2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe Review

Merc’s new entry-level coupe puts luxury first, sport last

2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe Review

There’s only one thing the Mercedes E350 is missing – about 100-hp. We hate to start off on a bad note with this car, but the base 3.5-liter V6 makes just 268-hp and an equally mediocre 258 ft-lbs of torque. It’s not a bad amount of output, but hardly what you might expect from a Mercedes and definitely less than you should get for your $48,925.

FAST FACTS

1. Despite its name, the E-Class Coupe is based on the C-Class architecture.

2. The E350 Coupe is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 with 268-hp and 258 ft-lbs of torque.

3. Pricing starts at $48,925.

4. The 382-hp E550 Coupe starts from $54,650.

Now anyone from Mercedes would tell you the E-Class Coupe isn’t about raw horsepower or 0-60 mph times – the E350 Coupe taking around 6.5 seconds to get up to speed. And to a certain extend, they’d be right. Which is convenient, if you happen to be selling a car like this.

The decision to drop the immensely successful CLK from the Mercedes lineup seemed like foolishness, until the E-Class Coupe was announced. Set to take the CLK’s place in Merc’s lineup, this new car is still very much its successor, even riding on the C-Class’s smaller and lighter platform.

The E-Class name, however, is important to Mercedes, as it allows them to do so much more with the car – for the company and for the consumer. With the sport coupe market growing in horsepower and size, many of those vehicles (BMW 3 Series, we’re looking at you) have started to encroach on the old CLK’s territory. So along comes the E-Class Coupe, to straddle the line between the sport coupe and full-sized luxury coupe territory. But make no mistake, in true Mercedes tradition; the E Coupe is luxury first.

The E-Class name will help Mercedes, as it will allow them to sell the car for more E-Class-like prices, while much of the underpinnings are less expensive C-Class stock. And the E-Class name puts the car a whole level above those entry-level luxury offerings, helping promote Merc’s high-level luxury brand image and stay ahead of its German competitors in the luxury segment.

Surprisingly, the asking price is really just a small margin of a few thousand dollars over the old CLK. Along with pocketing some of the profits; Mercedes has invested more than its fair share in the car’s interior.

FABULOUSLY LUXURIOUS, YET SIMPLE COCKPIT

Our mostly stock E350 tester (with the addition of multicontour seats, stainless steel pedals with rubber studs and shift paddles in the Appearance Package) came with a simplistically luxurious interior. There’s a two-tone dash, tan leather seats, leather door inserts divided into sections and just the right amount of wood and brushed aluminum accenting. Especially nice are the big chrome kick plates embossed with the words “Mercedes-Benz” that greet you when you open the door. With the exception of the busy-looking phone controls, the entire cockpit is pristine.

In a word, the E-Class Coupe’s interior is elegant. It’s a sort of utilitarian luxury that doesn’t brag, but that puts even most ultra-luxury vehicles to shame. And the standard panorama glass roof (with integrated moonroof function) bathes the cockpit in soft light to really show it off. We really just can’t say enough about how incredible this interior is.

Standard features include power one-touch up/down windows and locks with, climate control, leather 14-way power seats, cruise control, a multi-function steering wheel, a six CD changer audio system and Mercedes’ Command system with a 7-inch LCD screen. One of our favorite interior features is the nifty and much-appreciated mechanical arm that hands you the seatbelt once you enter the car. One of our least favorite items is the less than user-friendly nature of the navigation system.

LARGER DIMENSIONS MAKE FOR COMFORTABLE RIDE, BUT NOT MUCH SPACE INSIDE

Another benefit of the new chassis is the added interior space that it affords – sort of. Compared to the CLK, the cars dimensions are 1.9-inches wider and longer with a 1.8-inch longer wheelbase. Generally speaking there’s plenty of room for a driver and passenger, with two mostly useless rear seats. Unfortunately, due to the car’s ultra aerodynamic design (boasting the lowest drag coefficient of any production car at 0.25 cd) headroom is limited, meaning that if you’re 6’2” or above you honestly might not fit.

