In January 2003, the Series S 211 E-Class estate had its world premiere at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The estate version of the E-Class saloon, which was launched in 2002, impressed with its pioneering technology, fascinating styling, superior trim level and intelligent functionality in the interior. Launched in March 2003, the E-Class estate built on the success of its Series S 210 predecessor, which had sold over 266,000 units since 1996.
The new Mercedes E-Class estate initially came with a choice of three petrol engines and three CDI diesel engines with a range of power outputs from 110 kW (150 hp) to 150 kW (204 hp). The powerplants in the E 220 CDI (110 kW/150 hp), E 270 CDI (130 kW/177 hp) and E 320 CDI (150 kW/204 hp) belonged to the second generation of state-of-the-art common-rail engines, which, compared with the CDI engines in the predecessor model, delivered up to 8 per cent more torque and just under 5 per cent more power. At the same time, fuel consumption was reduced up to 0.6 litres per 100 kilometres. The top-of-the-line diesel model, the E 320 CDI, developed 500 Newton-metres of torque from as low as 1,800 rpm. This economical six-cylinder CDI unit, with a fuel consumption of 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres (NEDC combined consumption), was now also marketed for the first time in the USA.
In terms of petrol engines, alongside the two six-cylinder units E 240 (130 kW/177 hp) and E 320 (165 kW/224 hp), Mercedes-Benz offered a new four-cylinder engine that was distinguished by its unique TWINPULSE system. The combination of different technologies, such as supercharging, charge air cooling, four-valve technology, variably adjustable camshafts and a Lanchester balancer, guaranteed maximum driving pleasure and refinement together with minimum fuel consumption. For example, the estate version of the new 120 kW (163 hp) E 200 KOMPRESSOR consumed just 9.1 litres of premium petrol per 100 kilometres in the NEDC driving cycle, making it 0.5 litres more economical than its predecessor.
The new estate distinguished itself in its vehicle class with its intelligent overall design: formally, the estate demonstrated that superior aesthetics could be fused perfectly with high utility value. Functionally, the S 211 came with a host of intelligent innovations that offered more comfort, greater safety and yet better interior variability than its predecessor.
The technical innovations in the new E-Class estate included Sensotronic Brake Control (SBCTM) electro-hydraulic braking with the new comfort functions Stop & Go Assist and Start-Off Assist, AIRMATIC DC suspension, adaptive front airbags and belt force limiters as well as tailgate opening or closing at the press of a button.
The EASY-PACK system from Mercedes-Benz comprised a series of detail solutions for intelligent load compartment management designed to significantly improve the versatility, functionality and safety of the estate car. The EASY-PACK system included newly developed, asymmetrically split rear seats, which could be folded down completely with just a few movements of the hand to create a large, flat cargo area in the rear. Ranging between 690 and 1,950 litres (VDA measuring method) depending on the positions of the rear seats, the capacity of the luggage compartment was up to 90 litres (15 per cent) higher than in the predecessor model for the most frequent loading options and if using the stowage space in the spare wheel well.
Another innovation was the hydraulically powered EASY-PACK load compartment floor (optional), which, at the press of a button, moved 400 millimetres to the rear to facilitate the loading and unloading of heavy items. For customised partitioning of the luggage compartment and safe securing of cargo, Mercedes-Benz had developed a special EASY-PACK load compartment package (Fixkit) with telescopic rod, belt reel and four anchoring lugs, which were locked in two aluminium rails by practical base elements.
The chassis of the new estate was based largely on the state-of-the-art axle systems that had already guaranteed maximum safety, agility and comfort in the E-Class saloon launched in March 2002. The all-aluminium independent multi-link rear suspension came as standard with a level control system that, unlike the previous hydro-pneumatic system, was based on fully load-bearing air springs. These allowed load-independent level control, the spring travel at the rear axle remaining unchanged in all loading situations in order to ensure maximum ride comfort. The AIRMATIC DC suspension system, which always adapted the shock absorber force and spring rate to the particular driving situation, was optionally available for the E-Class estate.
The styling of the estate was based on that of the saloon: tilted elliptical twin headlamps with clear glass lenses, a redesigned radiator grille and the exciting, forceful interplay of forms between wing and bonnet were characteristic features of the front-end styling that gave the E-Class its expressive face.
