Mercedes-Benz introduced the facelifted E-Class two months ago and we had a quick taste last month. Does a new look and fresh tech make it a better car?

In a pre-COVID world, the facelifted Mercedes-Benz E-Class would’ve been shown to the press in some fancy resort abroad. But we’re in a peri-COVID world sadly, so the facelifted E-Class was shown to us journalists differently. That means I was invited to Brussels a few weeks ago to see what the Stuttgart-based brand deems sufficient enough to boost sales halfway through the car’s lifecycle. All chassis shapes were present: convertible, sedan, and the estate. With the keys to the All Terrain estate chassis in my hands, I embarked on my 2,5 hours with the car. Powered by the 450 engine and wearing a white interior, I tried my best to not get distracted by all the comfort. Being objective can be difficult.

It’s a well-known vehicle over at Car Journalism, this E-Class. When it first came out of the factory on this platform, I drove the entry-level Diesel. Beau drove the AMG versions on track last year, and Nick drove the high-tech E 300de Estate later that year. Hell, Beau even had his hands on the E53 convertible for 4 days… Before this facelift happened, the car had already seen innovations enter its genes. The straight-six found its way into the car, also it electrified with PHEV versions (currently Mercedes-Benz offers a whopping 7 PHEV E-class variants). So with all the new technology already finding its way into the E-Class during these years, it isn’t a surprise that the facelift is tech-fest. But most of all, the facelift is an aesthetic and ergonomic one. There are simply no huge hardware overhauls.

Looks and lines

I’ll start with the looks of the facelifted E-Class. Upfront there’s a set of new headlight units that draw their lines from the A-Class. These MultiBeam units sit in a set of new bumpers that are more fluid in design but are also offering reduced drag. Reducing the drag further is the new grille, which has shrunken to create less turbulent air. Mercedes-Benz picked hyacinth red metallic Designo to showcase the new lines. And damn does this E 450 Estate look good in that color. Walk towards the back and you can lay eyes on the new rear lights, which I personally love. These new units make the back appear more proportionate than it used to be. In addition to these new looks, Mercedes-Benz is offering a wider range of paints and rims for the facelift as well.

Ergonomics

While we’re all waiting for the technological flagship, new S-Class, the facelifted E-Class will be king until then. If opted for, the E-Class can be littered with options that increase the usability of this car tremendously. And I suppose you figured out that these press cars have plenty of these options, didn’t you? You’re right though, as the E 450 Estate All-Terrain I drove had over 23 options selected. That doesn’t mean they were all ones I wanted to test. I focused on the new steering wheel and on the massage sea.., I mean the updated camera system, of course. Parking has never been easier, as the rear and front camera now turn in the direction you’re steering towards. I’d recommend always taking the 360-degree camera option from this manufacturer, it will save you at least a dent or two (in your marriage). Cameras now play a role in navigating too, as augmented reality shows you directional arrows on the single-screen center console. This new way of navigation worked properly, but only if I wasn’t using Android Auto.

With all these updates, the biggest thing for me to test was the new steering wheel. Introduced for the first time in the facelifted E-Class, the wheel now has a completely new design with a new button layout. Sadly, still no designated button for switching songs. But the biggest, maybe the most important thing of this entire facelift is the introduction of new touch-sensitive sensors in the steering wheel. Mercedes-Benz their PR-manager promised me they would always sense if my hand was still holding the wheel. That means no more mandatory steering corrections every 15 seconds while on autopilot, but a true step forward in semi-autonomous driving. And bloody yes, did it work. I cruised for over 20 minutes on the highway without having the car signaling me to move the wheel again. As the E-Class should offer comfort more than anything, this new sensor system attributes to that.

Summary

With the facelift being mostly focused on updated looks and technology, the drive the E-Class offers remains unchanged. It still is immensely comfortable and that comfort is supplemented by the innovations Mercedes-Benz has introduced into the car. It is yet again at the top of its class and offers drivers and occupants a premium form of transportation.

There are just two things that sadden me. One of them is the fact that the All-Terrain models don’t sell that well here in the EU. Robust, running on air suspension, and simply bad-ass looking, it’s the sweet spot of the E-Class range if you ask me. The second thing I’m sad about is that the update of the navigation (augmented reality) and HUD doesn’t work with Apple Car Play or Andriod Auto. Phones are only going to be dominating in-car infotainments further, so it feels like a dead-end if you don’t integrate these into the innovations.

This was our, my, first taste of the facelifted E-Class, so no figures on consumption or acceleration times yet. Neither did we have time for a trunk challenge yet. Stay tuned for those in the coming months, we won’t disappoint.