Now where the car’s added size does definitively give benefit is in a refined driving experience. We put car though its paces, driving it to Hell and back – Hell, Michigan that is – and the windy country roads proved not only a good test of the car’s handling, but more so its ability to keep it’s austere Mercedes sensibility and comfortable ride quality on Michigan’s less than glass smooth roads.

This is does incredibly well. Sure it provides a good amount of fun on the twisty roads, but primarily we were amazed at what a great job the car does at isolating you from the harsh realities of the world around you, while still offering an involved experience behind the wheel. Bravo Mercedes!

The longer wheelbase and hefty 4,400-lb curb weight no doubt help in this feat, as does the previously mentioned Appearance Package, which also includes a set of 18-inch wheels and lower profile tires, along with the Agility Control Sport suspension.

With the paddle shifters the 7-speed automatic transmission is a bit more fun, although we have to think a dual-clutch setup would really help give the car a bit more edge, making even the 3.5-liter engine a bit more fun and fuel efficient. As it stands, the mileage isn’t bad at 17/26 mpg (same as an Audi A5 3.2 automatic), but that’s actually slightly worse than, say, a much more powerful G37 at 18/26 mpg.

Another way the E350 Coupe isolates the driver, and not in a good way, is with a muted exhaust note. We’d really like to hear a little more rasp out back even though we’re sure most Mercedes customers rather wouldn’t.

SAFE AND REASONABLY FUNCTIONAL

Some of the biggest marketing buzz around the new E-Class has been the tremendous amount of new safety features it has. These include, but are not limited to: Attention Assist that alters a driver with a coffee cup logo, a written message and an audio warning when the car sense a lack of attention; Adaptive Highbeam Assist that adjusts the headlight power in accordance with oncoming traffic; and the optional Pre-Safe Distronic Plus that can fully engage the brakes if an impact is detected. On top of all this the car gets the usual ABS, stability and traction control systems as well as 9-standard airbags.

And while we’re talking about the “boring” functionality aspects of the car, we should mention cargo room. The trunk is rather enormous and stowing even more cargo is made simple thanks to two easily accessible handles in the truck that automatically lower the rear seats.

Vitally important for sedan sales, we’re not sure all this safety and cargo room stuff will really get coupe drivers revved up.

PROVACATIVE STYLE

Finally, there’s the car’s exterior design. This is always the most subjective category to evaluate and while we don’t love the new coupe’s design, we don’t hate it either. From some angles its beautiful, while from others it’s downright strange. And it seems that looking through the lens of a camera it’s hard to find a shot that represents the car in the former – much like the CLS’s beauty just can’t be captured in a photo.

At first we weren’t fond of the car’s almost Korean-like angles, but we’ve started to appreciate them as of late and we’re sure most folks will to, as it becomes a staple of affluent neighborhoods though the U.S.

There are a lot of style elements we like about the car, such as the frameless doors, but we really can’t come to a definitive decision on the cars overall design, like, say, with the voluptuously beautiful A5 – or for that matter the S5, which starts at just $3,000 more than the Merc.

THE VERDICT

And there’s our sticking point with the E350 Coupe. It’s a lot of money. We understand that you’re paying for the name, the amazing interior and the wonderfully calm drive, but we don’t understand why you can’t get a little more performance for all those dollars.

Yes, it’s a luxury coupe and not a sports coupe, and yes it makes a more performance-oriented vehicle like the $42,000 BMW 335i feel downright pedestrian in comparison, but you would at least expect the same sort of straight-line power for seven grand more.

We did list other gripes with the car, but overall it provides a wonderfully serene luxury driving experience. Still, no matter how nice it is, the asking price just isn’t worth the underperforming V6 engine. Toss in the 382-hp V8 for an extra $6,000, however, and you’ve got yourself a deal.

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