Series 211 saloons made their market debut In March 2002. This new E-Class was the eighth generation of Mercedes-Benz's upper mid-size line since the Second World War. Officially launched in January 2002 at the International Automobile Salon in Brussels, the new model series went on sale in mid-March.
The new E-Class saloon initially came with a choice of five engines: the E 240 was powered by a six-cylinder petrol engine delivering 130 kW (177 hp) from 2,597 cubic centimetres of displacement, while the E 320 came with a six-cylinder petrol engine that produced 165 kW (224 hp) from 3,199 cubic centimetres of displacement. The only version with eight cylinders, the E 500 led the model line-up at the launch of the model series with 225 kW (306 hp) from a displacement of 4,966 cubic centimetres. There were also two CDI engines: a four-cylinder engine in the 110 kW (150 hp) E 220 CDI (2,148 cubic centimetres of displacement) and a five-cylinder engine in the 130 kW (177 hp) E 270 CDI with 2,685 cubic centimetres of displacement.
Compared with the predecessor model, the fuel consumption of the new E-Class was lower by up to 0.9 litres per 100 kilometres. The maximum torque from the diesel engines rose by up to 8 per cent, attaining a new peak value in the E 270 CDI with 425 Newton-metres. The second-generation CDI direct-injection diesel engines featured a series of trend-setting technical innovations. For the first time, Mercedes-Benz equipped the four-cylinder engine in the E 220 CDI with two balance shafts, thus considerably reducing the levels of both noise and vibration. The model line-up was augmented in the second half of 2002 by the E 200 KOMPRESSOR (120 kW/163 hp) with a four-cylinder petrol engine (1,796 cubic centimetres of displacement) and the E 320 CDI (150 kW/204 hp) with a six-cylinder diesel engine.
The design of the new E-Class incorporated features such as the twin headlamp face of the previous W 210 model series, while re-interpreting them for a sporty and dynamic look. The distinctive face now sported slightly tilted twin headlamps and a clear glass lenses. The silhouette of the saloon, too, more clearly conveyed the values of sportiness and elegance.
With a host of technical innovations, the W 211 set new standards in vehicle safety, comfort and driving dynamics. A newly developed four-link front axle and multi-link independent rear suspension, mainly of aluminium, laid the technical foundations for exemplary agility, perfect cornering and handling at the level of a sports car. At the same time, the standard, electro-hydraulically controlled Sensotronic Brake Control (SBCTM) braking system as well as the ESP® Electronic Stability Program afforded maximum driving safety while helping the driver to cope better with emergency situations. SBCTM had first been unveiled in the Mercedes-Benz SL-Class a few months ahead of its large-volume premiere in the W 211 model series.
Mercedes-Benz enhanced the ride comfort with the new AIRMATIC DC (Dual Control) air suspension system, which simultaneously controlled the springing and damping using state-of-the-art microelectronics. Sensors monitored the road condition, driving style and loading of the saloon to allow AIRMATIC DC to continuously adjust the ideal shock absorber force and spring rate. In this way, the system resolved the previous conflict in suspension tuning between perfect comfort and high vehicle dynamics, meeting an extremely wide variety of customer requirements. The air suspension was standard equipment on the E 500 V8 top model and was optionally available for all new E-Class models.
Mercedes-Benz perfected occupant safety through newly developed, intelligent restraint systems that adapted to the particular occupant and accident situation. Thus, in addition to adaptive front airbags, the new E-Class was also equipped for the first time with two-stage belt force limiters and automatic weight classification for the front passenger. The Occupant Classification System registered the weight of the front passenger using a sensor mat in the seat cushion, assigned it to a weight category and reported the category to the central airbag control unit. In combination with the acceleration analysis performed during a collision, this sensor mat was crucial in determining the stage at which airbags and belt force limiters were deployed.
Such solutions were part of the PRE-SAFE® preventive occupant protection system, which interlinked the active and passive safety elements in Mercedes-Benz vehicles. In addition to the front bags, the airbags in the new E-Class included sidebags for the front seat passengers and large-area windowbags. Further components of the standard safety equipment comprised high-performance emergency tensioning retractors, automatic child seat recognition and rollover sensors.
Compared with the predecessor model, the body structure of the W 211 was characterised by even larger front-end deformation zones. In an impact, they allowed further improved impact energy absorption, while the passenger cell itself remained largely undamaged even in severe collisions. The new Mercedes‑Benz saloon thus satisfied the world's most stringent safety standards. The percentage of high-strength metal alloys offering maximum safety with minimum weight nearly doubled compared with the predecessor model. Mercedes-Benz produced the engine bonnet, front wings, boot lid and front and rear modules from aluminium.
For the new E-Class, the designers had developed a comfortable interior with high-quality materials offering the quality and value appeal typical of 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.
The Audio 50 APS radio as well as the innovative COMAND APS operating and display system were both equipped with an integral navigation processor. They featured graphics-capable colour displays that, in combination with a permanently installed car telephone, showed such items as text messages, emails and the online services of the Mercedes-Benz Portal. In another first, the new E-Class came with LINGUATRONIC voice control, which also controlled the navigation system.
