The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Review and Road Test

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2011 Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe

SEE ALSO: Mercedes-Benz Buyers Guide

A Rare “Pillarless” Hardtop
By Steve Purdy
Detroit Bureau

The E-Class Coupe is a beautiful car. Yes, I know, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and indeed subjective, but there’s no denying this one is a head-turner. Bold, brash lines flow from front to rear suggesting a big cat with arched back ready to challenge all comers. Dramatic sculpting along the body sides suggests movement. The pillarless hardtop-coupe design, a rare style today, gives a manufacturer the opportunity to make a serious design statement. Mercedes-Benz has done just that with this E350 Coupe.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Without a B-pillar, the visual flow of the side windows is unobstructed, though M-B has incorporated an odd little triangular window at the C-pillar. I can only suppose that was for some important structural purpose. In any event it is barely noticeable, though once it intrudes on one’s consciousness it seems more obtrusive. The car’s profile incorporates a low, shallow nose dominated by a large wheel arch full of boldly styled alloy wheels and wide, low profile tires, a long hood and short tail featuring clean, wrap-around LED lights and dual chrome exhaust extensions.

Mercedes-Benz updated the E-Class lineup for 2010 to mixed reviews from the jaded press. In short order, though, the buying public made clear their statement triggering huge sales increases in the U. S. market. My vote goes with the public.

Poised in my driveway the glossy black Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe begs to be driven. Just looking it over makes me lust after a long drive. As I settle into the beautiful interior I find it exudes the expected Teutonic penchant for no-nonsense luxury. The rich suppleness of the high line cockpit, with white-stitched leather seats (14-way power adjustable with 4-way power lumbar support) as smooth as a baby’s butt, and high quality materials enhancing every surface draws me in. Even before putting it in gear and heading out the driveway I can sense the heft and solidness of this premium German car.

While the rear passenger area accommodates just two not-very-big people the 60/40 seat backs fold down nearly flat to supplement the relatively small 13.3 cubic-foot trunk. The Coupe is shorter, narrower and lower than its sedan counterpart. While total interior volume is considerably less than the sedan the front compartment does not feel limited.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Within moments of the delivery of this beauty I was out and about experiencing the luscious coupe. The very first impressions of start up, gear selection, acceleration and acclimation to the cockpit were all first rate. While I have experienced dozens of high-end luxury cars, I never get tired of that feeling of power, control and sensuality that comes with a car like this. The Mercedes E350 Coupe made a great first impression.

The new Mercedes-Benz E350 comes in sedan, convertible and station wagon versions in addition to this coupe. The sedan and wagon seat 5 passengers. The coupe and convertible seat 4. The wagon comes with all-wheel drive and the rest are rear-wheel drive. All but the wagon can be had with the 5.5-liter V8 engine as well as the standard 3.5-liter V6. Additionally, the E350 comes in a BlueTEC turbodiesel iteration making 400 pound-feet of torque. We reviewed that one (previous generation) favorably about three years ago. Word is that M-B will not be offering an AMG version of the Coupe - at least not right away.

The Mercedes-Benz E350’s 3.5-liter V6 makes a solid 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque and will do 0 to 60-mph in just about 6.2 seconds. The 5.5-liter V8 makes 382 horsepower and does 0 to 60 in 5.1 seconds. Both engines are mated to a new, very smooth 7-speed automatic transmission. The EPA estimates mileage to be 17-mpg in the city and 26 on the highway using premium fuel. A 17.4-gallon fuel tank will give an average comfortable cruising range of barely over 300 miles with a highway cruising range of a decent 400 miles.

In my humble opinion, the 3.5-liter V6 performs so well that the V8 would seem almost superfluous. Certainly, the latter has a more grunt and a wonderful rumble but it costs quite a bit more. Many buyers in this market need not concern themselves over a few thousand dollars, and for them the V8 may be preferable. I found the V6’s acceleration admirable and the full-throttle feel nearly to red line downright thrilling.

Sophistication describes the suspension and chassis dynamics, as we would expect of a German car at this level. A standard Agility Control system constantly adjusts to road conditions and the driver’s input making ride and handling near perfect regardless of conditions. If you opt for the Appearance Package you’ll also get the ability to select a sport mode to give the system the ability to feel a bit more like a BMW M-Series on the twisties. My experience with the car this week did not include any roads challenging enough to test that sport mode, so I’ll reserve opinion. I will say, without hesitation, that I found the ride quality, level of quietness and handling impeccable.

Our Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe shows a base price of $48,850, slightly less than its sedan sibling. Our stealthy black test car has the $6,450 Premium Package (lighting, navigation, traffic, data, and that kind of stuff), the optional $300 rear spoiler, a Wood Trim Package for $760 and the Appearance Package costing $1,900 (18-inch AMG wheels, suspension upgrades, perforated front brake discs). Our bottom line on the sticker, with $875 destination charge, is $59,225. That’s not a bad price at all if we compare it to German competitors and even to the Japanese luxury brands.

The coupe configuration makes carrying passengers in the back a bit troublesome. Yes, the front seats move far enough to get mostly out of the way for ingress and egress but the back seat legroom and headroom is limited. For this reason the Coupe will account for less than 15% of E350 sales. But those who buy it will be traveling in style, to be sure.

As with many of the German cars I’ve tested I must complain about the complexity of the navigation system and some of the other controls. Too much reliance, in my view, on the integrated screen to control just about everything, with many functions being less than intuitive, makes the car difficult to adjust to. As a disclaimer I’ll admit that as a low-tech kind of guy I don’t want to spend a lot of time learning new systems so am quick to criticize those that make me go to the owners manual.

I can complain about little else with the Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe. If you are not intimidated by all the technology inside the car, and you’re in this luxury coupe (not sport coupe) market, this beautiful Benz is one you should consider.