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. Around 2000 component had been either newly developed or improved for the W 211 model series 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 were enthusiastic about the new E-Class, around 30,000 orders being received within just a few days of the market launch of the new-generation W 211.
Customers now had a choice of 16 saloons. Mercedes-Benz thus offered the largest and most versatile line-up of models in this market segment. With a power range from 100 kW (136 hp) to 378 kW (514 hp), the new-generation E-Class exceeded not only the previous model range (90 kW/122 hp to 350 kW/476 hp), but also its competitors in all displacement and power categories.
Six of the ten engines in the new-generation E-Class had been newly or further developed, offering up to 60 kW (82 hp) in added power and up to 70 Newton-metres of extra torque. Nevertheless, fuel consumption was still at the same exemplary level as the previous models, with average fuel economy across all body and drive variants, from the E 200 CDI to the E 500, being only around nine litres of the respective fuel per 100 kilometres. 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 5.3 seconds - 0.7 seconds faster than the previous E 500.
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 saloon accelerated from rest to 100 km/h in 4.5 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.
From July 2006, the new generation of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class was available ex factory with a ballistic protection package. E-Guard models offered protection according to resistance class B4. The E-Guard E 320 CDI was launched as a new, third model alongside the E-Guard E 320 and E-Guard E 500. Mercedes-Benz became the world's first automotive manufacturer to offer a diesel-engined model with special protection ex factory.
The face-lifted E-Class was also available with a special taxi package. This included such features as a taxi emergency alarm system, pre-wiring for a wireless hands-free system, a roof antenna for taxi radio and provision for connection of the roof-mounted sign on taxis.
The face-lifted Mercedes-Benz E-Class also set international standards in environmental compatibility: in the USA, the E 320 CDI had already since 2004 been the first diesel-engined car on offer in the luxury class segment. From the 2007 model year, there now followed in the USA the first mass-produced diesel-engined car with trend-setting BLUETEC technology, which significantly further reduced nitrogen oxide emissions in particular. In time for the introduction of low-sulphur diesel fuel (Ultra Low Sulphur Diesel, ULSD) in the USA, the E 320 BlueTEC was launched there in October 2006.
At the time of its entry onto the market, the E 320 BlueTEC was the world's first and only diesel vehicle capable of meeting the US's extremely stringent BIN 8 emissions standard, especially in relation to nitrogen oxide emissions. Available in the USA (45 states) and Canada, the E 320 BlueTEC consumed up to 30 per cent less fuel than comparable petrol-engined vehicles in North America. Its huge range of up to 1,200 kilometres on a single tank also made the E 320 BlueTEC especially suited to US driving conditions.
BlueTEC is a modular exhaust treatment system for reducing nitrogen oxides, which, in 2006, were the only exhaust-gas components where a diesel engine had a higher, design-inherent concentration than a petrol engine. Mercedes-Benz had developed BlueTEC in two versions: the E-Class combined an oxidation catalytic converter and a particulate filter with a further-developed, especially long-life NOx storage catalytic converter as well as with an additional SCR catalytic converter. The second BlueTEC version was even more effective. AdBlue, an aqueous, harmless fluid, is injected into the exhaust gas stream. This releases ammonia, which, in the downstream SCR catalytic converter, reduces up to 80 per cent of the nitrogen oxides to non-toxic nitrogen and water. Which BlueTEC system was used in a particular vehicle depended on the vehicle concept and weight as well as on the deNOx requirements.
BlueTEC technology had already been in successful use in Mercedes-Benz and Setra commercial vehicles since early 2005. The E-Class was one of the show cars used by Mercedes-Benz to demonstrate the new emissions technology prior to the launch of the E 320 BlueTEC.
Ahead of its launch, the E 320 BlueTEC proved itself on an exceptional long-distance journey: on 21 October 2006, 33 diesel-engined E-Class models set off on a long-distance drive from Paris to Beijing. The journey between Europe and Asia passed much of the time along the route of the first transcontinental car race in history, which had taken place on 10 June 99 years earlier, leading from Beijing to Paris in 62 days. In addition to the 30 E 320 CDI, the field also included three E 320 BlueTECs.
The following year, motoring journalists from 22 countries voted the E 320 BlueTEC "World Green Car". Mercedes-Benz was presented with the award on 5 April 2007 at the International Auto Show in New York.
The E-Class was also the basis for launching BlueTEC on the European market, the E 300 BlueTEC with state-of-the-art emissions management being made available in the autumn of 2007. Impressing with its outstanding environmental, economic and dynamic credentials, the 155 kW (211 hp) three-litre V6 engine with plentiful torque of 540 Newton-metres consumed just 7.3 litres of diesel fuel per 100 kilometres.
BlueTEC technology effectively reduced the vehicle's emissions by means of a whole range of measures. In a first step, in-engine optimisation reduced the formation of nitrogen oxides. The other steps included reducing the compression ratio to 16.5:1, using special piezo injectors with a lower hydraulic through-flow, optimising the design of the turbocharger with variable turbine geometry, optimised regulation of exhaust gas recirculation with an increased recirculation rate as well as the use of ceramic glow plugs to guarantee fast cold starting every time with reduced compression.
The centrepiece of BlueTEC in the E-Class was the exhaust aftertreatment system, which was specially tailored to the engine. This included the oxidation catalytic converter, which reduced the emissions of carbon monoxide (CO) and unburned hydrocarbons (HC) as well as an additive-free diesel particulate filter. An improved NOx storage catalytic converter with patented on-board ammonia generation was combined with an additional SCR catalytic converter to allow extremely low nitrogen oxide levels. This exhaust aftertreatment system required no additional service products.
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.
On 10 January 2009 at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Mercedes‑Benz unveiled the Series W 212 saloon as-the successor to the current E-Class. European sales of the new model began on 12 January 2009.
Since the launch of the 211 model series in 2002, 1.5 million vehicles had been sold worldwide. They included 1,270,000 saloons of the W 211 series as well as 230,000 estates of the S 211 series. The two most important markets for the E-Class were Germany and the USA, each making up about a quarter of total unit sales. The most popular engine versions in the E-Class were the E 220 CDI and the E 350, around 10 per cent of customers opting for each of these two models. In total, about 40 per cent of buyers chose a diesel engine.
The estate of the 211 model series was superseded in November 2009 by the 212 successor series.