Mercedes E-class E350 review
E stands for Elegant, Eloquent and yes, even Engaging
By Shahzad Sheikh
Here it is, a new version of the old man’s Merc. Except there’s a bit more to it than just that.
Let’s get to the best bit first. The new E-Class handles. And I don’t just mean that it manages to negotiate a fast corner by clinging to the road stubbornly with most of its bulk hanging clumsily over its outside wheels.
This new car will hunker down, get to grips with the surface, turn in well with direct, eager responses to a still slightly numb steering wheel, and then follow through with little hint of understeer, body roll, or even any suggestion of a snappy tail.
There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of technology working a whole heap of magic in this new Mercedes, but having driven one of the trickiest roads available to us in the UAE with the traction control off, there’s a lot of sound engineering within that chassis.
And sound engineering is what Mercs used to be all about. The new E sees a big return to form. CGI, for example, is to do with direct-injection systems on Mercedes’ new range of petrol engines. As you may already know from similar technology employed by Porsche and Volkswagen, that means more grunt and less drinking of pricey petrol. Well perhaps not so pricey here, but at least you can go further without the annoyance of filling up.
272bhp may not be such a big deal anymore, especially in something that weights over 1700kg, and not surprisingly the performance doesn’t exactly feel electric or urgent – and you have to wait till the upper reaches of the rev range for the power.
What you get instead is a calm persistent surge away from standstill, and a rock-steady build up of momentum that will see you just over the far side of 250kph.
Having said that, a 6.5 second time to 100kph used to be the preserve of sports cars, so it could never be described as a slouch. Besides there is the E500 and E63 to step up to if you’re really power crazed.
The E is good at gobbling up kilometres of course, getting you across continents in swift but seemingly unhurried efficiency and comfort. Well there’s even more of the same with the new car. It’s a true distance-shrinker. The excellent aerodynamics – it may not look it, but at 0.25Cd, it’s one of the slipperiest in its class – makes for serene progress.
The Direct Control dampers adapt automatically as the conditions dictate, so it glides on smooth fast roads, firms up at lower speeds, and remains remarkably composed when hurled through corners as the road dips and weaves and winds its way through the Hatta mountains.
The steering doesn’t quite come alive, and the paddleshifts for the seven-speed auto are more about holding onto gears than punchy downshifts and blipped throttles. In fact it’s best just to leave the gearbox in the sports setting and let it do its thing.
No, the new E isn’t suddenly clad in lycra, but it does wear its tweed sports jacket with pride. Mercedes has assessed the dynamic shortcomings of previous generations and addressed them – basically it remains a cruiser, but the burly Benz is happy to get all bare-knuckle if you need it to.
It has a bluffer front end than Mercs of late, but this is truer to older Es, as is the flourish over the rear wheel arch. Actually, whilst it’s become more square-jawed, in the metal the proportions come across as well-judged. In darker colours it’s a handsome, devilish brute, but you’re right it won’t win any beauty contests against the likes of Jaguar’s XF or even its own CLS cousin.
The solidity and built-like-a-boulder perception you’d get with older Mercs is back. Plus it’s all very intuitive and logical inside, quite safe and sensible and utterly inoffensive. Except for one thing: Mercedes has gone for the dubious benefits of a the column mounted gear shifter. You adapt, but it’s not one of my favourite solutions.
The seats have those instantly inflating side bolsters that give you extra support when cornering, which is actually quite perversely pleasing, but they are extremely comfortable. And the great seating position in the front, doesn’t rob the rear of too much room either.
All in all, the cabin is a splendid place to travel in, and the amount of clever stuff this can have on it to keep you out of trouble is worthy of a separate article of its own. Along with all the usual airbags, ABS, traction control and ESP systems, plus crumple zones, it has:
• Blind Spot Assist – triangles in the side mirrors warn when there’s something in the blind spot.
• Lane Keep Assist – steering vibrates when the car starts to leave its lane without indicating.
• Pre-Safe Brake and BAS Plus – recognises a potential impact and primes the brakes or applies them if need be.
• Distronic Plus – keeps a constant distance from the car in front.
• Attention Assist – recognises when the driver is becoming drowsy and issues a warning.
• Plus adaptive brakes, adaptive brake lights, adaptive highbeam assist, brake assist, night view assist and even parking guidance.
Of course some of this is standard, whilst other items are options.
Still sensible and definitely safe, but now with added swiftness and a hint of sex.
How much? $59,950 (Check price with your local dealer)
Engine: 3498cc, 6cyl, 272BHP @ 6400, 258lb ft @ 2400-5000
Fuel Economy: 8.5 – l/100km
Performance: 6.8 sec 0-100kph , 250kph
How heavy? 1735kg
6/10 – The E-class that finally engages