evidenced by the subject of this week’s column, the diesel-fueled 2014 E250 BlueTEC Sport sedan. At the very top of the line sits the beast of power and bling, the gasoline-fueled, 570-horsepower E63 AMG Sport.
In between are a variety of choices including the gas-electric E400 hybrid sedan, and the gasoline-fueled E350 V-6 and E550 V-8 models.
There are several body styles — sedan, wagon, coupe and convertible. All E-Class cars are based on a rear-wheel-drive platform. But all-wheel-drive versions, dubbed “4Matic” in Mercedes-Benz marketing parlance, abound.
Why the plethora of choices in one group of midsize automobiles?
Suggested answer: Mercedes-Benz sells cars and trucks all over the world. As a result, the company long ago divined that “rich” does not mean the same thing everywhere to everyone. But “quality,” whether it be in a cab trolling the streets of Nigeria, a fully-loaded E-Class or S-Class sedan cruising the avenues of Paris, or a Mercedes-Benz truck plowing snow-covered roads in Krakow, speaks a universal language.
In the United States, the Mercedes-Benz brand usually has been associated with wealth and luxury. But in that market, too, the company’s marketers have espied significant differences in interpretations of wealth and affluence.
There are, for example, using my terms, the Affluent Conservatives. These buyers want a well-turned-out automobile, but one that also makes environmental and financial common sense. They are not impressed by bling. Nor are they affected by racetrack driving fantasies. They lean toward the E250 BlueTEC Sport or BlueTEC Luxury models, or the E400 gasoline-electric hybrid.
There are Affluent Strivers, who either consciously or subconsciously desire to display their life’s success, but who prefer to do so without going over the top. Perhaps they’d prefer an uber-luxurious Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan, starting at $92,350. But for political or financial reasons, they choose the less-expensive, less-showy, gasoline-fueled E350 V-6 or E550 V-8.
And there are the Simply Rich, who truly are different from you and me. In the E-Class, which itself is something of a constraint on their egos and libidos, their lust for power, speed and exclusivity can only be sated by the E63 AMG 4Matic Sport, which starts at $99,770.
This column, then, is for the Affluent Conservatives, and for those gainfully employed folks seeking a luxury automobile that won’t drive them to the poorhouse at point-of-sale, or in ongoing operational and maintenance costs.
Welcome the 2014 E250 BlueTEC, which replaces last year’s E350 BlueTEC. The E250 has a smaller diesel engine — a 2-liter, turbocharged (forced air), inline four-cylinder model compared with the E350’s 3-liter V-6. That means the E250 also has less oomph — 195 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque compared with 210 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque for the E350.
But the E250 has substantially better fuel economy than its predecessor — 28 miles per gallon in the city and 42 miles per gallon on the highway, compared with 21 city and 32 highway for the E350.
On real, heavily regulated and often congested streets and highways, you can only drive so fast. That being the case, I’ll happily take the new, more fuel-efficient E250 over the E350 model it replaces.
Besides, the new car is no slouch in sustained high-speed highway traffic. With an acceleration time of 0-to-60 miles per hour in eight seconds, it won’t win any honors in speed-from-stop contests. But, equipped with all-wheel-drive, as was the case with the sample driven for this column, it is perfectly confident and competent on long highway runs in weather fair and foul.
The E250 BlueTEC — the trademarked term referring to a urea-based treatment used to convert harmful nitrogen oxide emissions into more environmentally friendly nitrogen and oxygen — is one of the most common-sense, luxury midsize sedans available. It looks good — a restyled, wonderfully sleek body. It feels good — having one of the best crafted automotive interiors available. And it offers, through a combination of standard and optional equipment, some of the world’s most advanced safety technology. It gets an enthusiastic “yes” here.
Bottom line: It is hard to beat if you are shopping for luxury that makes sense. Compare with Audi A6, BMW 5-Series, Cadillac CTS and Lexus GS.
Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent marks in all three.
Head-turning quotient: Mercedes-Benz is to be congratulated for a clean, sleek, thoroughly attractive restyling of its E-Class models. The two-bar grille with the integrated Mercedes-Benz tri-star distinguishes the Sport version from the Luxury model, which has a more traditional grille with the M-B star affixed atop the hood. There are other differences, but too many to detail in this space.
Body style/layout: This is a front-engine, diesel-fueled, midsize luxury sedan based on a rear-wheel-drive platform. It also is available with all-wheel-drive.
Engine/transmission: It comes standard with a 2-liter, twin-turbocharged, 16-valve, inline four-cylinder engine delivering 195 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. The engine is linked to a seven-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.
Capacities: Seating for five. Cargo capacity is 15.9 cubic feet. The tank holds 21.1 gallons of diesel. Ultra-low-sulfur diesel, 15 parts sulfur per million, is strictly required.
Mileage: I averaged 41 miles per gallon in mostly highway travel.
Standard safety equipment on E250: Includes front and rear ventilated disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; electronic brake-force distribution; stability and traction control.
Available, recommended advanced safety technology: Active blind-spot and lane-keeping assistance; Distronic Plus forward-collision avoidance system; Pre-Safe Plus with pedestrian recognition, backup-collision avoidance, and rearview camera.
Price: The 2014 E250 BlueTEC with all-wheel-drive starts at $53,900 at this writing with a dealer’s invoice price of $50,127. Price as tested is $63,650, including $6,580 in options (advanced safety equipment and other items) and a $925 factory-to-dealer transportation charge.