Although not specifically identified as an E-Class, the first true Mercedes to fit the description is the W120 Pontoon Mercedes that debuted in 1953. Named Pontoon for its bulbous fenders, these early postwar vehicles had the letter "E" affixed to engine identification. A 2.2-liter engine, for example, was identified as an E220. E stood for the German name for fuel injection: Einspritzung.
E-Class of its Era
The W120 and W121 Pontoon were sold as 180 and 190 models through 1962, with the 190 featuring a slightly larger 1.9-liter 4-cylinder engine than its brother's 1.8-liter powerplant. The 190 also had more chrome flourishes. The Pontoons were powered by 1.8- and 1.9-liter 4-cylinder engines, and sat on a 104.3-inch wheelbase. Through its run, 468,844 were built.
The Mercedes W110 fintail cars, so called because of its small tailfins, was produced from 1962-68, and solidified its bonafides as an executive car, bringing it closer to the contemporary E-Class definition. The W110 was powered by a 1.9-liter engine through 1965, then a 2- and 2.3-liter 4-cylinder engine until the end of production.
Replacing the fintails was the W114, a completely redesigned and modern Mercedes in which many of the styling elements remain today. This vehicle was produced from 1968-76 with 1.9 million saloons sold. It was placed on a 108-inch wheelbase, measured 184.25 inches long. and featured a 2.5- and 2.8-liter inline 6 engine or inline 4s ranging from 2 to 2.3 liters. A 3-liter diesel engine also was offered.
The W123 was launched in 1977 with more than 2.3 million sold before production ended in 1985. Its wheelbase was lengthened by 2 inches and overall length to 186 inches. It remained wildly popular as an executive status symbol and reached its zenith, with its phenomenal sales figures, as the ultimate iconic German luxury car.
Name with the Face
With a facelift in 1994, the new W124 was finally christened the E-Class Mercedes-Benz, although it also continued with the traditional naming use of the "W" designation. This new generation was designed to perform well beyond the standard 150,000 to 200,000 mile life range, and also featured an estate model, or station wagon.
By 1996, the E-Class was equipped with more luxury appointments, putting it in the upper realm of luxury car stratosphere. In 2002, the W211 E-Class evolved into the luxury high-performance car to compete against the BMW 5-Series.
The German-built Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the automaker's mid-size executive series that comes in a variety of models and engine sizes. While the E-Class badge only began to appear on models in 1994, its can trace its lineage back to origins of Mercedes-Benz. However, it's during the postwar era that the car began to emerge as a complete mid-size E-Class luxury car.