The Mercedes E Series dates back to the 1960s and has become the brand’s most successful and best-known series of sedans, station wagons, convertibles, and coupes. The ‘E’ originally stood for Einspritzmotor, which translates into English as ‘fuel-injection engine.’
The first cars from which the E Series grew were the early W114 and W115 compact models which included the 230, 250, and 280 sedan, and the 250C, 250CE, 280C, and 280CE coupe; however, the E did not appear as a prefix to the model, as it does today, until the third-generation cars of the 1980s.
Models from 1980 onwards (second-generation models) introduced station wagon variants, while third-generation E Series cars are noticeably light and larger than their predecessors all round. Size increases still further with the fourth generation (1996 to 2002), however the fifth-generation models (2002 to 2006) faced some issues with technology, reliability, and durability. All this was turned around in 2006 as the E Series got back on track, offering more power than ever before and a suitably high spec to match.
Throughout its reign, the E Series has undergone a number of facelifts and been reincarnated across several generations, with the latest generation introduced to the market in 2013. Some older E Series cars have been very well taken care of and remain trusted family or collectors’ vehicles today. Which E Series you choose will depend on what you plan to use it for, whether you are in the market for a collectors’ item or a newer car which is maybe only a year or two out of the showroom, and, of course, the size of your budget.
The choice of trim, engine spec, performance, and extras is vast with the E Series thanks to its long legacy and popularity here. Older models such as the second-generation (W123) E230 are available with a single-cam 4-cylinder engine, giving 80kW of power and 186Nm of torque, coupled with 4-speed automatic or 4-speed manual gearbox or several diesel options including the E300D, giving 59kW of power and 172Nm of torque.
Further generations have seen the E Series benefit from more power and greater fuel economy which each subsequent update to the engine specs. Typically a fourth-generation E Series (spanning the Millennium) will offer a choice of several engines. For performance, try the E36, which gives 200kW of power and 385Nm of torque from its 3.6L in-line 6 petrol engine, which comes coupled with a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed automatic gearbox or the 1998 E55, with 260kW and a huge 530Nm of torque, powered by a 5.4L V8 engine. This period saw a lot of mechanical, structural, and suspension upgrades that helped the E Series perform better than ever on the road.
Newer offerings from 2006 to 2009 include a popular turbodiesel station wagon and the entry-level E200K, which gives 135kW of power and 250Nm of torque from its 4-cylinder engine. The top-of-the-range model from this period is the E63 AMG, with 378kW of power and 630Nm of torque. Eight-generation models (from 2009 onwards) begin with a base model at 1.8L turbo-charged 4-cylinder engine giving 150kW and 310Nm of torque, rising to 5.5L and the range-topping 6.2L AMG cars, all coupled with a range of 5- and 7-speed automatic gearboxes. The petrol models feature direct injection to aid fuel economy.
By the time the third generation arrived, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, and central locking were all included as standard. This relates to models dating between 1989 and 1996. Major restyling in 1990 and 1993 updated the interiors and trim and introduced some changes to suspension and steering at the same time.
If you are in the market for a more recent E Series Mercedes, expect to find high-quality kit and a whole range of innovations such as an Attention Assist system that detects potential fatigue in the driver, an intelligent headlight system with a range of 5 different functions, lane-keeping and blind-spot assist, radar-guided cruise control, and an autonomous early braking system that will automatically stop the car if it senses an acute risk of accident. Other kit includes fog lights, a range of alloy designs, climate control with digital display, auto-dimming mirrors, and a unique ‘designer’ ignition key.
Much of the competition for the E Series comes from its own models and generations. The series offers coupe, convertible, sedan, and station wagon formats dating back several decades, meaning that whatever your purpose and budget, you are guaranteed to find an E Series that fits the bill. Other competition comes from the key competitors of Audi, Volkswagen, and Jaguar as well as top-of-the-range models from a wide range of manufacturers.