Test-driving a new car can be exciting, but it’s not easy. From 15 minutes inside a car, how can you possibly know what will bring joy or irritation during a three-year lease? Well, by reading MotorTrend, of course. And as it happens, we’ve driven and tested every midsize luxury sedan currently available, including our 2021 Car of the Year: the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Thanks to an E450 4Matic sedan we’re evaluating for an entire year, we have tons of experience with the new E-Class. Even after thousands of miles, I’m still impressed by certain aspects of the luxury sedan—but not all of them. So if you’re curious how the E-Class compares to every currently ranked car in the segment, read on.
Audi A6 vs. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Pros and Cons
Mercedes Wins: The 2022 Audi A6’s cabin includes two center-stack screens that give it an unmistakably futuristic vibe. What’s not immediately noticeable in the showroom is how far down you must look to adjust the air temperature, or how hard you need to push those onscreen buttons. Neither is an issue in the 2021-2022 Mercedes-Benz E-Class (the 2022 model is largely unchanged compared to our 2021 model). The up/down tabs in the E-Class aren’t as good as physical knobs for the HVAC system, but it’s a functional improvement here over the Audi.
The Mercedes also pulls ahead in driving range. We’ve praised both the E450 and A6 3.0T mild hybrid powertrains as incredibly refined and quiet, and both cars deliver swift acceleration. If you’re set on the engine-upgrade models of each German sedan, however, the E450 is the clear winner in stretching a tank of fuel, meaning you won’t have to stop nearly as often. This is a subtle but real advantage I’ve appreciated on a weekly basis with our one-year E450. The situation is reversed if you’re set on the E350 and A6 2.0T.
Audi Wins: Audi’s Virtual Cockpit digital instrument cluster remains a superb and industry-leading tech feature. Maybe you’ve noticed—digital instrument clusters are increasingly prevalent across the industry, but they’re not all created equal. In this case, the tech in the 2022 A6—now standard across every trim—is far superior in customizability, ease of use, and overall design to the Mercedes tech that’s also standard.
Also, design is subjective, but I’m a fan of the Audi’s crisper and more modern design. Take a look at the Audi, and decide for yourself which one you like more.
BMW 5 Series vs. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Pros and Cons
Mercedes Wins: When matching our one-year E450 test car against the 540i, the Mercedes is simply the better car to drive. BMW has made improvements here, and the 540i’s driving behavior is “largely faultless” but still leaves us feeling cold. The Mercedes is no sports car, but overall, it offers more feel through the steering wheel while still providing some of the isolation you expect of a luxury sedan.
BMW Wins: BMW has been a leader in the plug-in hybrid space for years. That’s no different for the 2022 5 Series, which continues to offer a plug-in hybrid model where the E-Class has none. Even better, the 2022 530e is only about $1,400 more than the 530i and about $4,500 less than a base 540i.
Lexus ES vs. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Pros and Cons
Mercedes Wins: Few will ever compare the 2022 ES to the 2022 E-Class, but the Lexus is actually more than an inch longer than the Mercedes. There’s more to luxury than just size, and the Mercedes wins here in terms of overall luxury. The E450 specifically moves at a level of performance the ES simply can’t match. The advantage here is nothing you’ll find on a spec sheet; it’s the overall feel of the car you’re driving. If you’re looking for something more concrete, consider that the E-Class aces every NHTSA crash test with five stars, but the ES earns a four-star rating for frontal and rollover tests (with five stars everywhere else).
Lexus Wins: Don’t count the Lexus out, though. It offers a superb rear seat that makes the Mercedes feel compact inside. A hybrid model adds variety to the ES lineup’s offerings, and a couple interior details shine a positive light on the much cheaper Lexus. We’re talking about the way the E-Class’ interior door handle feels like hard plastic whereas the ES’ is covered in a soft leatherlike material. Oh, and the ES’ power-closing trunk ends its travel slowly, avoiding the slight thudlike noise of the E-Class’.
Volvo S90 vs. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Pros and Cons
Mercedes Wins: Between the GLE-Class and E-Class, recent Mercedes infotainment systems haven’t been a hit among MotorTrend editors. And yet, I would gladly daily-drive our E450 over the S90. This isn’t about screen size, but about how the S90’s screen functions. For example, Apple CarPlay only takes up a small portion on the bottom of the narrow screen. In the Mercedes, the display is one of my least favorite applications of the phone-mirroring technology, but at least it’s displayed at the top of the dash and uses more screen real estate than the Swedish competition.
Volvo Wins: The S90 looks like a flagship luxury sedan yet competes with midsizers. Besides an inimitable style, the Volvo’s biggest strength is interior space. You’ll get much more rear-seat space than in the E-Class, which feels comfortable but a little cozy.
Genesis G80 vs. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Pros and Cons
Mercedes Wins: The 2021 E450 we drove during 2021 Car of the Year testing provided a ride quality that was otherworldly good. I still miss it, even as I drive our one-year 2021 E450 test car, which rolls on bigger wheels. Our one-year E450 rides adequately, but it’s not quite as refined as the car we initially drove. Both cars, however, ride better and have better body control than the Genesis G80.
Genesis Wins: Where the E450’s interior design is premium in a calming and subtle way, the G80 demands your attention. Nearly everywhere you look, there’s a flourish of design that aims to make even quick trips to the grocery store rewarding. The rear seat is more spacious, too, with a fold-down center armrest that includes cupholders, a storage area, heated seat controls, a button for the rear glass window shade, and a padded top for your elbows. Nice.
Jaguar XF vs. Mercedes-Benz E-Class Pros and Cons
Mercedes Wins: This is one of those things you may not even know to look for on a test drive but was instantly noticeable to me after shifting from our E450 to a 2021 Jaguar XF. With no six-cylinder engine available anymore, the 296-hp version of XF’s I-4 is the top engine, and it awakens with more buzziness than we’d like. Does the turbo-four E350 have similar issues? It’s not clear, but we can tell you with certainty that the E450 manages to offer power and refinement in equal doses.
Jaguar Wins: We’ve long criticized Jaguar infotainment systems, but the 2021 XF makes some progress in this area. As part of a First Test review, we commented that “the system is snappy, sharp, and easy to whiz around.” I’d add that it manages to incorporate a bit of Jaguar style in its functionality, too.
Mercedes vs. Everyone: The Verdict
From the engine refinement of the E450 model to the general excellence with which our one-year test car drives, the E-Class defends its 2021 Car of the Year title well. Depending on your personal automotive priorities, the E-Class may or may not be the obvious choice when compared against the top-ranked competitors, some with more interior space and others with better tech. Even so, if the E450 is within your midsize luxury sedan budget, our experience so far reinforces that it’s a good car to start your search with.
Read More About Our Long-Term 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic:
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