EXPERT REVIEW

KansasCity.com's view


For automakers, rolling out a new version of any popular model is a daunting task. The challenge is to move the brand forward while keeping in touch with what made the brand popular.

Mercedes-Benz has done a masterful job of balancing those concerns with the redesigned 2010 E-Class. While the new car is unmistakably a Mercedes-Benz, it looks fresh and vigorous. The new face is angular and slick. The new car’s coefficient of drag is 0.25 for the European model and 0.27 for the U.S. version because of wider tires. The lower the number, the easier the car slides through the air, and the easier it slides through the air, the quieter it is and the less fuel it uses.

Prices begin at $48,600 for the E350 with the 268-horsepower V-6. The 4Matic, with all-wheel drive, begins at $51,100. The E550, with a 382-horsepower V-8, begins at $56,300. The E550 4Matic starts at $58,800.

Next April or May Mercedes will offer the E350 Bluetec with a turbodiesel engine that should get well over 30 miles per gallon on the highway. A station wagon will be available in June.

There’s also an E-Class coupe, but I will cover that in a future review.

On the highway, the E-Class glides softly. Not so soft that the car feels disconnected from the road – quite the opposite – but rather as if it were riding on perfectly smooth pavement. It was impressively smooth on a bumpy gravel road, which is quite a testament to the shock absorbers that use an internal bypass to soften the ride on normal roads but firm up at higher speeds on twisty roads.

The 3.5-liter engine makes more than enough horsepower for all but those who want maximum performance. The transmission is a seven-speed automatic that can be shifted manually with paddles on the steering wheel. The fuel economy is rated at 18 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway.

A luxury sedan needs to be luxurious inside, and the new E-Class certainly is. The front seats are deep and supportive. The test car was equipped with the optional multi-contour seats that have a series of air bladders and mechanical bolsters that can be changed to suit the driver. The seat also offers massage to lessen fatigue on long drives.

The instrument panel has five gauges grouped in front of the driver. The steering wheel has controls for hands-free cell phone use and audio adjustments.

LEDs highlight the lower portions of the door panels and instrument panel. This soft lighting not only looks cool, but also gives just enough light to see handles and switches.

Mercedes’ COMAND system for operating the navigation and audio systems is controlled by a knob on the center console. The operation is reasonably easy to learn but could be more intuitive.

The optional Harmon Kardon surround-sound stereo has inputs for an iPod or an MP3 player and it can hold 6 gigabytes of music. The navigation system has real-time traffic reports.

A driver drowsiness monitor uses a steering sensor that is coupled to smart software that uses 70 parameters to establish a unique driver profile during the first 20 minutes of driving. If the system identifies the erratic steering corrections that drivers make as they begin to get drowsy, it triggers an audible warning and a “Time for a Rest?” message with a coffee cup icon in the instrument cluster.

Mercedes-Benz’s driver assistance package is a set of options that notify the driver through a shudder in the steering wheel if the car deviates from its lane, that lights a triangle in the outside mirror when a vehicle is in the blind spot, and alerts the driver when the system senses an impending collision. If the driver fails to react, the system applies maximum braking 0.6 seconds before the collision. This reduces the impact and creates what Mercedes calls an electronic crumple zone.

Up to 11 airbags are used throughout the interior, including one for the driver’s knees and a pelvic side bag that works with the existing side-curtain airbag to help prevent injuries in side impacts.

Price

The test car had a base price of $48,600. Options included metallic paint, leather upholstery, parking sensors, split-folding rear seats, COMAND system with navigation and upgraded audio, 18-inch wheels, sport suspension, perforated front brake discs, rearview camera, Distronic cruise control, lane-keeping assist and blind-spot assist. The sticker price was $60,665.

Warranty

Four years or 50,000 miles.

2010 Mercedes-Benz E350

Engine: 3.5-liter, 268-hp V-6

Transmission: automatic

Rear-wheel drive

Wheelbase: 113.1 inches

Curb weight: 3,825 lbs.

Base price: $48,600

As driven: $60,665

MPG rating: 18 city, 26 hwy.

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