In autumn 2002, the E 55 AMG high-performance saloon made its debut. This model was the most powerful Mercedes-Benz E-Class to date. Already familiar from the SL 55 AMG, the high-performance engine delivered 350 kW/476 hp at 6,100 rpm, developing a peak torque of 700 Newton-metres, which was available in a wide band between 2,650 and 4,500 rpm. Such tremendous power afforded extraordinary performance. The E 55 AMG took 4.7 seconds to go from 0 to 100 km/h, reaching 200 km/h in 16.1 seconds. The top speed was 250 km/h (electronically limited). Despite its sporty character, the AMG high-performance saloon was thrifty with fuel, consuming just 12.9 litres per 100 kilometres in the NEDC combined cycle. The exhaust emissions, too, were within narrow limits: at the time of its launch in 2002, the E 55 AMG already met EU4 limits that did not come into effect until 2005.
One of the technical highlights of the sophisticated AMG V8 supercharged engine was a supercharger, which, positioned between the cylinder banks, supplied a maximum pressure of 0.9 bar to the 5.5-litre eight-cylinder engine. Integral with the compact supercharger module was the charge air cooler, which operated according to the especially efficient principle of an air-water heat exchanger. Suspension, braking system and power transfer were adapted to the high power output of the E 55 AMG. Contact with the road was assured by wide base tyres of size 245/40 ZR 18 (front) and 265/35 ZR 18 (rear), mounted on attractive AMG double-spoke light-alloy wheels 8 inches in width at the front and 9 inches at the rear.
The interior style of the new Mercedes-Benz E 55 AMG was consistent with its dynamic exterior: the powerfully contoured AMG sport seats with independent piping design and AMG badges in the backrests featured an exclusive nappa/nubuck leather combination. The circular instruments in the E 55 AMG sported new dials with V8 Kompressor and AMG logos.
From spring 2003, the world's most powerful V8 passenger-car diesel engine to date was available in the Mercedes-Benz E 400 CDI. The standard equipment included a five-speed automatic transmission, electronically controlled AIRMATIC DC (Dual Control) air suspension system, THERMOTRONIC four-zone climate control, 17-inch light-alloy wheels and speed-sensitive power steering. The bi-turbo engine with common rail direct injection and other high-tech innovations developed 191 kW (260 hp) from a displacement of 3,996 cubic centimetres. Detailed optimisation of the engine, charge air cooling and exhaust system enabled Mercedes engineers to increase the power by 7 kW (10 hp) compared with the V8 diesel models in the S-, M- and G-Classes. The peak torque of 560 Newton-metres was available between 1,700 and 2,600 rpm. This allowed fast acceleration and powerful short bursts of speed: from a standing start, the E 400 CDI reached 100 km/h in just 6.9 seconds, demonstrating its considerable tractive power by accelerating from 60 to 120 km/h in 6.7 seconds. The top speed was limited to 250 km/h.
The bi-turbo engine attested further qualities in the European driving cycle consumption test, NEDC combined consumption being just 9.4 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres. A significant role in the considerable development of torque and output was played by the two exhaust turbochargers to left and right of the cylinder banks. Thanks to electronic control with double air-mass measurement, the bi-turbo system operated in synchronism, precisely matching the supply of combustion air to the instantaneous power demand. This was made possible above all by the variable turbine geometry according to the VNT (Variable Nozzle Turbine) principle with electrically and thus spontaneously adjustable guide vanes based on map data. Like all Mercedes-Benz CDI engines, fuel injection in the E 400 CDI was according to the common rail principle. However, the injection pump was specially developed for the eight-cylinder engine: intake throttling allowed it to be controlled as required - depending on the injection pressure - so that the fuel temperature fell by up to 20 degrees Celsius in the interests of reduced exhaust emissions and low consumption compared with a conventional system. The new eight-cylinder diesel engine more than complied with EU 3 exhaust limits especially thanks to a sophisticated catalytic converter system consisting of two near-engine mounted emission control systems in the form of oxidation catalytic converters, which became active shortly after cold starting to reduce a large proportion of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide through chemical bonding with oxygen.
From autumn 2003, the six- and eight-cylinder petrol-engined models of the W 211 model series were also made available with 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive. In the E 240 4MATIC, E 320 4MATIC and E 500 4MATIC saloons, the 4MATIC was combined with the standard ESP® Electronic Stability Program and 4ETS electronic traction control to assist the driver in critical situations. 4ETS guaranteed the ride comfort typical of a Mercedes-Benz, the system dispensing with conventional differential locks, which adversely affect comfort and handling in other all-wheel-drive cars. Instead, 4ETS selectively braked spinning wheels, transmitting the drive torque to the wheels with good traction.
Also from autumn 2003, Mercedes-Benz standard-equipped the E 500 with the new 7G-TRONIC automatic transmission, which not only significantly reduced fuel consumption, but also shifted faster and more comfortably than previous automatic transmissions. To achieve these ambitious goals, Mercedes engineers developed the first automatic transmission for a mass-produced car with seven forward and two reverse gears. Solutions such as the "sliding multiple downshift" allowed shorter shift times and greater responsiveness than with earlier automatic transmissions.
