2011 E-Class New Car Test Drive
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is fresh from major revisions last year, and the lineup has now been filled out with the new 2011 E550 Cabrio.
The new Mercedes-Benz E550 Cabrio features an innovative soft top that's nearly one-inch thick with three layers of acoustic sound dampening, leaves good trunk space, and provides wind protection with the top down. The soft top disappears in 17 silent seconds, as Mercedes says. Mercedes claims the E550 is the most affordable V8 four-seat convertible on the market.
The Mercedes-Benz E350 and E550 sedans, coupes, convertibles and wagons are a technological tour de force, yet none of the new technology is intrusive.
The essence of the Mercedes E-Class cars hasn't changed. They retain the feeling of robustness and engineering excellence that has defined them for decades.
The E-Class sits in the middle of the Mercedes car line, between the compact C-Class and the big S-Class. It's the company's best-selling car worldwide, and as such it defines the brand's essence. Every E-Class model delivers an excellent balance of passenger space, luxury, style and impressive performance in a practical, manageably sized package.
The E-Class line includes a two-door Coupe joining the familiar sedan, with wagons and convertibles, too. The E-Class looks more angular and technical than it used to, but it is quite pleasing to the eye. The chassis is strengthened to improve crash protection, reduce vibration and sharpen handling, without adding weight. Yet if the new-generation E-Class cars have a theme, it might be their high-tech control and management systems. That's not surprising for a car that introduced a host of now-familiar features, from antilock brakes to airbags, to mass production.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class represents the most electronics-intensive model line Mercedes has offered to date, and most of the new computer-managed systems focus on safety. A new Attention Assist system that comes standard monitors up to 70 driving parameters to determine whether the driver is getting drowsy behind the wheel and uses both visual and auditory warnings to tell the driver to pull over for rest. The Distronic Plus cruise control option features both blind-spot warning and lane-departure warning technology, while automatic self-adjusting headlights automatically dim the brights. And those systems are just the start.
Beyond the technological wizardry, the E-Class remains what it has always been, only maybe a little bit nicer. Every model is smooth, quiet and appointed in elegant, understated fashion, with comfortable space for four or five passengers and a substantial load of luggage.
The new two-door Coupe might be the sexiest E-Class car ever.
The standard gasoline V6 in the Mercedes E350 models is more than powerful enough for most drivers. The 382-horsepower V8 in the Mercedes E550 models delivers the turbine-like, overpowered feel that characterizes Germany's best autobahn blasters. The turbocharged engine in the Mercedes E350 BlueTEC sedan is the smoothest, quietest diesel available in the United States. It delivers amazing bursts of acceleration for passing, with mileage that surpasses most other cars in this class by about 30 percent. Those seeking help through the worst of a northern winter can choose the 4MATIC all-wheel-drive system for the E-Class sedans and wagon.
The E-Class created a category of mid-sized luxury cars that has become one of the most competitive (and enjoyable) in today's automobile market. The 2011 E-Class models simply re-establish Mercedes credentials near the top of the class.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz E-Class includes four-door sedans, two-door coupes, convertibles, and a wagon, in 11 distinct models. E350 models come with a 3.5-liter V6. E350 BlueTEC models feature a 3.0-liter V6 turbo-diesel. E550 comes with a V8. All E-Class cars come with a seven-speed automatic transmission.
The E350 sedan ($49,400) comes with automatic dual-zone climate control, burl walnut trim, 14-way power front seats with position memory, an eight-speaker stereo with six-CD changer and Bluetooth interface, and 17-inch alloy wheels. The standard upholstery is cloth. The E350 BlueTEC sedan ($50,900) is equipped similarly except for its diesel engine. The E550 sedan ($57,100) comes standard with leather upholstery and a power sunroof.
All-wheel drive comes on the E350 4MATIC sedan ($51,900), E550 4MATIC sedan ($59,600), and E350 4MATIC wagon ($56,200).
The E350 Coupe ($48,850) and E550 Coupe ($55,450) are equipped comparably to the sedans.
The E350 Cabriolet ($56,850) and E550 Cabriolet ($64,800) resemble the two-door Coupe but feature a power-operated, three-layer fabric convertible top and other features intended to keep passengers comfortable for top-down driving. These new models feature the AIRCAP, a pop-up slim wing over the windshield that directs air over the cabin, and adjusts itself with the vehicle's speed. With a screen rising behind the rear seats, passengers are protected from wind buffetting.
The E63 AMG sedan ($87,600) features a 6.2-liter V8 that generates 518 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque. It adds a host of performance upgrades, including a seven-speed transmission with an automatic clutch rather than a conventional torque converter.
Options include Premium Package I with COMAND with navigation system, premium harman/kardon audio with HD radio and Sirius satellite radio hardware, heated front seats, rearview camera and rear-glass sunshade. Premium Package II includes Package I plus ventilated front seats, a bi-xenon active light system with automatic high-beam control and headlight washers, and keyless entry. Standalone options include rear-seat DVD entertainment ($1,850), Panoramic Sunroof ($1,590), split folding rear seat ($430).
Safety features include advanced antilock brakes (ABS) and electronic stability program (ESP). Active safety systems include Attention Assist drowsiness monitor. Standard passive safety features include nine airbags: dual frontal, driver's knee-protection, front-passenger side-impact torso, front passenger side-impact pelvis, and full cabin head-protection curtains. Rear passenger side-impact airbags are optional. 4MATIC all-wheel drive enhances safety, particularly in slippery conditions.