|Mercedes-Benz E-Class Overview||2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 Photo Gallery||2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 Specs|
- Effortless highway cruising with a more engaging suspension than in previous models
- Abundant, useful and usable technology
- Glorious front seats designed for long haul comfort
- An aura of quality, engineering and safety reminiscent of Mercedes’ golden years
- Forced styling that results in an anonymity unfitting of the three pointed star
- Handling composure is compromised when hustled
- Materials and build quality are improved, but not quite best-in-class
It has been some time since I was behind the wheel of a mid-size Mercedes-Benz and I had forgotten how the brand’s DNA is still such a vital part of the experience. The door closes with a bank vault thunk. You sit in firm seats that will carry you through the next 500 miles alert and comfortable. And you are surrounded by the latest safety, luxury and convenience technologies.
Stepping into the new E350 immediately reminds you that you are in a Mercedes. Some say that the 2010 E-Class marks the return of Mercedes’ world class engineering and build quality to their mid-size cars. The E350 is certainly a well-built car, but with Jaguar, Audi and BMW now crowding the segment with similar virtues, is this renewed focus on quality and engineering enough? Or is there something else beyond perceived quality that can distinguish the E-Class from the rest of the pack?
Entrance to the New E-Class Experience
Open the door and you’ll notice a sporting three spoke steering wheel complete with thumb rests and electric adjustment. Primary gauges straight are placed in a clear line of sight and the driver’s door features the classic Mercedes electric seat controls. From the driver’s seat the car is both familiar and fresh.
A quick look around the spacious cabin reveals a modern design replete with the latest technology. A clear, bright 7” LCD screen is easily scanned from the driver’s position. The console mounted COMAND (Cockpit Management and Data) system control that resembles BMW’s iDrive controller is well placed. While the COMAND navigation/radio/technology interface has made great strides in terms of usability, it is still just shy of intuitive.
Scan across the dash, doors and ceiling and splashes of bright work begin to distance this era of Mercedes from the more somber interiors of years past. While the materials are generally of high quality, the overall impression is that form has followed style. That said, front and rear headroom and legroom is generous and there is plenty of trunk space. The technology and interior dramatics dazzle at first, but the all-business seats quickly return your focus to the wheel and primary controls. Visibility is excellent for a car of this size and with the keyless go fob in your pocket you are ready to press Start and depart in what was once known as a Burgermeister’s car.
Despite Albuquerque’s relatively high altitude (6000 feet), the 3.5 liter, 268 hp V6 with its broad torque band pulled the 3800 pound car up long hills without protest. It doesn’t have the silken feel of BMW’s inline sixes, but it does not groan or thrash and has a mechanical sound of precision. Mercedes states that the E350 will run from 0-60 mph in 6.5 seconds, but it doesn’t feel quite that quick. It certainly has plenty of passing punch and a relaxed long distance pull, but the larger engine E550 will be the better choice for winning the stoplight grand prix. A notable virtue of the V6 is its relative efficiency, garnering 18 mpg in town and 26 on the highway; believable numbers that are competitive in this segment, especially knowing that it will likely deliver better performance.
The seven speed automatic transmission is brilliant with quick, smooth shifts in both directions. The steering wheel paddle shifters are a subtle, but an important part of the quick-shift equation. With this transmission you realize that the traditional automatic remains a very viable technology.
It does not take long for the steering and road feel to get your attention. While the E-Class is still a cruiser, you can actually feel what the front wheels are doing and the road beneath. Its rack and pinion precision is orders of magnitude better than the lifeless recirculating ball mechanism in your uncle’s old SL. It is still a little light for those with sporting intentions and when hustled through tighter curves, a fair amount of body roll conspires with the steering to compromise the car’s composure. That said, most E-Class buyers won’t seek out twisting mountain roads for entertainment.
It is the open road ride that stands out as the E-Class’ most pronounced Mercedes virtue. The fabulous seats can put passengers to sleep while keeping the driver alert. It tracks like a train and in this rear wheel drive version, the strut and multi-link suspension feels ready to go wherever you point it.
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