Of those who try to be the jack of all trades, most end up being master of none. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class, though, is a noteworthy exception. In each of its four distinct body styles, this dapper automobile manages to concoct a masterful blend of practicality, style and luxury; each of the available powertrains adds to that a healthy dose of refinement and response. The result is a luxury car that remains an excellent choice no matter what your needs, wants, or desires.

Best Value

With so much versatility here, it's hard to pinpoint one specific model and trim that stands out above the rest. Still, there are choices that make more sense than others. Take the E400, for instance. The 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 brings a noticeable power bump over the base four-cylinder in the E300, yet does not approach the ludicrous E43 and E63 AMG models.

The E400 Sedan comes standard with all-wheel-drive (rear-drive is available on the sportier Coupe and Convertible), a 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment unit, power front seats with memory and navigation. We'd add the air suspension, Premium 1 Package for the heated seats, parking assist and rear cross-traffic alert, and the Luxury Line trim, if only to have the three-pointed star ornament standing proud atop the hood. Mercedes lists this package as a no-cost option, although it does force owners into a $500 set of 18-inch wheels – that's not a big deal on a car that starts at $60,000, though. Here's our 2018 E-Class sedan as it would look coming off the delivery truck:

  • Model: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Sedan
  • Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6
  • Output: 329 horsepower / 354 lb-ft of torque
  • Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
  • Drivetrain: All-wheel-drive
  • MPG: 20 city / 27 hwy
  • Options: Luxury Line ($0, hood ornament, comfort suspension, galvanized shift paddles), 18-inch wheels ($500, required for Luxury Line) Premium 1 Package ($3,700, blind-spot and active parking assist, rear cross-traffic alert, heated front seats, proximity entry, powered trunk, Burmester sound system, wireless phone charging, and SiriusXM radio), Air Body Control ($1,900)
  • Base Price: $59,895 (including $995 destination charge)
  • Best Value Price: $65,995

Performance

Mercedes E-Class

Performance ranges from the tame 241 horsepower of the E300 to the fire-breathing E63 AMG's 603 horsepower, with two mid-range performers bridging that gap. All engines are backed by a transmission that contains nine forward gears. The good news is that there's no bad choice here; it's more a matter of balancing how fast you want to go with how much you want to spend.

For a base engine, the 2.0-liter turbo four in the E300 is composed and refined. It has no problem propelling the 4,000-pound sedan down the road, and the transmission shifts with a smoothness that befits the Mercedes name. This is a powertrain that is base only by technicality.

The 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 is also a smooth operator, but the 329 horsepower it pumps out adds a modicum of speed that's missing with the E300. 60 mph comes in 5.2 seconds for all-wheel-drive models. The E43 AMG uses this engine in a higher state of tune for even faster off-the-line acceleration and all-out speed. The E63's twin-turbo V8 and it's 603 horsepower makes both these look as tepid as day-old soup; there's not enough room in this article to heap appropriate superlatives on this thundering powerhouse of a motor. Suffice to say that super sedans don't really get better than this.

On the road, all iterations of E-Class handle with poise, thanks to a well-sorted suspension that hushes most road imperfections with ease. For an even more supple ride, the optional air suspension manages to bestow the E-Class with a ride that rivals it big flagship brother, the S-Class. This underbody chicanery lets the driver lower or raise the ride height at will, and can respond in real time to undulations in the road. It's well worth the $1,900.

Style

Old Mercedes models were stolid and stoic inside and out. Every itinerant of the 2018 E-Class, though, eschews the shackles of the past and embraces emotion. The sedan has proportions that elude to it's rear-drive nature, while the almost-formal roofline means the profile is elegant and visibility – which has become something of a luxury in today's cars – is still excellent. The four-door's flanks have subtle sculpting and character lines that ensure there's no slab-sided blandness to hamper the overall vibe, which is one that says this is a vehicle of discerning taste. The AMG's more aggressive bumper, power-dome hood and slightly lower ride height are enough to instead make that vibe one of discerning speed.

Turning this sedan into a wagon enhances all of this, and it's elongated roof that stretches back and dips down makes it look impossibly long, low, and muscular. Coupes and cabriolets, on the hand, are rather flamboyant when compared to their more practical counterparts. Rooflines are faster, beltlines are higher, and the long-hood-short-deck proportions are decidedly more pronounced. Whatever old-school M-B conservatism remains in the design of the sedan and wagon disappears in the overtly stylish two-doors.

One perk of going the two-door or open-top route is the opportunity to gaze unobstructed at the richly appointed interior that graces E-Classes of all guises. Open the door or lower the top, and what meets the eye is nothing like the rectilinear and restrained Mercedes cabins of old. Flowing shapes, round air vents that may have been swiped from a Maybach, quilted leather, wood and metal trim, and a centerpiece 12.3-inch touchscreen all make the guts of the E-Class a lavish place to spend time in. Features such as an available Burmester sound system and a second 12.3-inch digital cluster, as well as the 64 individual shades of ambient lighting, only add to the ritzy ambiance inside.

The Best and Worst Things

It's hard not to point to the wagon here. In a market that has seemingly given up on longroofs, Mercedes has brought to our shores a beautiful seven-passenger machine that manages to have a shade over 35 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row of seats. Not only that, it can be had in E63 AMG trimmings, with 603 horsepower and a resulting 3.3-second 0-60 mph blast.

Fuel economy isn't the best, and has an inverse relationship with the E-Class horsepower hierarchy; more power, more frequent fuel stops. The best fuel economy comes from the rear-drive E300 sedan, which can muster 22 miles per gallon city, 30 highway, and 25 combined. The worst, to no one's surprise, is the E63, that struggles to return 15/22/18.

Right For?

Mercedes E-Class

Luxury buyers looking for a sumptuous interior, handsome styling, and powerful engines would be right at home in any of the four E-Class body styles.

Wrong For?

Anyone whose priority is fuel economy or being green would be disappointed with the E-Class, which prioritizes go-fast performance over go-far performance.

The Bottom Line

The E-Class can be anything to anyone, from a 603-horsepower station wagon to an E400 convertible. Its versatility and sustained excellence throughout the lineup separates the E-Class from the pack and makes it an excellent choice for anyone desiring a luxury motorcar. Mercedes has long claimed "The best or nothing," and the 2018 E-Class seems to fully validate that philosophy.