Mercedes-Benz is striving for midsize luxury segment domination with the 2014 E-Class, on which all-wheel drive is now an option on every powertrain, from the E63 AMG to the new four-cylinder E250 Bluetec diesel. To help close the deal, the car has revised front and rear styling, as well as standard engine stop-start technology. Depending on the refreshed car's price, it could make things that much more difficult for cars such as the BMW 5 Series, Audi A6, Lexus GS, and Infiniti M.
And since this is a Mercedes-Benz, the E-Class will offer far more ways than before to raise the MSRP to S-Class levels, and, of course, provide extra layers of safety. Mercedes-Benz couldn't wait for the S-Class to arrive before sharing its latest safety technology, including Distronic Plus with Steering Assist. In the automotive industry's relentless march toward automated driving, Mercedes is introducing adaptive cruise control that can keep the vehicle centered in its lane and semi-autonomously follow in-line traffic. The automaker is also using the 2014 E-Class to introduce a brake assist system (BAS PLUS with Cross Traffic Assist) that can detect traffic and pedestrians and boost braking power the driver applies to minimize the chance of a collision. An automated parking system said to work in parallel and perpendicular spaces is also available, as is a camera system that provides views of all four sides of the vehicle.
Then there's the feature we might actually want to pay for on a new 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class: the Stereo Multi-Purpose Camera. Mounted on the front windshield near the rearview mirror, the camera has two lenses that see at 45-degree angles that generate a full view of the area up to 55 yards in front of the vehicle. Making the above safety systems possible is the E-Class' camera system, which uses intelligent algorithms. The sedan and wagon will offer as standard Collision Prevention Assist with Adaptive Brake Assist, a radar-based collision warning system that can reduce the risk of a rear-end collision. (Whether insurance companies will take note of the system's effectiveness remains to be seen.)
Open-minded consumers interested in a new E-Class sedan will have quite a choice with the 2014 model. The new E250 Bluetec is a 190-hp 2.1-liter turbodiesel with 369 lb-ft of torque, and unlike its U.S. diesel-model predecessor it will also be offered with all-wheel drive. We'll see the new engine shortly in the GLK250 Bluetec crossover. Mercedes didn't reveal expected EPA numbers, but we can tell you the six-cylinder 2013 E350 Bluetec diesel is rated 22/32 mpg city/highway, or not significantly different from the 2013 E350 V-6 at 20/30 mpg in most states. About that 3.5-liter V-6: It returns in the 2014 model year with 302 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque in rear- and all-wheel-drive forms in the sedan and wagon. The all-wheel-drive E550 sedan makes do with 402 hp and 443 lb-ft of torque from its turbocharged 5.5-liter V-8, while the E400 hybrid pairs the 3.5-liter V-6 with an electric motor good for 27 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Currently, the E350 diesel carries a base price of $1200 more than the regular E350 -- we're curious to see if that picture changes with the now-four-cylinder model coming to the U.S. All engines are mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission, which now has a short-term manual mode that switches back to the regular programming after the driver stops selecting gears. In the U.S., the E63 AMG will be offered exclusively with all-wheel drive.
Most will still get the Mercedes-Benz E350 V-6, which is now offered in Luxury and Sport trims. Traditionalists should stick with the Luxury trim and its more restrained three-bar grille. Those not bothered by driving a Mercedes sedan lacking a three-pointed star on the hood might consider the Sport, which wears a bolder two-bar grille. The Luxury model gets a comfort-oriented suspension setup, while, as you'd expect, the Sport model's suspension is about 0.6 inch lower. New to the E-Class -- and Mercedes says, to the midsize luxury segment -- will be available full LED headlights. The revised E-Class headlights retain the four-eyed look, but in a more refined two-headlight design.
Get up close to the new E-Class and you'll see a "double hook" LED daytime running light arrangement. From behind, the taillights have been restyled and the lower fascia revisited. The car's huge rear fender flares -- paying homage to the 1953 Ponton coupe -- are gone, replaced by less showy sheetmetal. Park a 2014 Mercedes E-Class sedan near a pre-refresh model and you'll notice the exterior styling differences, but the coupe-like CLS is in no danger of being out-styled by this new four-door.
Inside, the main differences include additional wood trim on the dash (in two finishes) and a revised instrument cluster. The central air vents have been redesigned to make room for a rectangular analog clock. Above the clock and central air vents is the standard 7-inch high-resolution display. Also included on every 2014 E-Class is the color instrument cluster display, but unlike on, say, the 2013 Honda Civic, a rearview camera is optional equipment. (It's optional on a BMW 528i, too.) The Premium 1 package includes a rearview camera, navigation system, heated seats (standard on the E550), satellite radio, a premium sound system, active ventilated front seats, and a garage-door opener. Mercedes will also make available a hands-free automatic trunk opener. As with similar systems from other automakers, one can hold a foot under the bumper to open the trunk.
With that feature and other new technologies, Mercedes-Benz is making it easy (or really tough) to make a 2014 E-Class your own. While revised coupe and convertible models are on the way soon, the E-Class sedan and wagon will arrive in the U.S. by spring of 2013. Considering Mercedes has sold 58,187 E-Class cars during the first 11 months of 2012, it seems the automaker is already doing something right. And with smoother design, a more efficient diesel model, and extended availability of all-wheel drive, don't count on the E-Class leaving its perch in the midsize luxury segment anytime soon.