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.
Spring 2004 saw the launch of the E 200 NGT with bivalent natural-gas drive. The vehicle had been developed on the basis of the E 200 KOMPRESSOR. The 120 kW (163 hp) four-cylinder engine could run on either natural gas or unleaded premium petrol, it being up to the driver to decide which drive energy to use: using the keys in the multifunction steering wheel and the central display in the instrument cluster, the driver could switch between natural gas and petrol. Energy was stored in a 65-litre petrol tank as well as in a gas cylinder with a total capacity of 18 kilograms. The TWINPULSE supercharged engine was modified with additional air injectors on the underside of the intake manifold. A near-engine mounted pressure regulator with sensor and electromagnetic shut-off valve controlled the supply of natural gas to keep the necessary system pressure constant. The performance data in the two operating modes were very similar. For example, running on natural gas, the E 200 NGT took 10.8 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h - just 0.1 seconds longer than with petrol. On the other hand, natural-gas mode reduced the carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20 per cent compared with petrol mode. The first 16 customer vehicles of the E 200 NGT were handed over to employees of Ruhrgas AG at the Sindelfingen Customer Centre on 30 April 2004.
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 accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.9 seconds, 0.8 seconds faster than the E 320. 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 contributed to fuel economy (NEDC combined consumption of 9.7 litres per 100 kilometres - 0.2 litres per 100 kilometres less than the E 320). The 7G-TRONIC seven-speed automatic transmission came as standard on the E 350.
Available from March 2005 for petrol-engined models (exception: E 240), a Sports package allowed Mercedes 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. Taking just 7.3 seconds to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h, the new E 280 reached a top speed of 250 km/h. Both petrol-engined models were also available with permanent all-wheel drive as 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. With so much tractive power available at low engine speeds, the saloon accelerated from rest to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds. Its top speed was 238 km/h, while its fuel consumption was 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres. 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. The new CDI model accelerated from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.8 seconds, reaching a top speed of 250 km/h. Its fuel consumption was 7.3 litres per 100 kilometres.
The Mercedes-Benz V6 CDI diesel engine, which superseded the previous five- and six-cylinder in-line powerplants in the summer of 2005, began its career in world-record style: in three standard E 320 CDI models, the 165 kW (224 hp) engine covered distances of 100,000 kilometres, 50,000 miles and 100,000 miles, each in record time - and without problems. The impressive string of records from the drive, conducted on a high-speed track in Laredo, Texas, was followed up by further best-of-class achievements for a diesel vehicle. Despite the extreme loading, the maintenance-free diesel particulate filter operated perfectly over the entire record distance - yet further proof of the reliability and longevity of this emissions technology.
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, MercedesBenz 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.
Mercedes-Benz offered various special versions from the W 211 model series. A taxi package specially developed for the E-Class contained not only control and protection electronics suited to tough everyday use in taxis, but also a taxi emergency alarm system as well as taxi-specific upgrades. These included a larger alternator, a reinforced braking system with internally ventilated discs on all four wheels and an absorbent glass mat battery of increased capacity. Also included was a complete taxi-specific special wiring system for connecting taximeter, two-way radio and credit card reader. Optionally available was a taximeter integrated in the inside rear-view mirror as well as an efficient radio roof antenna that also combined the telephone and GPS feature for navigation. The taxi package could also be ordered at no extra charge with MB-Lex upholstery and two integral child seats. In addition, Mercedes-Benz was the only manufacturer to offer not just a conventional radio installation option as part of the taxi package, but also the pre-wiring for integrated voice and radio data transmission.
In 2003, Mercedes-Benz extended its line-up of globally proven special protection models with two specially protected E-Class saloons. The E 320 and E 500 were factory-equipped to comply with European resistance class B4, thus being capable of withstanding large-calibre gunshots. In addition to the comprehensively protected passenger cell, the standard equipment in the ELEGANCE line of four-seater E-Guard models included multi-layered glass with polycarbonate foil on the inside, which also served as splinter protection; electric window lifters in the driver's door and roller sun blinds on the rear side windows. The specially adapted suspension was distinguished by tyres (245/45 R 17) with emergency running characteristics, tyre pressure monitoring and light-alloy wheels with a 13-hole design. The E 320 E-Guard produced 165 kW (224 hp), while the eight-cylinder engine in the E 500 E-Guard developed 225 kW (306 hp) from its 5-litre displacement. The mandatory special equipment in the new E-Guard saloons included electronically controlled AIRMATIC DC (Dual Control) suspension, rear sidebags and an electrically operated roller blind for the rear window.
With a market share of around 30 per cent, in 2005 the E-Class was western Europe's No. 1 classic business saloon. In Germany, some 38 per cent of all buyers of a luxury class model opted for the E-Class saloon, which was thus the market leader in its home country for four years in succession. In total, Mercedes-Benz had sold around a million vehicles of the current E-Class worldwide since spring 2002 - including 860,000 saloons. In 2006, after a four-year production span, Mercedes‑Benz launched the new generation of its globally successful E-Class. Around 2000 components had been either newly designed or improved for this purpose.