Mercedes leaves no market niche unfilled. In the last decade, the three-pointed star brand has taken a portfolio that was robust and injected it with steroids to achieve some vehicles that can only be described as neurotic. BMW, the market-leader not long ago, has pledged 40 new or updated models by 2020 to compete with their Teutonic neighbors.
Consumers who love crossover coupes and electric runabouts can rejoice at all this puffery, but these brands are still best measured by their staple sedans. There is no competition where BMW and Mercedes are more evenly matched than E-Class vs. 5 Series, and for 2018, both are fresh and ready to do battle.
More Alike Than Different
Back in the 1990s and early ‘naughts, this comparison would have been entirely predictable. BMW, the sports sedan company, delivers a businesslike interior and better on-road dynamics. Mercedes sacrifices nimble handling and delivers a more luxurious experience for the well-heeled socialite.
Now, however, things are different. Technology has allowed each company to toe the line further and further into the other’s “niche,” until what was a blurred line no longer exists at all. You can take your Mercedes to the track, and you can use your 5 Series as a limousine — and in both cases, life will go on quite pleasantly.
Still, while these cars might both strive to be the one-car-that-does-it-all, they are two distinct products and must be judged as such. To be fair, it must be said that within each model designation there are a cavalcade of trim levels that include hybrids, all-wheel-drive models, track stars and even a wagon for Mercedes fans.
Using the middle-of-the-road E400 in comparison against the brand-new for 2018 540i is the closest we can get to a head-to-head. Turbo sixes power both cars. Mercedes is more potent on paper, but we hear the bimmer is underrated. However, with both cars scraping 400 horsepower, it is a little concerning to hear that the Merc can have issues with braking.
Styling and Interior
The BMW benefits from coming fresh out of the design shop, and so it brings sharper lines than the E-class — which was initially penned for the 2014 model year and has since been refreshed. However, the Mercedes has aged well, and the E-class coupé is handsome on a level only a 2-door, which BMW doesn’t offer, can achieve.
Inside, the newer BMW offers a world-class infotainment system that is, of course, the latest iDrive interface. Both cars offer superb interior appointments, with the nod going to the Mercedes for overall interior stylishness — it’s just warmer and more inviting than the austere BMW.
The Final Word
Anyone who can put either of these cars in their garage should count themselves lucky. After all, no one said full-size German sedans were cheap. The BMW is new and exciting for 2018, but the halo will fade, and if you go this route, know that it offers slightly higher operating costs than the E-Class.
Even though it’s been on the market for some time, the E-Class remains relevant. It is perhaps the slightly more comfortable car, thanks to its comfy interior, but it does feel heavy on the road next to the new 5 Series. Will you be much happier in either one than driving a company car, though? Unquestionably.