Brief history of the E-class

At the media drive of the new E-class in Lisbon last week, Daimler board member Thomas Weber described the car as "the heart of the Mercedes brand".

He was not exaggerating.

The E-class is Mercedes-Benz's most popular model, with more than 13 million units sold since 1953.

Although the lineage of the car goes back 63 years to the W120, the E-class was first used as a model name only in 1993, when the W124 sedan was facelifted and the letter E as a suffix (200E) became a prefix (E200).

Before that, the letter E stood for Einspritzmotor, German for fuel injection engine. The suffix has been used by Mercedes since the 1960s.

But by 1983, all Mercedes-Benz production cars already used fuel injection engines, so the E as a suffix became redundant. The carmaker made it a model name instead.

The W124 was renowned for its reliability. It is not uncommon to see this first-generation E200 and 200E on Singapore roads, even today.

In 1995, the W124 was replaced by the W210 that left its mark in two ways - it had opinion-dividing "bug eyes", and it was the first time the model was used as a taxi here.

In 1996, taxi operator CityCab inked a $30-million deal to put 30 E-class taxis on the road. When the taxis were launched, then CityCab chief executive Lim Hung Siang reportedly jested that he was blamed for the fall in local Mercedes distributor Cycle & Carriage's share price.

If there was such a worry, it has proven to be unfounded. The E-class continues to be used as taxis today.

When the latest model, the W213, was officially unveiled to the international press in Europe last week, the press materials referred to the preceding W212 as spanning two distinct generations of the E-class - before and after its 2012 facelift.

It confirmed what The Straits Times wrote in June 2013, that the facelift then was so extensive that the car could have easily qualified as an all-new model.

Toh Yong Chuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 12, 2016, with the headline 'Brief history of the E-class'. Print Edition | Subscribe