Leaner, lankier Mercedes-Benz E-Class adds sex appeal
summit daily auto writer
My Mercedes enthusiast sources suggest that the attractive new E-class coupe, all long and lean and willowy and heavy on the glass and things such as that (as the Governator might say), takes the spirit of the equally lengthy CL family and … brings things up a notch.
M-B’s alphabet soup of models makes this a little challenging to understand to laymen, but I can happily report that this extremely Germanic two-door four-seater is a very pleasant and not inexpensive addition to the middle of the company’s line.
I got to spend some time in the E350C, one of four configurations, and found the 268-horsepower V6 adequate but not incredibly astounding (although, admittedly, 0-60 in 6.2 seconds ain’t so shabby). For comparison’s sake, the E coupe can also be outfitted with a 382-horsepower 5.5-liter V8 for about $6,500 more; drag racers can upgrade to the E63 and its 518-horsepower 6.3-liter V8 for … very much more.
And this week’s L.A. Auto Show saw the U.S. debut of the E350 BlueTEC diesel, which substitutes a super-clean 3.0-liter V6 engine (210 horsepower, 400 lb.-ft. of torque) that gets approximately 30 percent better mileage than the vehicle I drove.
The end product, when one sorts out the million or so iterations of the automobile, is a comfortable and extremely good-looking machine. Looks are tantamount to the deal and with its black top and super panoramic roof, plus very small rear pillars, the car looks almost borderline topless, with long, flowing character lines along the cabin adding to the appeal.
The Germans’ love affair for two-doored models does not, in E’s case, mean impossible situations for your two rear passengers – a hard divider in the middle means two only – did with relatively easy access afforded by power-sliding front seats. Powered seat belt extenders (which I’m told are a throwback to M-B’s of yore) were also convenient.
Settle inside and it’s definitely more comfy than the smaller C-class, with optional, air-operated, multi-contoured race seats that can squeeze you in infinite ways, plus heat you or cool you. Seating position is low but not impossible to enter or exit, thankfully.
Fire up the keyless starter (or pop off the silver starter button and park the key fob, old-school style) and what the E350 lacks in sheer velocity, it makes up for in smoothness. I found the handling a tad light, despite meaty 19-inch tires; braking was effortless, helped up front by ventilated disc brakes. A seven-speed automatic transmission can be quick-clicked using thumb-activated paddles; AMG-issue aluminum brake and gas pedals (and AMG wheels and grille on the outside) also add to the sportier-than-thou feel.
New character tweaks include attractive LED turn lights in the front; on the inside, the feel is C-class, slightly upgraded, with wood highlights, the prominent Comand audio and navigation system (featuring a 7-inch screen, controlled by a knob about the size of a baby formula bottle lid). AC and heat controls are super-simple rocker switches and the small ironing board-shaped center armrest remains a fascinating M-B detail.
What you may not see but could feel, depending on the trip, is the Pre-Safe system, which will rather completely apply 100 percent of the braking power if you, oddly, opt not to do so yourself in an imminent crash situation; there’s also an Attention Assist system which, in the company’s words, “measures the erratic steering corrections drivers make as they begin to get drowsy” and then illuminates some warnings and suggests you stop for a cup of coffee. Goodness gracious.
Other optional safety innovations include lane keep warnings, adaptive high beams, an improved night view camera system, blind spot warnings and a rear parking assist.
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