• Jan 20, 2010
2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 Sedan - Click above for high-res image gallery

A November Nor'Easter had chewed its way up to New England, delivering a cataclysmic combination of rain and wind as we headed out on a late-night errand. Normally, such a prospect requires a potent blend of Italian roast and Krank20 to stay hyper alert. Instead, behind the helm of the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic, the going was serene and confident. In a word: Wow.

These moments of vehicular astonishment have thinned out in the last two decades. Just look around at the automotive landscape. Even more modest conveyances are kitted out like luxury cars of yore, packing tons of tech and safety features that were once the exclusive purview of the world's well-to-do. Can anything be impressive anymore? As a matter of fact, yes. The E350, as it strafed along the pavement, solid as granite and ready for anything, made us feel like true kaisers of the strasse. Horsepower-addicted auto reviewers have complained that the 3.5-liter V6 needs more spinach. Fine. You want speed, spring for the AMG E63 and shut up. But for the above-average family man, the E350 manages to transcend its asthmatic lungs, soft-spoken tiller and supple feet to foment serious respect, if not outright desire.



Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.

The new E-Class styling is crisp and classic, making the outgoing sedan look as dated as a cassette Walkman. Clapping eyes on the first pictures of the 2010 models showed a rear quarter panel distinctly reminiscent of a Chevrolet Impala – an obvious cause for alarm. Thankfully, the design translates more handsomely in person. No, that isn't the same milksop capitulation surrounding the Honda Crosstour. Scout's honor, the E350 is a great looking car. With its larger dimensions, the sedan resolves the styling in a classier way than the C-Class sedan and its two-door platform sibling, the E coupe.

Conservatively styled for traditional tastes, there's more surface work in the new body. Ovoid headlamps are now squared-up (one could almost use Ford's non-word "squircles") and the rear lamps swash across the tail more expressively than before. Mercedes-Benz hasn't gone off the Bangled deep-end with its latest E. No, this new idiom is sharper and more modern, with finely-tailored looks that have a certain amount of speed drawn in. There's motion in them thar lines and the details exude an air of automotive finery. Simply put, the E-Class will age well.




And classic styling is what's going on inside, too. The quintessential Mercedes cabin is a swell place to spend time, with the shape of the dashboard reminiscent of the panel in old W124s. But the interior design isn't as dated as that comparison might suggest, as the new E features a large LCD and spiffy gauges in the panel. Drawing a clear line back to its predecessors and packing the kind of high-tech firepower buyers in this class demand, the new E masterfully balances old and new. Although our tester's black ash trim brought the gloom and ash leather upholstery was already showing signs of being doomed to a life of clean-ishness, the pleating on the seats says "1987 300E" and what's wrong with invoking such a modern legend?

The materials, along with fit and finish, seem appropriately rich. There are touches of S-Class here and a dash of C-Class there, but the Mercedes parts bin is populated with good stock, so it feels familial instead of frugal. Lexus may be most recently identified with such fastidiousness, but the E350 displays an obsession with perfection. Even the headlight switch toggles with precision-machined feel, lending an air of importance to even the simplest task. There's virtually no slop in any of the ancillary controls, reiterating that the E-Class is one impeccably crafted automobile.



Around the interior, the expected high points are realized in good form. The optional Drive Dynamic seats act counter to cornering forces and offer a massage feature for those seeking a more intimate relationship with their chariot. The seats are all-day comfortable, but one of the first things we did was disable the groping functionality (we're fine with keeping this liaison platonic). Going with the standard power seats will keep $650 in your pocket, though the massagers are a boon to alertness on long slogs. If bladder-busting drives are your thing, perhaps the only thing better than groping seats and mechanical rollers would be integrated restrooms.

The rest of the technology in the E350 is surprisingly benign. COMAND isn't the epic agita-fest we expected, though the system needs fewer sub-menu steps and can be an outright distraction when delving deep into the structure. It's a good thing the Distronic Plus radar-based speed control is so amazingly good. Intervention is finely modulated, and the car even slowed itself to a momentary stop and accelerated again through a traffic circle with more aplomb than your average driver. The $3,950 Premium 1 package adds features many buyers will want, including hard-drive navigation, voice control, satellite radio, a rear view camera, heated seats and a dandy-good Harman Kardon Logic 7 audio system, while the $2,900 Driver Aid package installs the Distronic system, along with blind spot and lane monitoring. The sheer distraction of trying to use an iPod with the audio system means your eyes will be off the road for long stretches, so it's almost a necessity that the E can mostly drive itself. And while COMAND has lots of functionality built in, it's more clunky than iDrive or MMI, and stands a chance at flummoxing drivers just looking for directions to Bar Americain.



