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2006 Mercedes-Benz E350 Review

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SEE ALSO: New Car Buyer's Guide for Mercedes-Benz

MODEL: Mercedes-Benz E350
ENGINE: 3.5-liter V6
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 268 hp @ 6,000 rpm/258 lb.-ft. @ 2,400-5,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 5-speed automatic
WHEELBASE: 112.4 in.
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT: 189.7 x 71.3 x 57.0 in.
TIRES: P245/45R17 all-season
CARGO VOLUME: 15.9 cu. ft.
ECONOMY: 18 mpg city/24 mpg highway
PRICE: $56,965 (includes $775 destination and delivery charge)

This is the second of three consecutive vehicles we have driven with Mercedes-Benz’s new 3.5-liter V6 engine that replaces the 3.2-liter. Putting this engine in the E-Class creates the E350, which I feel is as close to perfect as you can make a midsize sedan. You pay for it, of course, but it still is near perfect.

The 3.5-liter V6 is a good engine for this platform. The E-class weighs in at about 3700 pounds, heavy enough to be sturdy but still light enough not to require an enormous engine to propel it. I felt that acceleration was good, as was the ability to attain and maintain highway speeds without effort.

The engine is hooked to a 5-speed automatic transmission that was smooth. Some Mercedes-Benz models offer as many as seven speeds in their automatics, but five is plenty, unless you’re a shift fanatic. This transmission also had a touch-shift to convert it to a manual mode if you wanted, but I feel in a sedan such as this, the manual mode is really there for show and not for go.

Handling is excellent, as one usually expects from a Mercedes-Benz. The front suspension is an independent double wishbone geometry with an anti-dive feature. The rear is Mercedes’ usual independent 5-arm multi-link geometry that has worked for years.

We took the E350 on a couple of hilly winding roads and it behaved itself well. Of course, while it was behaving itself, the passengers rode in comfort. We had speed-sensitive power steering to help us along the way. My sole complaint with the E350 was that at lower speeds the power steering was almost imperceptible, and steering was heavy. Speed-sensitive usually means that steering is lighter at lower speeds.

Size-wise, the E350 is excellent. I feel the midsize sedan is a great size. There’s plenty of comfortable room up front for the driver and prime passenger, and excellent room in the back for two, and occasionally three, passengers. Rear legroom is excellent in pseudo-bucket seats with decent side support. Front seat side support is very good if you decide to throw the E350 around a bit.

The E-Class has some features that I found helpful. For example, how many times have you fiddled around with the overhead console, trying to find the switch for the reading lamps or the one that moves the sunroof glass? Well, the E350 has a good-size overhead console with a myriad of switches. But, Mercedes has installed a low-wattage halo light surrounding the overhead console switches. This light (it seems almost fluorescent) offers just enough light to figure out where the switch you want is located without having to park for a half hour or risk an accident by taking your attention off the road. The light isn’t obtrusive, so that it doesn’t reflect in the windshield nor does it distract the driver.

Among the comfort and convenience features on the E-Class are a dual-zone climate control; 10-way power adjustable front seats with 3-position memory for driver and passenger, in case you have a lot of friends that usually drive with you; a multi-function steering wheel that has audio and climate control switches on it as well as cruise control; a 9-speaker audio system that offered excellent sound (but I’ll grant that my ears don’t need much more than a couple of speakers); COMAND navigation system; leather seating with burl walnut trim; power everything; and an electric adjustable tilt and telescope steering wheel.

For safety, besides a healthy steel cage surrounding the passenger compartment, there are front and side airbags as well as head protection side curtains. The E350 also has the full complement of Mercedes-Benz accident-avoidance goodies to keep you from needing all the air bags.

Our tester come with a bottom line of nearly $57,000, which isn’t cheap. The car had a base price of $52,550, to which was added $690 for the silver paint, $2,950 for the Premium Package that included a sunroof, harmon/kardon sound system, DVD navigation, rear window sunshade and heated seats. If you must have the E350 and can’t see the full $57,000, you could easily opt for a less expensive paint and not add on the Premium Package. You won’t miss `em at all.

2006 The Auto Page