History of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class | Evolution of the luxury saloon
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class has always been the representative of technological innovations and luxury. One of the finest after-products of the global industrial revolution, the roots of the E-Class can be traced back to 1904, when the predecessors of today’s Daimler AG, bought out the Wilhelm Maybach designed Mercedes-Simplex 41hp automobile and merged with Benz & Cie, the company founded by none other than Karl Benz, inventor of the Benz Patent Motorwagen and the first ever ICE.
Surprised how the dots connect in today’s world? Post merger, Daimler-Benz AG restructured their portfolio, introducing the W series model range, with multiple models having genes from the current E-Class. In the following decades, this segment grew exponentially and some of the iconic W series predecessors of the E-Class are admired even today. So, let’s beat the quarantine blues together and look at how the gorgeous E-Class evolved over the years.
W 136/191 - 1947 to 1955
After the end of WW2, Mercedes-Benz started production of the first post-war passenger car, the 170 V. It instantly became the mainstay of the Mercedes-Benz passenger car range and that led the carmaker too introduce the 170 D diesel and a longer 170 S (LWB) to widen its appeal. Popularity relied on their spacious bodies, comfortable ride and the overall quality. These models embodied the attributes that are, even today, considered the strengths of the E-Class.
'Ponton' W 120/121 - 1953 to 1962
The year 1953 was a game changer for the brand with the introduction of ‘self-supporting’ construction, where the body was directly wielded onto the frame. The Mercedes-Benz 180 marked a departure from the conventional design, which consisted of a body mounted on a frame. Its ‘Ponton’ name referred to the unique fender-line running from the headlamps, through the flanks, to the rear. The ultra-modern design reduced wind resistance and fuel consumption and Mercedes-Benz sold 4.43 lakh units of this range.
'Fintail' W 110 - 1961 to 1968
The W 110 generation was instantly recognizable thanks to the unique tail fins at the rear. The fintail series offered the ideal combination of space, comfort, performance, value for money and fuel efficiency. It also set new safety standards with front and rear crumple zones designed for crash resistance. In 1965, Mercedes-Benz introduced a 230 model with a 2.3-litre six-cylinder engine producing 120hp. Fintail models also offered optional luxuries like auto gearbox, power steering, powered windows, a steel sliding roof and AC, features that are now taken for granted.
'Stroke 8' W 115/114 - 1968 to 1976
This was the first million-seller series for Mercedes-Benz. It started with the four-cylinder range – 200, 220, 200 D and 220 D followed by the six-cylinder 230 and 250 models. The highlight of this range was however the 280 E with its fuel injected M 110 engine producing 185hp. In 1974, the brand extended the range with the 240 D 3.0, powered by the world’s first 5-cylinder diesel engine making 80hp.
The addition of '/8' to the model designation pointed to the year of their debut, 1968, but was used internally to differentiate these models from their predecessors. Its use led ultimately to the popular 'Stroke 8' term.
W 123 - 1976 to 1985
Scroll back to W 114 and notice the transition from luxury to royalty. The W 123 became the highest selling W series Mercedes-Benz car and customers had to wait up to one year to take their deliveries. The reason for its success was its bulletproof build that could handle rough roads with extreme poise. Typically, technology played its part too. Which self made well-to-do person wouldn't want a saloon that packed an extensive list of unforeseen features? The W 123 offered ABS, sunroof, cruise control, horn with adjustable loudness (the Europeans liked their silence) along with optional kit like heated seats and radio. After selling 2.7 million cars, production ended in 1986.
W 124 - 1984 to 1996
The model series launched in 1984 was the first family of vehicles from Mercedes-Benz to bear the E-Class name. The model range comprised of varied body types, ranging from saloon, estate, coupe, cabriolet to an LWB version. Technology in the E-Class peaked during this period with use of lightweight construction materials, optimized aerodynamics and the introduction of multi-link independent suspension and 4MATIC AWD system, improving handling immensely. The 500 E launched internationally in 1990 got a powerful eight-cylinder engine making 320hp and 480Nm. It was the first time the E-Class got an eight pot engine.
W 210 - 1995 to 2002
The W210 evokes fond childhood memories of millennials and enthusiasts belonging to the early generation-z, like myself. When the W 124 opened its four eyes on the world, it was an instant hit and was awarded the Red Dot design award. It came with tech-laden features and engine options unheard of till then. It had standard features like ESP, traction control, belt-force limiters, xenon headlamps and even rain sensing wipers. The E-Class now offered three variants – Classic, Elegance and Avantgarde and the E 220 CDI and the E 200 Kompressor were some of the most popular choices back in the day.
W 211 - 2002 to 2009
The W 211 wasn’t a big departure from the W 210 in terms of design, it was just angular and sportier. However, it added a plethora of technology to the E-Class stable. The vast features list ranged from adaptive front airbags and two-stage belt-force limiters to the bi-xenon headlamps with active light function and sensor-controlled automatic climate control. AIRMATIC air suspension also elevated the driving experience vastly. The 476hp E55 AMG and the 314hp E420 diesel V8 became two of the most thunderous E-Class saloons ever.
W 212 - 2009 to 2016
With a drag coefficient of 0.24, the W 212 E-Class Coupé was the world’s most aerodynamic production automobile when it was launched. A special long-wheelbase version of the E-Class, with 14cm additional legroom in the rear, was introduced in 2010 for the Chinese market (its successor made it to India). The facelifted version was launched in 2013, featuring new design, efficient engines and Intelligent Drive, a package of eleven new or optimised assistance systems for safety and comfort – notably the blind spot assistance and night driving assist.
W 213 – 2017 – present
Apart from the standard estate, coupe and cabriolet body styles, for the first time ever the E-Class was introduced in the rugged All-Terrain body style as well. It also got new generation Euro 6/BS6 compliant OM654 diesel engines along with the existing petrol engines. It’s the most technologically advanced Mercedes-Benz saloon after the current S-Class and the Mercedes-Maybach series. In India, the W 213 E-Class received a facelift in 2017 followed by a BS6 upgrade a few months ago.
W 213 2020 E-Class facelift
An extensive update for 2020 has also been given to the luxury saloon. It gets revised styling that's more inline with the A-Class limousine that we saw at the Auto Expo 2020 along with additional features like the MBUX infotainment system and an all-new steering to name a few. It was scheduled to hit international showrooms this summer but due to the coronavirus pandemic, that will mostly likely happen at a later date. The E-Class LWB facelift will make it to our shores soon after it gets launched in China in Q3 or Q4 of 2020.