Evolution of Mercedes Benz E Class


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The E-Class, the best-selling model series in the history of Mercedes-Benz, has recently received a facelift (To know more about the latest E read our article on it in our News section – Click Here). With the latest iteration of E hitting the markets and over 15 million units sold over various generations, let us first take a step back and look at how the E-class name plate came to be and how it has evolved over the years.

From its origin, the Mercedes Benz E-class has been a range of mid-sized executive luxury sedan. The E-Class falls mid-range in the Mercedes line-up, and has been marketed worldwide across five generations. The first E-Class series was originally available as four-door sedan, five-door station wagon, 2 door coupe and 2 door convertible.


Before the E was adopted as a prefix in 1993 (i.e., E 220) and the model line was referred as the E-Class (or E-Klasse), officially, the E in Mercedes-Benz nomenclature was a suffix following a vehicle's model number which stood for Einspritzmotor (German for fuel injection engine). It began to appear in the early 1960s, when that feature began to be utilized broadly in the maker's product line, and not just in its upper tier luxury and sporting models.

The E-Class had various predecessors, before it became the current day E-Class:

1. W120/W121 (1953–1962)

The W120 was the first modern midsize Mercedes and was produced from 1953 to 1962. It was a very stylish sedan for its time and featured a 1.8 litre four-cylinder engine M136 engine and was sold as the Mercedes Benz 180. The W121 was introduced in 1956 and was powered by a 1.9 litre M121 engine and was sold under the name of Mercedes Benz 190.

Often referred to as “Pontons” the pair were the mainstay of Mercedes’ lineup during their production runs. The 180 continued to use the 55 hp M136 engine until 1957, when it received a detuned version of the 190’s M121. Various diesel powered 180s were produced from 1953 to 1962.

This W120/W121 are considered as the first predecessors to the E-Class line.

2. W110 (1961–1968)

The W110 was Mercedes’ mid-size automobiles line-up in the mid-1960s. One of Mercedes' range of "Fintail" (look for Trivia on Fintail below) models, the W110 initially was available with either a 1.9 litre M121 petrol or 2.0 litre OM621 diesel inline-four. They were introduced as 190c and 190Dc sedans in April of 1961 andreplaced the W120 180c/180Dc and W121 190b/190Db.

The W110 line was refreshed in July 1965 to become the 200 and Diesel 200D at the same time, a six-cylinder 230 (successor to the Mercedes 220) became part of the W110 line. Production lasted just three more years until 1968. The W110 and the 6-cylinder W111 were the first series of Mercedes cars to be extensively crash tested for occupant safety.

(Trivia: Mercedes Benz Fintail (German: Heckflosse) is a nickname given to the W110, W111, and W112 series of Mercedes saloon cars produced from 1959 to 1968. These replaced the Ponton series saloon cars introduced in 1953. It is believed that these series' modest tailfin era styling reflected the US-led trend. In Mercedes terminology the short rear fins were designated Peilstege, parking aids which marked the end of the car for aid in backing.)

3. W114/W115 (1968–1976)

The W114 and the W115 were a series of mid-sized sedans and coupes introduced in 1968 by Mercedes. The W114 and W115 were the replacement for the W110 series and were manufactured till the year 1976. They were distinguished by names relating to their engine size.

The W114 featured six-cylinder engines and were marketed as 230, 250, 280, while the W115 models featured four-cylinder engines and were marketed as 200, 220, 230 and 240.

Mercedes marketed these model ranges as New Generation Models, giving their ID plates the designation ‘/8’. W114 and W115 models ultimately received the German nickname Strich Acht, loosely translated into English as stroke eight.

I think this is one of the most beloved shapes and generation of Mercedes’ mid-size offerings.

4. W123 (1976–1986)

The W114 and W115 series models were replaced by a new model series in 1976, the W123. The W123 became a hit with the public due to its modern look. It surpassed its predecessors and became the most successful Mercedes, selling 2.7 million units before the production ended in the autumn 1985 for saloon/sedan and January 1986 for coupé and estate/station wagon.

The customers who placed their orders faced a lengthy waiting period of nine to twelve months, due to the slow build-up during the first year of production as to ensure the high and consistent quality. A black market emerged for the customers who were willing to pay more for immediate delivery. The slightly used W123 commanded about 5,000 Deutsche Mark premium over its original sale price.

W123 production ended in January 1986 with 63 final T-models rolling out. Most popular single models were the 240 D (4,55,000 built), the 230 E (4,42,000 built), and the 200 D (3,78,000 built).

The W123 is one of the most recognizable Mercedes Benz model and shape, due to the sheer number of them sold worldwide.

5. W124 (1986–1994) (First Generation)

The W124 was presented in 1984 and introduced several new standards for a mid-size Mercedes as well as the first generation to be officially referred to as E-Class. Mercedes-Benz initiated its Indian journey with the introduction of the W124. Worldwide the W124 Series production began at the beginning of November 1984 but it wasnot until 1995 that it was launched in India, by then the car had already been phased out around the world.

Similar to its predecessors, the W124 also offered a coupe and estate body styles. A new convertible was also available, making it the first mid-size Mercedes convertible. Though the coupe and convertible models were not made available in India. The W124 enjoys a very prominent cult following in India among the older and the younger generation alike. Many people are really getting into these 90s Mercs now (including me) though it is very hard to find a clean one to buy in the used market today.

6. W210 (1996–2002) (Second Generation)

The W210 E-Class was launched outside India in 1995 and was brought to India in 1997. The brought the E line into the upper end of the mid-size luxury market. The car features complete redesign from the previous generation and was more spacious inside than its predecessor.It was the first Mercedes-Benz production car featuring Xenon headlamps including dynamic headlamp range control, only low beam.