Thankfully, most of the functions have dedicated controls on the center stack. Switches for the ventilation system seem particularly well-considered and Mercedes employs little flippers that make setting temperature, fan speed and mode easy, with a clear bar graph displaying your settings. A column shifter for the seven-speed automatic transmission isn't exactly a sporting touch, but there are steering-wheel mounted shift buttons if you want to pose. Visibility out of the cabin was reminiscent of the low-cowl days of yesteryear, coupled with an airy atmosphere thanks to the glass roof. The biggest ergonomic gaffe is just Mercedes being Mercedes. To wit, the position of the cruise control stalk is exactly where the uninitiated driver expects to find the turn signals. You'll eventually adapt, but there's a period of unintentionally changing lanes without signaling, and not for lack of trying.

Though the E you see in the photos is a rear-drive example, our tester was equipped with Mercedes' all-wheel drive 4Matic system. Without trying the car in ultra-low traction situations (it was a downpour, not a blizzard), the AWD hardware didn't come into serious play as we formed our impressions of the driving experience. The ride proved just short of amazing, with a massively rigid bodyshell allowing the suspension to be topped up with whipped cream without shuddering and flopping about. Despite the plush ride, the E350 isn't all marshmallow – it's just more cushioned than a BMW 5 Series. And while there's a good amount of bodyroll, the E still feels reassuring as it heels over and takes a set. As you'd expect, this is not the sedan for hooliganism, though it won't make a total fool of itself if you force it to play along.




The helm is much sharper than Benzes of yore and even offers some feedback. Watching the tri-star hood ornament rotate through a turn like a gunsight makes up for having to correct mid-corner – something we experienced on more than one occasion. And for a 90-degree V6, the 268-horsepower 3.5-liter is impressively serene. Silent at idle, the engine is smooth and makes the most of its modest pride of horses when wound hard. It even snarls when caned, but it's nothing to set your heart aflutter. The buttery-smooth seven-speed automatic is best left to its own devices, so just ignore the silly, useless paddles and let the trans slides through its ratios without so much as a head bob. Despite having a cogtacular ratio spread, there's only so much power deficit the gearing can counter for, and the E350 is comparatively down on snort. Fuel economy also suffers a bit from the whipping you'll do to keep up.

The E350's stock in trade is being the seriously solid benchmark that we've come to expect. The extra-strong structure feels unbreakable, and there's a seemingly endless well of tricks to keep vibrations and harshness from entering the cabin. The brakes, too, proved unflappable – no surprise considering the myriad of electronics employed to keep the rotors dry and primed for action. Yet despite all the active and passive safety features (nine airbags, active headlamps and the Pre-Safe system which rolls up the windows, closes the sunroof, adjusts the seats and pre-tensions the belts if it senses an impending crash), the E350 doesn't drive like an autonomous space capsule – even when it suggests you stop for coffee when it detects drowsiness.



In the new E's most recent TV spots, Mercedes touts the decades of experience and innovation it brought to bear on the all-new E-Class. Strangely, this is one of those rare instances when marketing speaks truth. While the excellence does cost (the E350 starts at $49,000 and our tester rang in at around $60k), you won't feel ripped off, even if you opt for the V6. If past E-Class Benzes have lost the marque's storied status, the E350 is finally the vehicle to win it back, come hell, highwater or Nor'Easter.



Photos by Drew Phillips / Copyright ©2010 Weblogs, Inc.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 47 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      Sorry you had to read that. What horrid writing. Can we please get a re-write of this in more succinct english?

      I drove one of these for a couple of days recently - as a Hertz rental car no less! I was quite impressed. The handling was competent and I really liked the COMMAND interface (much better than my G37's). Engine performance was the biggest disappointment for me. And what's up with that coffee cup icon on the dashboard?
        • 4 Years Ago
        it detects if your drowsy while driving and suggests you pull over. Heres the explanation from wikipedia: Attention Assist - continuously monitors more than 70 different parameters to detect driver fatigue and tiredness. Once the system detects behaviour that typically indicates the onset of drowsiness, a warning signal is sounded and "ATTENTION ASSIST. Break!" appears in the instrument cluster.
        • 4 Years Ago
        FAIL! lol!!
        • 4 Years Ago
        You know, if you're looking for "more succint," there's always the specs list at the MBUSA website....

