1 Feb 1996
A larger and more complex car than the W124, the W210 E-class made up in space for what it lacked in visual grace.
In fact it was as spacious as the 1980s S-class SWB, as well as the safest ever Benz to date.
But the W210 was also 20 per cent cheaper to build, signalling the end of Mercedes’ ‘engineered-at-all-costs’ philosophy that was going to see the marque suffer significant quality and PR headaches over the next decade.
This was the E-class that also introduced Mercedes’ model variant names Classic (base) and Elegance (well-equipped).
From early ’96 to May ’98, the E230 badge returned – revealing a new 110kW/220Nm 2.3-litre DOHC 16V four-cylinder engine. From November ’96 it gained a five-speed automatic gearbox instead of the old four-speeder, while the hearse-like E230T also followed at the same time.
For performance the E36, with a 200kW/385Nm 3.6-litre in-line six-cylinder engine and four-speed automatic gearbox was available form May ’96 to July ’97.
More mundane was the E320, powered by a 162kW/315Nm 3.2 DOHC 24V in-line six-cylinder engine, with a four-speed auto until the five-speed auto arrived in late ’96.
This characterful and classic Mercedes engine was not to last however, as the company switched to the more compact but less charming 165kW/315Nm 3.2 V6s from July ’97.
From May ’98 the four-cylinder E-class was (temporarily) scrapped as the all-new V6 engine family produced a 125kW/225Nm 2.4-litre SOHC 18V opener as the E240 and E240T, while a 150kW/270Nm 2.8 SOHC 18V V6 E280 followed from September of that year.
For best fuel economy the E300 Turbo sedan’s 130kW/330Nm was available from July ’97.
At the other end of the spectrum the E430 arrived in January ’98, powered by a 205kW/400Nm 4.3-litre V8. Topping this though was the E55, with a 260kW/530Nm 5.4-litre V8 by Mercedes tuners AMG.
Significant changes were implemented in November ’99, with a host of mechanical, suspension and structural upgrades designed to make the W210 drive and behave more like a modern car. A sequential-shift facility was added to the five-speed automatic.
Revised cabin and trim alterations fronted by a near-invisible all-new nose and tail treatment.
This Series II W210 also ushered in the Avantgarde ‘sporting luxury’ model variant, as well as the return of the entry-level four-cylinder E-class in the form of the supercharged 120kW/230Nm 2.0-litre DOHC 16V E200K – K for Kompressor.
Much better was the E270 CDI, using advanced new injection technology to produce a quiet and efficient 125kW/400Nm from a 2.7-litre DOHC 20V five-cylinder turbo-diesel engine.
The W210 E-class re-emerged in 2005 with a bold new skin as the Chrysler 300C.