After a production period of four years and around a million vehicles sold Mercedes-Benz refined the design of the E-Class and further perfected its engineering with new CDI diesel engines, windowbags as standard and state-of-the-art electronic assistance systems. In the course of the 1999 facelift more than 1800 components of the world's most successful car in this market segment were modified or improved. From mid-July 1999 the new version of the E-Class was available from Mercedes-Benz sales and service outlets and sales partners.
Despite the greatly expanded standard equipment, the prices of the estate (like the saloon) only increased by an average of 2.9 percent, giving Mercedes customers a financial advantage compared with the time before the facelift with a price advantage of up to 2800 marks depending on the model version. Since its presentation in 1996 the estate had accounted for an ever-increasing share of the E-Class orders: by the 1999 facelift almost every fifth Mercedes-Benz E-Class was a S 210 series estate car.
The striking four-eyed face of the E‑Class that set design trends in 1995 now boasted a new and further evolved design. This reinforced the dynamic look of the estate with a front section lowered by approximately two centimetres in conjunction with a redesigned bonnet and radiator grille and a bumper covering that was now seamlessly integrated into the body. The design of the front wings was also slightly modified and enabled a flatter and deeper fitting position for the headlamps. The exterior mirror casing, tail lights and roof rails of the estate were also restyled.
Two CDI engines offering up to 42 percent more torque than their predecessors made their début in the facelifted E-Class. The five- and six-cylinder diesel engines had common-rail direct injection, chargecooling and a turbocharger with variable turbine geometry. The E 270 CDI delivered 125 kW (170 hp) and developed maximum torque of 370 newton metres from 1600 rpm - approximately 23 percent more than the previous five-cylinder diesel engine. And the fuel consumption was equally impressive at just 6.9 litres per 100 kilometres (NEDC combined fuel economy, saloon).
The new E 320 CDI with six cylinders developed even more tractive power. The 145 kW (197 hp) direct injection diesel engine delivered maximum torque of 470 newton metres from 1800 rpm and this stayed constant up to 2600 rpm. This meant that the 3.2-litre engine had more than 42 percent more torque than the previous six-cylinder diesel engine in the E-Class and at the same time set a new benchmark among comparable passenger car engines. In the European Driving Cycle the six-cylinder engine was satisfied with just 7.8 litres of diesel per 100 kilometres (NEDC combined fuel economy, saloon).
The two economical four-cylinder CDI engines, which Mercedes-Benz added to the E-Class range in July 1998, were also given the new variable turbocharger. This increased the power of the diesel engines by up to 14 percent and meant that the E 200 CDI now delivered 85 kW (115 hp) and the E 220 CDI 105 kW (143 hp). At the same time the torque of the four-cylinder engines increased by 15 newton metres to 250 and 315 newton metres respectively.
The E-Class engine line-up still included the established petrol engines with four, six and eight cylinders. In addition to the E 280 and E 320, the eight-cylinder E 430 was now also optionally available with innovative 4MATIC all-wheel drive. A total of nine engines were now available for this E-Class estate generation with power output ranging from 105 kW (143 hp) in the E 220 CDI to 260 kW (354 hp) in the E 55 AMG. The E 280, E 320 and E 430 were available with 4MATIC all-wheel drive.
A six-speed transmission as standard for models with diesel and petrol engines with displacement of up to 2.8 litres was introduced as a new feature in the E-Class. The sixth gear was designed as an overdrive and greatly reduced the speed level of the engine during motorway driving. This enabled drivers to save up to 0.5 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres depending on the driving style, route and engine type. Thanks to sophisticated multiple-cone synchronisation for the 1st to 4th gears the new transmission was characterised by very smooth gear changing. The gearshift force was reduced by more than 25 percent compared with the previous five-speed transmission. The five-speed automatic transmission was now fitted with an electronically monitored Touchshift as standard, which greatly enhanced the operating comfort.
Mercedes-Benz continued the successful design and equipment line concept in the facelifted E-Class. The CLASSIC, ELEGANCE and AVANTGARDE variants were now distinguished by an even more individual design, reinforcing their independent character. All lines offered a greatly expanded range of standard equipment with innovative safety features such as the electronic stability programme ESP®, windowbags and also the multifunctional steering wheel adopted from the S-Class, which greatly facilitated operation of the car radio and car phone. The new operating and display concept for the E-Class also included a clearly arranged central display in the instrument cluster. Not only did it inform the driver about the functions of the standard stereo car radio, car phone and other systems, it also enabled individual settings to be programmed with buttons on the steering wheel.
Further innovations adopted from the S-Class were optionally available: actively ventilated comfort seats for driver and passenger, the dynamic navigation system (DynAPS) and the modern cockpit management and data system COMAND with integrated stereo radio, cassette player, TV receiver and navigation system.
From mid-2000 a new two‑litre compressor engine provided an even more dynamic driving experience in the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The four-cylinder engine, which was also fitted in the new C-Class and CLK, delivered 120 kW (163 hp) and replaced the previous two‑litre engine in the E 200 (100 kW/136 hp). This enabled the maximum speed of the E 200 estate to be increased by 14 km/h to more than 200 km/h. The new compressor engine developed maximum torque of 230 newton metres from 2500 rpm, exceeding the figure achieved by the naturally aspirated engine by around 21 percent. The time that the estate took to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h was cut by 0.9 seconds to 10.1 seconds. As the cutting-edge four-cylinder engine had constant maximum torque over a wide speed range of 2500 to 4800 rpm, the new E 200 mastered sudden bursts of speed in fourth or fifth gear effortlessly. For example, acceleration from 60 to 120 km/h took just 19.6 seconds in fifth gear. Despite the higher power output and the impressive performance the new E 200 consumed up to 0.2 litres less fuel over 100 kilometres than before. The NEDC combined fuel economy was now 9.1 litres for the saloon and 9.6 litres for the estate. With the new compressor engine the E 200 complied with the strict EU 4/D4 exhaust gas limits, which meant that German drivers were entitled to a tax bonus of 600 marks when this Mercedes model was registered for the first time.
The E 240 also acquired a new engine. The displacement of the new V6 M 112 E 26 engine increased from 2398 cubic centimetres in the predecessor model to 2597 cubic centimetres. Despite the same power output of 125 kW (170 hp) the engine now developed approximately seven percent more torque than before: 240 newton metres were now available at 4500 rpm compared with the previous 225 newton metres. This change was particularly noticeable when accelerating. The new E 240 as a estate sprinted from 0 to 100 km/h in 9.5 seconds. The top speed increased to 219 km/h and at 11.8 litres per 100 kilometres (NEDC combined fuel economy) the fuel consumption was only slightly higher than the previous E 240 estate. The exhaust emissions of the E 240 were below the limit values specified in the EU4 standard.
When the new E-Class saloon was presented in March 2002, the estate was initially kept in the programme. The new Mercedes-Benz E-Class estate followed in the spring of 2003 - precisely 25 years after the first upper executive category estate from the 123 model series. Since 1978 the Stuttgart brand had produced a total of 794,000 E-Class estates. Between 1996 and 2001 alone, with the S 210 Mercedes-Benz increased its share of this vehicle segment from 19.7 to 26.9 percent. In Germany the E-Class estate achieved a market share of 29 percent in 2001, whilst in the USA the Mercedes estate drove the market share up from 13.9 percent in 1996 to almost 34 percent in 2001. The estate not only convinced existing customers, it also delighted many first-time Mercedes-Benz buyers: in 2000 and 2001 these first-time buyers accounted for around 40 percent of E-Class estate sales.