        -D
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hate what Benz is doing to their corporate nose. Why split the headlights into rectangular elements and then tack on DOUBLE fog lights beneath that. The split units contrast with the round lights beneath that-- the row of LED's on some models is equally bad.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Nice car. All it needs is more fog lights ;)
      • 4 Years Ago
      I just bought a C300: the ride is what sold me. I drove a Lincoln MKZ and a Caddy CTS-both drove like trucks compared to the Benz C300. The Benz doesn't quite have the power that the Linc and the Caddy have, but it returns 24 mpg and is quiet as a tomb on the bumpiest roads.
      • 4 Years Ago
      This review is misleading.
      The reviewed car has Conti summer performance tires
      How can this vehicle weather any snow storms???

      The author of this review would make us believe that this E350 4Matic with summer performance tires did a terrific job in a New England's noreaster?

      I doubt it...
        • 4 Years Ago
        Jim, you did read the part that notes the photo car is not the exact car we reviewed, right? Besides, it was a rain event, not snow/ice.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I guess I missed it because it was buried in the article
        I like reviews with actual pics of the vehicle and not press photos



      • 4 Years Ago
      Is it me or do the rear tail lights look like they came off of a Mitsubishi Galant?
      • 4 Years Ago
      How is this significant and mind blowing that an expensive all wheel drive car made it through the snow well?
      That is what it is supposed to do.
      When I had my A6 years ago, it was superb in the snow as well and was better than any SUV I had ever owned.

      As a Mercedes owner, I think the new E class is just ugly.
      I have no idea where Mercedes is going with their designs lately but Audi is cleaning their clocks in the looks department. And the new 5 Series looks fantastic compared to this thing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        If you read the piece, you would have seen that it *wasn't* in the snow. It's not the fact that it can handle inclement weather well, the whole car is astoundingly solid, and it feels really well turned out.

        I wanted to hate it, really. After all, this car is where all of Chrysler's money went.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Bar none the most boring, most overdesigned pieces of sh6t in the world.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Boring? Clearly, you've never driven a Lexus.
        Overdesigned? It's German. What were you expecting? Besides, it could be worse. Go look at an Audi.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So two wrongs make a right?

        Doesn't change the fact that MB makes some of most bland, over-rated cars out there.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm still in shock after seeing several of these at the local M-B dealer in the low 50Ks with *vinyl* upholstery.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Just a note: squircle seems to be a word.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squircle
      • 4 Years Ago
      I keep reading auto reporters whine about the cruise control stalk, and I simply can't understand why. My wife has a C240. I drive it maybe twice a year, tops. I've never mistaken the cruise control stalk for the turn signal.

      It just isn't an issue, and the Mercedes cruise control stalk is far better positioned than Toyota's, and far easier to use than the GM stalk on the right side of the steering wheel with its fiddly rocker switch.
        • 4 Years Ago
        My family has 3 GM vehicles an none of them have the stalk on the right.
      JDM Life
      • 4 Years Ago
      Overall I like this Sedan. Very well crafted sedan....but I hope it holds up better in the long run. My best friends owns a 2000 C-Class and the interior is literally failing apart.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        That really surprises me, the W202 has historically been known for its unparalleled build quality, even in relation to new models. In fact, just last month I was in a '97 C280 with 450K miles that could very well have been brand new.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        2000 was just about the nadir of Mercedes quality. They've improved significantly since then.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        At least W202s have better interiors than E36s. Personally, my 97 holds up pretty well, but you can just feel a lot would break or pop off if you didn't handle it nicely.
        invisiblepigeon3
        • 4 Years Ago
        @JDM Life
        My mom got a brand new 1999 C230 Kompressor. That was seriously the worst car we've ever owned. Its build quality was worse than a Saturn we had. It had the worst interior ever, everything squeaked and rattled, it was extremely rough riding and loud over a perfectly smooth road. That was the car that put us at the Lexus dealership. Now we've got 4 Lexus.
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