Weekend Wheels: Remember sedans? Mercedes-Benz’s E 450 is hard to beat

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Mercedes’ hybrid is everything that’s good about sedans.

Yes, we’re in love with SUVs. In love with the promise of grand adventures, of sittin’ up and ridin’ high, of being able to load Fido, or half the contents of The Home Depot, through that high-lifting tailgate.

But not so long ago, the object of our automotive affections was the sedan. Four doors, seats for five, and a trunk. Remember those?

To get a refresher on the joys of sedan driving, I’ve just spent a blissful week behind the wheel of Mercedes-Benz’s newest, the all-wheel-drive E 450 4Matic. 

Within minutes of selecting “Drive” and pulling away, I remembered why I miss sedans. The smoothness, the whisper-quiet refinement. The feeling of nimbleness and agility. The feeling of compactness.

The experience was a bit like watching an episode of Downton Abbey after a lifetime of Breaking Bad.

But four-door sedans like the E 450 are still hugely appealing and worth considering as perfect luxury family transportation.

And to heighten the appeal of this classy Merc even further, it has  recently been given a mild mid-life, nip-and-tuck facelift.

The key change here is the brand new turbocharged 3.0-liter in-line six-cylinder engine under the hood. It replaces the previous twin-turbo V6.

And the icing on the cake here is the addition of a 48-volt electric motor/generator integrated into the engine that throws an extra 21-horsepower into the mix. It’s there to assist the straight-six while the turbo spools up. Yup, it’s a hybrid.

Now gas and electric combine to deliver an impressive 362 horsepower and muscular 369 lb-ft of torque. It results in zero to 60mph acceleration in just 4.3 seconds along wth terrific high-speed cruising and eager mid-range thrust for safe, fast passing.

But the hybrid part also helps give the Benz exceptional fuel economy, like a combined 26-to-the-gallon average. In my week of driving I averaged just under 30mpg. And the 21.1-gallon tank will take you almost 550 miles at highway speeds. Impressive.

Design-wise, the makeover saw a few changes to that timeless body. New headlights and bumpers, new taillights and a fresh design of 19-inch alloys. Certainly more evolution than revolution, but a worthwhile refresh nevertheless.

What hasn’t changed is that lovely, roomy, versatile cabin and the kind of cavernous trunk that would make Tony Soprano proud. 

And the cabin pampers those inside like a spa at The Four Seasons. Heated and cooled massage seats are standard for driver and passenger, there’s a 13-speaker 590-watt sound system to entertain, and even a perfume container in the glove box that lets you spritz the cabin with your favorite fragrance.  

The twin glass screen instrument display is impressive with its pinch-and-swipe MBUX infotainment system, crystal-clear graphics and Alexa-style “Hey Mercedes” voice control. 

Luxuriating in the cabin, you can’t help but notice the remarkable craftsmanship, the quality of the materials, and the sheer style, luxury and elegance. It really does feel as if you’re riding in a slightly scaled-down version of the flagship S-Class.

And this new E 450 rides supremely well, its air suspension hoovering up lumps and bumps, while its nicely precise steering and 4Matic all-wheel drive add to the car’s agility.

As you might expect, the sophisticated E 450 doesn’t come cheap. A base car stickers at around $62,500, with a nicely-loaded version costing close to $80,000.

No, this latest E-class is unlikely to turn the tide of luxury SUV ownership, for which Mercedes is one of the key providers. But if gas prices continue to climb, maybe a few SUV owners might just be tempted back into a stylish four-door sedan, like the E 450.