Friday, February 13, 2009

Mercedes E350 Picture Gallery

Mercedes E350 Picture Gallery
Unquestionably, the 2006 Mercedes-Benz E350 is a capable luxury automobile. But somehow, my latest turn behind the wheel left me wanting. Our lightly equipped E350 never drove home the impression that it was a premium motorcar, and it left my driveway posing a serious value question: What am I getting from this $55,000 Mercedes-Benz that a Honda Accord half its cost wouldn’t provide?

I know, I know. Brand prestige, that altar so many Americans worship. And, the engineering doesn’t suck. I suppose that if it’s important to own a Mercedes, the E-Class is a fine way to express your success, even if the car is bland to the point that in some metropolitan areas, it goes utterly unnoticed. The new powertrain is a gem, the driving experience marred only by steering that is too heavy around town and a brake pedal that makes it difficult to execute smooth stops every time. And the E350 is quite comfortable, too, with tall, firm, supportive front seats and a terrific view of that three-pointed star hood ornament up front. The cabin is open and airy, more like an economy car than a stately sedan, but the materials are definitely a step above what you’d get in a humdrum familymobile. I even thought the E350’s control layout and user friendliness were better than most Benzes – but that might be due to the lack of high-tech options on our test car.

Still, as competent and unfettered an automobile as the E350 might be, it doesn’t exude luxury from its pores. It doesn’t knock you over the head with personality. It doesn’t bowl you over with unmatched driving dynamics. Rather, it is a car in which you blend into the urban backdrop. For my money, a Honda Accord pulls off the same trick quite nicely. But clearly, given the E-Class’s status as sales leader in the U.S., there are thousands of consumers who need a pricier path to anonymity. – Christian Wardlaw
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