The W120 got a mid-life facelift, and in my opinion was better looking than the pre-facelift. To be honest, I hated the way the W120 looked when it first came out, it looked all dull and unwelcoming, but over the years I’ve developed a certain liking for the car. If I ever own one in my life-time I’d probably get a post-facelift one fully blacked out and put 19inch rims on it, lower it about 30mm and cruise the streets of Mumbai.

7. W211 (2003–2009) (Third Generation)

Launched in 2002 for the 2003 model year, the W211 E-Class was another evolution of the previous model. Before it went on sale in India, the car was featured in the 2002 movie Men in Black II. The W211 looked similar to the previous generation, but with more modern and polished design. At this point I should tell you this is my favorite generation of the E-class in terms of looks.

The 2003 E-Class was manufactured in a 4-door sedan or 5-door station wagon body style, but we only got the sedan. There were three variants – Classic, Elegance and Avantgarde, offering different features to meet varying customer requirements. The W211 is also the first E-Class since 1985 that is equipped with two windshield wipers. The car featured bi-xenon lights and automatic climate control. The W211 was larger than its predecessors while offering less interior space, than the W210 it replaced.

If I could get one, I’d either get a E280 Diesel V6 or just hold my breath and hope I find an AMG version, there are only a few of those in India.

8. W212(2010-2016) (Fourth generation)

The W212 was introduced in 2009 (as a 2010 model). But before it was officially unveiled at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show, the official photos of the W212 were leaked on the internet. The E-Class range now included the new E 200 CGI and E 230 CGI with direct injected forced inducted engines. New features included a blind spot monitor, Lane Keeping Assist, Pre-safe with Attention Assist and Night View Assist Plus.

In 2013, the E-Class was comprehensively facelifted, featuring significant styling changes, fuel economy improvements and updated safety features. Daimler invested close to €1 billion into the development of the extensive refresh, making it likely the most expensive mid-life facelift in the history of the automobile. The biggest change was the singular front lights replacing the twin headlamp design (marking the end of Mercedes's dual headlamps use) with integrated LED DRLs.

The W212 was offered with various engine options and different body styles in India – Sedan, Coupe and Convertible.

(Trivia: One of the AMG models of the W212 was known as the E63S, and was rated at 577 hp, but these claims by Mercedes were modest at best, as there are significant number of real life dyno tests which indicated that the AMG tuned S model made an excess of 600 hp at the flywheel. Though India did not get the E63s, we got the E63.)

9. W213 (2017–Present) (Fifth generation)

The fifth generation E-Class was launched in 2017 and shared design elements with the larger W222 S-Class and the smaller W205 C-Class. While the W212 E-Class had sharper edges and harder angles, the new model is curvier and more flowing. The W213 E-Class is the second most technologically advanced Mercedes after the new S Class. The E-Class received the latest in autonomous driving technology for use at highway speeds, capable of piloting itself up to speeds of 210 km/h for up to 2 minutes. The system uses a complex array of motion sensors, radars and cameras to scan the road ahead, and requires the driver's hands to be placed on the wheel at all times. This feature was also available on the 4th generation E63S AMG-tuned model.

The W213 is an odd car for me, I like the way it looks, but I don’t love it enough to really want to own one. The car is a no nonsense extremely luxurious and elegant piece of machinery, which offers second to none features and comfort and none of its rivals hold a candle to it in this regard. The car is perfect for you if you’re a no-nonsense tolerating person, who doesn’t want any compromises on terms of luxury. The car is pleasing to drive but what is really made for is to be chauffeured around in.

All of this brings us to the latest iteration of the E-Class, which is scheduled to be launched in India very soon.

The 2021 Mercedes Benz E-Class brings the aggressiveness in the design language back to the E-Class line up. The is the first time in the history of the E-Class the range gets a touchscreen infotainment system. The car will only be available in a Long-Wheelbase setup like the previous generation.

The electrification of the powertrain takes another major step forward with the model update of the E-Class. Seven models are available as plug-in hybrids (diesel and petrol, Saloon and Estate, rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive). The line-up of high-efficiency, low-emission and powerful petrol engines are available in two states of tune. The lower spec produces 154 Bhp while the higher spec makes about 362, while the spectrum of diesel vehicles spans from 158 Bhp to 326 Bhp.

For the first time, a four-cylinder petrol engine (M 254) with second-generation integrated starter-generator (ISG) producing up to 15 kW of additional output and 180 Nm more torque will complement the engine range. Models equipped with this engine will have a 48-volt on-board electrical system. Thanks to energy recovery and the ability to "glide" with the engine switched off, the petrol engine is highly efficient.

The in-line six-cylinder petrol engine (M 256), available for the first time in the E-Class, is also fitted with an ISG. The engine line-up is rounded off by the six-cylinder diesel (OM 656). This engine and the OM 654 four-cylinder version feature an expanded emission control system.

With a new facelift comes a new AMG variant too, the AMG E 53 4MATIC+.E 53 4MATIC+ is available both as a saloon and an estate. The completely restyled front view lends the Performance E-Class an even more powerful appearance.

All the changes and additions make the E a better package than all the previous generations. The new design, the interiors and technological updates in the upcoming generation E-Class make it a truly droll worthy car.

With such a rich history of so many heavy hitters, it is easy to see why the Mercedes’ E-Class name plate is the one of the highest-volume selling line up in the company’s history.

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About Author
Sunit Berry
Sunit Berry

With a passion for driving, appreciation for fast machines and a love for the tuning culture, Sunit tries to engage people by creating a bond and making them experience his passion and emotions for cars through his writing and humour. 

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