394lb ft of torque endows the E500 with thumping pace
Interior quality is now heading back to the levels of Mercedes past
The lights have changed but you may not have noticed
The E has returned from its midlife refresh in more competitive form
First DriveLuxury rear-drive coupé aims to appeal to keener drivers with a 329bhp twin-turbo petrol V6 and a host of AMG upgrades
First DriveMerc’s mid-sized two-door continues to stand out, and adds style, richness and refinement to its repertoire
What's new? Believe it or not, this is the face-lifted Mercedes E-class. Look carefully and you’ll see that the front end has a new bumper and more prominent grille. The headlamps have also been made more distinctive with transparent louvres, and white LEDs are now used for the parking lights. The rear end gets reworked lights and a slimmer bumper.There are six new or heavily revised engines, meaning there are now a staggering 29 different models: 16 saloons and 13 estates, crowned by the E63 AMG.The car we drove, the E500, loses the old model’s decade-old 5.0-litre V8 for the more advanced 5.5-litre V8. With a smoothly delivered 388bhp at 6000rpm and 394lb ft of torque from 2800rpm, it serves up an additional 82bhp and 55lb ft. It’s enough to cut the 0-62mph time by 0.7sec to a seriously rapid 5.3sec, while the top speed remains limited to 155mph.What's it like? It’s a fabulous engine: mightily refined but big on urge, helped by a silky seven-speed automatic gearbox. The chassis has also been reworked, the supple air suspension still offering three different levels of damping stiffness. The only weak link in its armoury is a rather vague feel to the steering around the straight ahead.As with the latest S-class, Merc has ditched the E-class’s problematic electronically operated Sensotronic brakes for a new hydraulic system offering more progressive pedal action and greater bite.Like the exterior, the changes to the E-class’s cabin are just as subtle; a four-spoke steering wheel from the CLS and reworked switches for the air conditioning sit with reworked trims and colour choices. It’s a better place to be, with an excellent driving position, but as usual Merc has concentrated on function rather than flair.Perhaps the most important addition is Pre-Safe. It’s now standard across the range and acts before an accident occurs, closesthe windows and sunroof, tensions the belts and sets the seats in an optimal position. Should I buy one? Stuttgart has been fighting hard to banish the quality blues that have dogged its models since the mid-’90s. No such worries with the E-class now.