In June 2006, after a four-year production span and around a million vehicles sold, Mercedes-Benz launched the new generation of its globally successful E-Class. Some 2000 components were newly developed or improved for the facelift.
On 12 April 2006, the revamped E-Class was unveiled at the New York International Auto Show. The new generation of the 211 model series then went on sale on 10 June 2006. Despite a more comprehensive standard equipment package, improved technology and new styling, the prices of the four- and six-cylinder models had not risen because of the facelift.
Customers now had a choice of thirteen estates. Six of the engines for the new-generation E-Class had been either newly or further developed. They offered up to 60 kW (82 hp) more power and up to 70 Newton-metres of extra torque. Despite that, fuel consumption was still at the exemplary level of the previous models. The new top-of-the-line engine was the 5.5-litre V8 in the E 500 (285 kW/388 hp). The new E 500 now boasted a level of performance absolutely on a par with that of a sports car, accelerating from rest to 100 km/h in 5.4 seconds.
Mercedes-AMG brought out the new E 63 AMG, whose naturally aspirated V8 engine produced 378 kW (514 hp) with a peak torque of 630 Newton-metres, making the E 63 AMG the most powerful E-Class of all time. The new AMG model benefited from all the upgrades that distinguished the new-generation E-Class. Independently developed by AMG, its 6.3-litre V8 engine was the first engine in the world to combine high rpm with high displacement - the result being around 20 per cent more torque than in similar naturally aspirated engines in this power class. As customary at Mercedes-AMG, the new engine was hand-built at the AMG factory according to the philosophy of "one man, one engine". The E 63 AMG estate accelerated from rest to 100 km/h in 4.6 seconds, the top speed being electronically limited to 250 km/h.
The new generation of the successful Mercedes-Benz model series looked more dynamic while offering extra power and impressing with its more agile handling, which was made possible by DIRECT CONTROL: with this standard-fitted package of measures, Mercedes engineers achieved notable progress in driving dynamics without adversely affecting either safety or long-distance comfort, attributes that have always set apart the saloon and estate versions of the E-Class. With approximately 10 per cent more direct steering, the E-Class spontaneously responded to steering motions while continuing to provide a reassuring feeling of safety and stability. A new spring link bearing gave better support of lateral forces in bends, making the saloon and estate even more neutral when cornering.
In addition, the ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE models were given rebound buffer springs to effectively limit body roll during cornering. The DIRECT CONTROL package also included new gearshift control of the six-speed manual transmission for high shifting comfort and precise gear changes. The S-Class W 221 was the origin of the ADAPTIVE BRAKE system, which allowed new safety and comfort functions through electronic control of the hydraulic dual-circuit braking system. An automatic tyre pressure loss warner was also standard on the E-Class.
Its dynamism, strength and self-assurance were reflected in the revised front-end design of the new-generation E-Class. Bumper and radiator grille featured a distinctive sweepback that evoked power and authority. Mercedes-Benz upgraded the details of the E-Class's familiar twin-headlamp face, providing the upper sections of the headlamps with transparent louvres for an attractive lighting pattern. For the first time, white LEDs were used as side lights. Using side skirts and rear bumpers in the AVANTGARDE design, Mercedes‑Benz additionally reinforced the dynamic component of the look of all E-Class model variants. The interior of the new model generation differed from its predecessor with such features as new and attractive colours, a new four-spoke steering wheel with elliptic control buttons, and a new operating unit for the standard-fitted THERMATIC automatic air conditioning.
With its pioneering new developments, the E-Class remained the trendsetter in automotive safety in its market segment, the saloon and estate versions being equipped as standard with the preventive PRE-SAFE® system. Equally unique were the standard-installed NECK-PRO head restraints in the E-Class. To prevent rear-end collisions, Mercedes-Benz fitted the new generation of the E-Class with flashing brake lamps. If there was a risk of accident, these gave better warning to following drivers than conventional brake lights. Tests by Mercedes‑Benz engineers showed that drivers' braking reactions were speeded up by up to 0.2 seconds on average if a flashing warning signal was given in an emergency braking situation. For example, this shortened the stopping distance by around 5.50 metres at a speed of 100 km/h.
Mercedes‑Benz had also systematically improved the occupant safety of the E-Class. For example, both saloon and estate satisfied the world's most stringent collision standards, such as the US rear-end collision test at 80 km/h and the new US side collision test, which simulated a collision with a heavy cross-country vehicle. By the time of the facelift, the E-Class had completed around 330 collision tests in the course of its continuous safety development.
The new-generation E‑Class was the world's first car to come with adaptive headlamps, which adjusted to the prevailing driving/weather conditions for significantly greater driving safety. Optionally available for both saloon and estate, the Intelligent Light System was based on the high-intensity bi-xenon headlamps, including five different lighting functions: country mode, motorway lights (automatic from a speed of 90 km/h), extended fog light function, active curve lights and corner-illuminating fog lamps.
A review conducted by Mercedes-Benz in July 2007 showed how attractive the E-Class estate had become after its comprehensive facelift in mid-2006: since January 2007, deliveries of the luxury class estate had increased by 14 per cent to 16,700 units. A total of around 185,000 customers had opted for an E-Class estate since the launch of the model in March 2003. Around 75 per cent of all E-Class estate customers bought one of the four CDI models. With a share of around 30 per cent, the most popular engine was the E 220 CDI.
In autumn 2007, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the E 350 CGI. Powered by the world's first petrol engine with spray-guided direct injection, the vehicle delivered greater power with lower fuel consumption. The 215 kW (292 hp) six-cylinder engine surpassed the already highly efficient V6 petrol engine with port injection and fully variable valve timing in terms of consumption and output in the European driving cycle: while the E 350 CGI gave a fuel saving of around 10 per cent, its output was about 15 kW (20 hp) higher than that of the conventionally injected V6.
The pioneering CGI injection process, which confirmed the Stuttgart brand's status as a technology trend-setter, allowed far better fuel economy and thus higher thermodynamic efficiency than with the previous wall-guided direct injection. The key components of the spray-guided direct petrol injection were high-speed, high-precision piezo injectors. In contrast to the diesel injector, in which the actuator operated only one switching valve, the piezo module in the petrol engine directly controlled the needle. The piezo stroke was thus directly translated into needle lift to determine the flow through the valve.
Thanks to switching times of fractions of a millisecond at a high fuel pressure of 200 bar, the piezo injectors also enabled multiple injections on each power stroke, which was necessary for lean-burn operation, this flexible and efficient control of the combustion process meeting a key requirement for the engine's exemplary fuel consumption. The considerable fuel savings achieved by the direct-injection petrol engine were due mainly to so-called "stratified charging", in which the engine used a high compression ratio with high excess air, making for especially good fuel economy. This required the fuel to be injected relatively late into the air after it had been compressed by the piston.
A total of around 240,000 vehicles of the S 211 model series were built between 2002 and 2009. The successful, fourth-generation E-Class estate was succeeded in November 2009 by the 212 model series.