2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 4MATIC Review

Only its carryover V6 engine stops the all-new E-Class from being the clear leader in its segment.

2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 4MATIC Review

Life must be tough for the various design teams at Mercedes-Benz. While Japanese manufacturers work like clockwork to release a new vehicle generation every four years, the German company takes a different strategy. It chooses to launch vehicles into all-new segments (CLS, GLK) while letting its traditional offerings ripen longer. The last generation E-Class sold for eight years (2002-2009) with only a very mild mid-cycle refresh, so the 2010 version had a terribly long gestational period. Lots of time to get it right, then.

FAST FACTS

1. The E350 starts at $48,600, with a $2,500 premium for an AWD 4MATIC model.

2. A 3.5-liter V6 delivers 268-hp and 258 ft-lbs of torque, enabling a 0-60 mph sprint of 6.5 seconds.

3. Standard equipment includes a new Agility Control adaptive suspension.

And get it right they did. First, the styling is a blend of new C-Class and old Speedster themes, with flared rear arches that look perfectly set for some spats. The quad headlights have ditched the organic look and moved to sharper shapes with only a hint of Lexus GS. And unlike the C-Class, the E only comes with one grille: the more traditional three-bar unit with a three-pointed star hood ornament. The standard lower fascia is also more aggressive, with gaping air intakes accented by twin driving lights. The rear is more generic, with hints of something vaguely Korean, but still tasteful.

CARRYOVER V6 AN UNDERWHELMING EXPERIENCE

While available with a variety of engines, the one we tested is an entry-level E350 with optional 4MATIC all-wheel drive. Power comes from the same 3.5-liter V6 that puts out 268-hp and 258 ft-lbs of peak torque. Continuously variable timing on both the intake and exhaust valves coupled with a dual-stage intake manifold means torque plateaus from 2400 to 5000 rpm. It’s paired with Mercedes-Benz’ excellent seven-speed automatic transmission, which helps move the 3,979-lb. sedan to 60 mph in about 6.5 seconds. That’s not overly rapid, especially when BMW and Audi offer blown six-cylinder engines that produce about 40 more horses each and are significantly quicker, but the Benz does offer decent fuel economy at 17/24 mpg (city/hwy) or 18/25 mpg for rear-wheel drive models.

MORE CAPABLE IN THE CORNERS FOR 2010

All models get Agility Control suspension with selective damping while base ‘Luxury’ package cars get 17-inch wheels with touring tires. Our model started as a Sport (a no-cost option), which means 18-inch five-spoke wheels, tighter suspension settings and cross-drilled brake discs. The changes in terms of feel and cornering performance are significant.

The previous generation was merely competent when presented with challenging roads, but the new E-Class has a better appetite for that behavior. Flick the cabin button to Sport, and the E350 firms up nicely, both with its steering weight and wheel control. Steering feel is still too much to ask for, apparently, but the car responds very well to inputs, and is very neutral in its habits.

LUXURIOUS AND WELL-APPOINTED CABIN WITH LOTS OF EXTRAS

Thankfully, the cabin received just as much attention, following much the same themes as the smaller C-Class, although the gear lever is still perched up on the steering column. The four-spoke wheel is comfortable and wrapped in leather, while the 14-way power seats are supportive and comfortable too. Other standard equipment includes dual-zone climate control, and an all-new Command system with a seven-inch screen.

The typical German car options list is lengthy and expensive, highlighted by the multi-contour active front seats, a panorama sunroof, night-vision camera and parking assists. The Driver Assistance Package ($2,900) adds radar cruise control, blind-spot assist and lane-departure warning systems. The Premium 1 package ($3,950) adds the navigation system with a 40GB hard drive and upgraded sound system, while Premium 2 ($6,350) includes KeylessGo, a self-closing trunk, active headlights, and LED daytime running lights.

Also, 4MATIC adds $2,500, while 18-inch AMG-styled wheels and a three-spoke steering wheel ring in at a reasonable $750.

Get crazy, and you can add $20,000 worth of options, which seems unreasonable at this level. Moving up to the more expensive 382-hp V8-powered E550 doesn’t gain you any ground either as it has the same option packages as the E350.

THE VERDICT

Looking further afield, the BMW 535i and Jaguar XF are both slightly more powerful, and start a few thousand dollars higher, but offer vastly different driving experiences – the Bimmer is more athletic, the XF more hushed. But neither carries the same cache as that imperious three-pointed star on the hood.

Mercedes-Benz knocked this one out of the park, and only the carryover V6 engine keeps it from being the outright perfect mid-sized luxury sedan. Once the lineup is fleshed out with turbodiesels and more powerful and efficient gasoline engines, then the E-Class design teams can take another long holiday until they’re called back into action for 2019.

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2010 Audi A6 3.0T Review 2009 Infinity M35 AWD

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