(CNN)The Mercedes E-Class, a model line that includes everything from a two-door convertible to a high-horsepower performance station wagon, won this year’s MotorTrend Car of the Year award.
The E-Class impressed MotorTrend’s staffers with its mixture of classic luxury and modern, hi-tech performance, the magazine said in its announcement. The Mercedes E-Class includes four-door sedans, two-door coupes and convertibles and wagons.Mercedes’ win was surprising because the E-Class was not a completely new design but rather what’s known in the auto industry as a “mid-cycle refresh.” Automakers usually release an all-new, completely redesigned version of a car model every five years or so. In between, they do a major update, usually altering the appearance somewhat and perhaps offering new engine options and making other underlying changes.In this case, Mercedes’ reworking of the E-Class changed it from a good car to one with really outstanding performance, style and comfort, according to MotorTrend’s staffers.A sophisticated optional air suspension system provides a smooth ride but also good cornering performance, staffers said. The interior design mixes modern looking screens and vents with classic wood and leather, the report said.MotorTrend staffers were impressed with the interior design of the Mercedes E-Class, but not with its hard-to-use interfaces.Read MoreAlso surprising is the fact that this year’s award was given to nearly every version of the car in the E-Class’ current lineup. That includes the $54,000 Mercedes-Benz E 350, with its small four-cylinder engine, the $112,500 Mercedes AMG E 63 S wagon with its 603-horsepower V8 and the two-door E-Class Cabriolet and Coupe. Both of the two-door models are also available in high-performance AMG versions. All versions of the car were, surprisingly, very good, according to MotorTrend. Usually, with that many widely different variations, at least some would fall flat, MotorTrend judges said.MotorTrend staffers were particularly impressed with the E-Class’s driver assistance technologies, including its automatic braking function. Automatic braking, which will brake if the driver doesn’t respond quickly enough to a car stopping ahead, is common in new cars today. But Mercedes’ system also stops for cars and pedestrians during turning maneuvers, something most others don’t..The E-Class also has side blind spot detection, another assistance feature that’s commonly available on new cars. But Mercedes’ system warns of cars and bicyclists that are approaching when the car is stopped and someone is about to open a door.Back after 20 years, the Land Rover Defender is named MotorTrend SUV of the YearOne technology feature that did not impress the automotive media company’s staffers was the user interface system for drivers and passengers. The system can be operated by touching the display screen, using the touch-sensitive pad between the seats, sliding a thumb across tiny touch sensitive panels on the steering wheel or using voice commands. Using the system caused the driver to take their eyes off the road too often, according to MotorTrend’s staffers. And the car’s various functions required going through too many menus while the system’s responses to inputs, particularly from the steering wheel controls, were inconsistent, they said.MotorTrend Group, which encompasses the print magazine, web site and video outlets, gives out annual awards for Car of The Year, SUV of the Year and Truck of the Year. The Land Rover Defender was named SUV of the Year in October, while the Truck of the Year has not been announced yet.To be eligible for the Car of the Year Award, a model line must be either all new or substantially changed for the 2021 model year.