Although there are plenty of pretenders to the luxury throne in the midsize sedan area of the market, two models still pretty much reign supreme: the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class and the BMW 5 Series.
These two options represent the standard by which all others are still judged, so let's see how these two luxury legends stack up against each other.
The new E-Class borrows plenty of styling cues from the latest S-Class and C-Class models, and that's a very good thing indeed. A long hood and a short trunk lid profile laid over the longer wheelbase gives the E-Class a more relaxed look than its compact C-Class sibling, and the overall look is one of immense presence and sheer quality. Some fairly recent incarnations of the 5 Series used to be quite polarizing, but they certainly had a distinctive style all their own. The new 5 Series is a handsome car, but it's definitely becoming more conservative at a time when some rivals are going the other way. This is now an easy area for the E-Class to claim victory.
Anyone familiar with the previous E-Class will immediately notice there's more room inside the new model, which now puts more distance between it and the smaller C-Class. That means there's plenty of passenger and cargo space, such as the 36.5 inches of second-row legroom and 38.8 inches of front headroom. The materials used are as good if not better than anything in its class, and the style and quality is what you'd expect from Mercedes-Benz. There's no lack of passenger and cargo volume in the new BMW 5 Series either, and its trunk volume is especially impressive at 18.7 cu.-ft., compared to just 13.1 cu.-ft. in the E-Class. It doesn't quite measure up to the E-Class for passenger space, but the quality of materials and finish is on a par. While the edge is very narrow, we'll give this to the E-Class for the very important issue of space.
Power & Performance
You can have an E-Class powered by a four, six, or an eight-cylinder engine, with the choice of rear or all-wheel drive as well. The ride and handling is exceptional in all cases, and of course you can also have coupe and convertible versions of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class too. The standard engine is the 2.0-liter inline-four producing 241 horsepower, which gets the E 300 to 60 mph from a standing start in a useful 6.2 seconds. A 2.0-liter inline-four also powers the entry level BMW 530i sedan, which produces 248 horsepower and gets the BMW from 0 to 60 mph in 6.0 seconds. While we like the speed of the BMW engine, the multiple options available on the E-Class are impressive.
Features & Equipment
We're entitled to expect a lot in terms of features and equipment in a car as luxurious and prestigious as the E-Class, and this generation certainly doesn't disappoint. Standard options in the E 300 include cruise control; Bluetooth® with audio streaming, 17-inch alloys, power front seats, automatic climate control, remote start and keyless ignition, ambient lighting, dual USB audio ports and even navigation. BMWs used to be incredibly sparse until you started paying to add the good stuff, but it's not like that anymore. All 5 Series models come with 18-inch alloys with run-flat tires, a moonroof, power front seats, automatic climate control, a 10.2-inch infotainment touchscreen, navigation, LED headlights, Bluetooth® connectivity, and BMWs leatherette upholstery called SensaTec. We'll give this one to the BMW for their impressive package of features.
Now that we've put these legendary luxury cars head-to-head, it's easy to see why they are so dominant in the class. They're fairly equal in many ways, but in one area the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a clear winner: exterior styling. We also like the multiple engine options in the E-Class as well. It's the right option when you have to choose. *Bluetooth is a registered trademark of Bluetooth® SIG, Inc.