With the sweeping lines of the roof, roof pillars and beltline, the designers succeeded in styling the sides of the estate with a dynamism that matched the front end. A special contribution to this styling was made by the arched contours of the side windows, which stretched the body, harmonising with the dynamic form of the roof. Another key feature of the side section was the shoulder line, which ran from the headlamp to the tail light, providing a balance between lines and surfaces.
While having an identical wheelbase (2,854 millimetres), the estate was longer (4,850 instead of 4,818 millimetres) and taller (1,496 instead of 1,452 millimetres) than the saloon. The width of both bodies was the same at 1,822 millimetres.
For the new E-Class, the designers had developed a comfortable interior with high-grade materials offering the quality and value appeal typical of a Mercedes-Benz. Perfect long-distance comfort was provided by standard-fitted automatic climate control, newly developed seats and state-of-the-art assistance systems. An optionally available innovation was the efficient THERMOTRONIC four-zone air conditioning system with a microcomputer that measured and proportioned the temperature separately for driver and front passenger as well as for the passengers in the rear outer seats. Another world first was the dynamic multi-contour seat, which afforded even greater personalised seating comfort. It contained several air chambers that automatically inflated or deflated to suit the driving situation in order to provide both driver and front passenger with perfect lateral support when cornering.
Three independent design and equipment lines, CLASSIC, ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE, catered for a variety of customer preferences. Even the basic CLASSIC model came with a CD car radio, automatic climate control, Sensotronic Brake Control, sidebags and windowbags, fine wood trim, light-alloy wheels and numerous other safety and comfort features. The highlights of the ELEGANCE line included subtle touches of chrome on bumpers, side guard strips and door handles as well as a louvred radiator grille painted in atlas grey. The AVANTGARDE line stood out with its independent, dynamically styled bumpers and side skirts as well as cockpit instruments with white dial faces. The standard equipment on this model also included high-intensity bi-xenon headlamps and LED brake lamps.
The new E-Class estate also proved its worth as a taxi. The taxi version of the estate was launched in April 2003 at the Auto Motor International in Leipzig. Mercedes‑Benz was the only manufacturer to optionally equip taxi models with all the connections necessary for the integral installation of radio voice and data transmission. The E-Class estate impressed with its highly flexible interior design. The load compartment could be fitted with an additional bench seat for two children up to around 1.50 metres in height. When not in use, the seat was fully retractable into the load compartment floor. This allowed the transport of groups of up to six passengers plus driver.
From autumn 2003, 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive was available for the estate in combination with the state-of-the-art six-cylinder petrol engines. Customers could choose between the E 240 4MATIC and E 320 4MATIC estates.
The E 500 and E 500 4MATIC (225 kW/306 hp) top-of-the-line models as well as the E 55 AMG with the 350 kW (476 hp) AMG V8 engine also became available in estate versions at the end of 2003.
In October 2003, Mercedes-Benz became the world's first automotive manufacturer to offer the combination of EU 4 emissions standard and diesel particulate filter for its high-selling diesel cars. This initially applied to E-Class and C-Class models with four-cylinder CDI engines. In early 2004, the six-cylinder CDI engines in the E-Class followed suit with EU 4 and diesel particulate filters. Using no additives, Mercedes-Benz's particulate filter system remained effective over very high mileages - depending on the particular use profile and therefore without fixed replacement intervals. Thanks to the new particulate filter system and state-of-the-art CDI engines with common rail direct injection, four-valve technology, exhaust gas recirculation and oxidation catalytic converters, Mercedes-Benz had reduced particulate emissions by around 87 per cent since 1995. Mercedes-Benz engineers had been developing processes for reducing particulate emissions since the 1980s. In 1985, Mercedes-Benz became the world's first car-maker to install particulate filter systems in diesel saloons destined for California. The experience gained with this programme formed an important foundation for the development of the innovative filter technology.
In late 2004, the E 350 was launched with a new six-cylinder engine that was among the most powerful V6 engines in its displacement class. Delivering 200 kW (272 hp), it developed its peak torque of 350 Newton-metres from as low as 2400 rpm. It thus bettered the previous E 320 six-cylinder model by over 21 per cent on power and by 11 per cent on torque, while petrol consumption was lower by up to 0.7 litres per 100 kilometres. The E 350 estate accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 7.1 seconds (saloon: 6.9 seconds). The top speed increased to 250 km/h.
