4. Mercedes-Benz E-Class: Budget-priced S-Class
Base price range: $53,575-$105,225
With elegant exterior styling, a gorgeous interior, solid performance, and a full rack of the latest high-tech features, the elegant E-Class is a more modestly priced mid-size alternative to Mercedes’ full-size flagship S-Class sedan that also comes in coupe, convertible and station wagon variants. Continuing with only minor updates for 2016, the E-Class comes powered by a wide range of engines that includes a 195-horsepower four-cylinder turbodiesel in the base E250 as the fuel economy leader in the line at an EPA-estimated 28/42/33-mpg city/highway/combined.
Meanwhile, the volume-selling E350 packs a 3.5-liter 302-horsepower turbocharged gasoline V-6 while the E400 ups the ante by boosting that output to 329 horses. Those seeking added power and sportiness should consider the top S-Model E63 AMG sedan with its hand-assembled 5.5-liter 577-horsepower turbo V-8 and assorted performance-oriented upgrades, though that model is costlier the base version of the larger S-Class. A seven-speed automatic transmission is standard across the line, with all-wheel-drive optional (it’s included with the top sedan). The E-Class is sufficiently roomy inside, and offers an inclusive list of available features that includes the S-Class’ sophisticated adaptive “Distronic Plus” cruise control system that all but takes the wheel out of a driver’s hands on the highway. The dashboard controls get busy, as they so often do among cars of this class, and its unconventional stalk-mounted transmission shifter is oddly counter-intuitive to operate.