For years Mercedes-Benz engineers have methodically developed automotive safety technologies with more ‘firsts’ than almost any other manufacturer. From 4-wheel anti-lock brakes to SRS airbags with seat tensioners to electronic stability control, the latest line of Mercedes exude the aura of cutting edge safety.
The healthy options list includes additional safety features such as lane departure and drowsiness warning systems. Alongside voice navigation, a rear camera and seat massage and the technology at your fingertips seems overwhelming. Fortunately the COMAND interface has improved to be usable and reliable if not immediately intuitive. A thorough review of the owner’s manual remains necessary to get the most out of the car’s features.
Much has been made of the E-Class’ new styling with comments ranging from overwrought to elegant and modern. In the metal, the crease along the side of the car seems forced on darker colors, though lighter metallic hues soften the effect. Close inspection reveals paint quality is top notch and the car looks expensive if a bit exaggerated.
Exterior styling is not as shocking as BMW’s now infamous flame surfacing, but the overall effect of the new E-class takes away from the stately appearance that Mercedes carefully cultivated over the years. There are simply too many cars on the market with similar styling elements such as the Hyundai’s new Sonata. The best view is straight on where the wedges, creases and a purposeful grille come together in a harmonious, unique and aggressive face.
As mentioned earlier, the interior styling is functional with high quality materials and a healthy dose of brightwork which is the current fashion. A bit of restraint could have elevated the feel to Audi levels of refinement, but the view from the driver’s seat is well executed and all controls are ready-at hand.
No matter which camp you’re in, everyone will agree that the styling is miles ahead of the Chrysler era ovoid look, if not as elegant as other previous generations.
Mercedes and value are rarely used in the same sentence as the brand’s pricing structure has typically placed it out of reach for many who would appreciate owning one. This has changed. At a base price of approximately $48,600, the E350 represents a solid value when carefully compared against other mid-size European sport/luxury sedans. When driving it, you notice that it feels worth every penny in that price. Other brands may offer similar content for less, but on the road the new pricing structure should make the owner proud of the purchase.
Of course the E350 is the entry point on the E-Class ladder, but next rung E550 still represents an equivalent, solid value. With more than 100 more horsepower and additional luxury items standard, some will easily justify the additional tariff.
People who drive Mercedes-Benz are loyal to the brand and seek its essence from series to series moving up and down the model range as lifestyles change. Historically Mercedes has represented a unique blend of luxury and refinement along with rigorous attention to engineering detail. The new E-Class drives like nothing else in its competitive set. Whether that’s good or bad depends on what you seek. For Mercedes loyalists it will deepen their commitment to the marquee. For others, there may be better choices in faster or equally luxurious cars for less money. Ultimately none of it matters for the right buyer because the new E-Class can stand apart for what it is and because it is a true Mercedes.
Many thanks to Jon Chesnutt of Mercedes-Benz, Audi, & Porsche of Albuquerque for arranging this test drive.
|Official website for Mercedes-Benz cars, hybrids, and SUVs – www.mbusa.com|
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