Mercedes has a surprisingly expansive fleet of sedans, perfect for those not swayed by the popular appeal of SUVs. With not one but two entry-level four-doors, as well as a compact option below the E-Class, Mercedes offers something for every luxury sedan buyer, and another is on the way. The midsize E-Class is the “just right” midsize entry, striving to deliver a key mix of luxury, dynamic excellence, and practicality in a convenient size. Unless your garage looks like a tiny museum, you’ll probably spend most of your time inside an E450. So how practical is the E450 on a day-to-day basis? Keep reading to find out.
Redefining Midsize Sedan
Luxury-branded midsize sedans use their size in a different way. Thanks to superior stance and design, midsize luxury sedans look more premium. Part of that often comes from their rear-wheel-drive underpinnings, not something you’ll see on a Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. The other side of that coin is that some luxury options—namely, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, the BMW 5 Series, and the gorgeous Jaguar XF—won’t feel big enough in the back seat to anyone accustomed to a Camry or Accord. Unless you’re also considering the more commodious Lexus ES, Genesis G80, or Volvo S90, that’s just a compromise you make in this segment.
In the E-Class, the Mercedes makes the most of its compromise between exterior proportions and interior space by carving out a bit of the backs of the front seats. Clearly, though, this back seat is made for two despite its three rear seat belts, with comfortable buckets on the outboard seats and a huge drivetrain hump limiting legroom for that center-rear passenger. Many E-Class buyers will be attracted to a heritage stretching back more than half a century and its modern excellence—ahem, it was our 2021 Car of the Year. Are you simply seeking a Mercedes sedan with an adequate rear seat? Also consider the new, larger 2022 C-Class in your search.
So the E-Class is no S-Class in rear-seat space. Still, the luxurious midsizer offers a trick with its 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats. Pull the levers at the top edge of the trunk, and the front seat automatically powers forward a bit to make room for the folding rear seatback. At the same time, the rear seat backrest unlocks and is ready for you to push it forward. (The center 20 percent of the seat folds down with a latch inside the cabin.) It’s a subtle touch but still helpful.
Other convenient touches include a fold-down grocery bag hook and a flat cargo net, which I’ve used for everything from paint samples to takeout food that would have been a mess if not held in place. I also appreciate the four central air vents up front, making it easy to retain a little air when I don’t want too much but my husband does; just push one of the four toward him, and I’m set.
One time I longed for the functionality of a wagon or SUV was while purchasing seafood from a local pier. The E450 sedan’s 13.1-cubic-foot trunk is small for its segment, but that wasn’t the issue. Frankly, the trunk opening of most E450 competitors would have struggled to fit the 52-quart cooler we had to carry our fresh seafood. We made it work, but not without some careful maneuvering. We can hear the comments now: Hey, you want an E-Class with a more flexible cargo area, get the wagon. Yes! Do get the wagon, as it’s one of only three left in this segment, but know that the E450 All-Terrain wagon carries a base price of nearly $70,000.
The Big Drawback Inside
The 2021 and 2022 E-Class’ interior design works so well because of its flowing curves and the general feeling of quality. The look is rich and mature, appropriate for a midsize luxury sedan. The biggest issue hides beneath a wood-covered cubby at the bottom of the center stack of controls. Push it open to reveal two small cupholders, a wireless charging pad, and a USB outlet that connects to wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Plug in your phone, and there’s nowhere to drop it but in one of the two cupholders or the small charging pad. If you manage to make enough space for one or two drinks, it can be a hassle to maneuver some bottle types past the cupholder tabs that keep your drinks secure. Good thing there’s another cupholder in the door.
Now that your drink is in place and your phone is plugged in, little open space is left for your keys and other small items. They’ll fit with no problem in the center console storage area, but this stuff juggling isn’t a problem in newer vehicles like the EQE or S-Class.
Practicality simply isn’t the E-Class sedan’s strongest suit. Months behind the wheel have revealed many other strengths, but interior flexibility isn’t at the top of the list. There are just enough smart details inside to give the E450 a passing grade, but the excellence we recognized in its comparison and Car of the Year wins exists in other areas.
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