Made of aluminium, the V6 engine was distinguished by a unique technology package containing variable camshaft control of the intake and exhaust valves - a world first on a V6 engine. While raising both output and torque, this technology also improved the fuel economy (NEDC combined consumption of 9.9 litres per 100 kilometres). The 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission came as standard on the E 350.
Available from March 2005 for petrol-engined models (except E 240), a Sports package allowed Mercedes-Benz customers to underscore the dynamic character of their E-Class even more than before and to customise their saloon to an even greater extent. The Sports package included details that were not individually available, such as high-sheen 18-inch light-alloy wheels with a ten-double-spoke design, wide base tyres of size 245/40 R 18 at front and 265/35 R 18 at rear, silver-painted brake callipers and perforated brake discs in front as well as oval exhaust tips of polished stainless steel. The rear bumper and side skirts came in the sporty design of the AVANTGARDE line. For example, the interior was upgraded with a four-spoke sports steering wheel with integral buttons for operating the automatic transmission, stainless steel pedals and footrest with black rubber naps as well as front seats with anthracite-coloured leather covering of the middle sections. The new equipment package also included a sporty suspension, more direct steering with a speed-dependent parameter function as well as special rear mufflers for a full-bodied sound.
Mercedes-Benz moved into the fast lane in the first half of 2005 with the launch of new six-cylinder models. This programme was based on newly developed V6 engines that were among the best in their displacement classes in terms of output, torque, fuel economy and environmental compatibility. While the E 280 CDI and E 320 CDI were powered by diesel engines, the petrol-engined 170 kW (231 hp) E 280 was an addition to the E 350, which had been launched the previous autumn. The E 280 superseded the E 240, bettering it by over 30 per cent on output and by 25 per cent on torque. Both petrol-engined models were also available with permanent all-wheel drive in the form of the E 280 4MATIC and E 350 4MATIC.
Simultaneously with the launch of the E 280, the E-Class diesel line-up was also updated with the new E 280 CDI and E 320 CDI. The E 280 CDI had an output of 140 kW (190 hp) while delivering its peak torque of 400 Newton-metres from as low as 1400 rpm. The E 320 CDI was powered by Mercedes-Benz's new 165 kW (224 hp) six-cylinder diesel engine, which, in combination with the (optional) 7G-TRONIC, developed 510 Newton-metres of torque - the maximum in its displacement class.
From July 2005, the new diesel models were also available with 4MATIC. The combination of V6 CDI engine and permanent all-wheel drive in the E 280 CDI 4MATIC and E 320 CDI 4MATIC met many drivers' needs for a powerful, yet economical vehicle for all weather conditions. Together with the petrol-engined E 280 4MATIC, E 350 4MATIC and E 500 4MATIC, the successful E-Class was now available in a total of five all-wheel-drive variants.
In autumn 2005, Mercedes-Benz brought out a diesel soot filter retrofit package for its E-Class and C-Class. In offering an efficient retrofit solution, Mercedes-Benz made an important contribution to active environmental protection. On 1 March 2005, Mercedes-Benz became the world's first automotive manufacturer to announce that, from summer 2005, all of its new diesel-engined passenger cars, from the A- to the S-Class, in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland would be fitted as standard with diesel particulate filters. A combination of Euro 4 emissions standard and diesel particulate filter had already been optionally available since 2003.
From summer 2005, crash-responsive NECK-PRO head restraints were fitted as standard in the E-Class. These reduced the risk of whiplash injuries in a rear-end collision. In a rear-end collision of defined impact severity, a preloaded spring was triggered inside the head restraint. Within a fraction of a second, this moved the head restraint forwards by about 40 millimetres and upwards by 30 millimetres to provide timely support to the head of both driver and front-seat passenger. The E-Class's excellent occupant safety had been recognised shortly before by the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in an accident analysis of all US-registered passenger cars: the Mercedes-Benz E-Class achieved the best results of all the models tested.
Since the spring of 2002, worldwide sales of the current E‑Class had totalled around one million vehicles - including approximately 140,000 estate versions. In 2006, after a four-year production span, Mercedes-Benz launched the new generation of its globally successful E-Class.