Cars don t just show up on the market because manufacturers hope they ll do well. Before the steering wheel is even thought of, they navigate through research and focus groups like so many orange cones on a slalom course. So who s going to buy the 2010 Mercedes Benz E350 Coupe? Not poor people. Starting at $48,925 grand, my lightly optioned test car stickers for $54,995. Main options? Premium Package 1 ($3,950) and a Wood/Leather Steering Wheel Package ($750).
Talking money is so gauche, let s focus on the car. It s attractive to be sure. The greenhouse has no center pillar, side windows do without frames. E350s arching silhouette is pulled over the wheels with minimal overhang both front and rear. Contrasting the swoopy shape are cubic headlamps. A pinstripe of chrome starts high on the rear bumper, slants aggressively downward across the door and completes the line by riming the front chin. E-Class Coupe is classic, elegant and long of hood.
According to research...
Children of coupe buyers are leaving the house so practicality isn t quite as important anymore. Shoppers have a perfectly nice E-Class sedan to choose from but the coupe is a stylish reward for a well off couple or single person. Generally coupe means 2 doors. Mercedes sort of repurposed that word for the industry when it came out with the CLS, calling it a 4-door coupe because of its svelte tapering roofline. The E-Class remains traditional, 2 doors thank you very much.
No need to test horsepower at the focus group. Most of us crave it. E350 is powered by a 268 horsepower V6 with 258 lb-ft of torque at 2,400 RPM. It s a 3.5-liter unit, if you re wondering where the alpha numeric name springs from. There s more snarl from the tailpipe than expected. 7-speeds are on tap from the transmission. The usual Mercedes steering column mounted joystick is ditched for a sportier looking console shift lever.
Acceleration is not a problem. The rear drive E350 bolts from 0-60 in 6 effortless seconds according to my equipment. And really, the word effortless is what the E-Class coupe is about. The structure is substantial. Driving dynamics are right down the middle, neither floaty or harsh. Steering effort is on the lighter side. Low profile tires let sharp bumps through but all in all, owners will show up at charity auctions looking and feeling great. It s due in part to sophisticated shock absorbers that allows a comfortable ride but bans wallowing on twisty undulating roads. Adjustable Agility Control sport suspension is part of the Appearance Package that includes 18 inch AMG wheels. It s $1,950 and not on this car.
Not much guilt in the fuel economy department. The EPA rates it at 17 city, 26 highway. The E-Class coupe drinks premium fuel. Need more power? E350 is plenty quick but there s always the E550. It gets a 32-valve 5.5-liter V8 delivering 382 horsepower and 391 lb.-ft. of torque.
Can I buy you a cup a joe?
E350s quiet nature coddles and comforts but doesn t lull a driver to sleep. But just in case, standard sensors, part of the ATTENTION ASSIST system, detects drowsy drivers and suggest a break by sounding a tone and flashing a cup of coffee in the gauge cluster. Like Seattle folk need an excuse to stop at Starbucks...
Clearly people value safety and E350 comes standard with PRE-SAFE. It can sense an accident situation and will quickly adjust the seats to prevent occupant submarining, close the sunroof and side windows plus tighten the seatbelts to give those inside every advantage. Does it work? Sorry, my budget doesn t allow for that kind of testing.
Moving into the option boxes there s the DISTRONIC PLUS system with radar adaptive cruise control. It will follow traffic speeds all the way down to a complete stop but please, pay attention and don t get lazy. The $2,600 package comes with PARKTRONIC that helps drivers find appropriately sized parking spaces and gives guidance to maneuver into them.
A nice place to see the world pass by from.
Open the long heavy doors and you re greeted by a conservative looking cabin using high quality wood, leather, and soft touch plastics. Mercedes, known for its engineering, has applied that discipline to manners with a robotic arm offering up the seatbelt. Once clipped, the belts snug up automatically. A panoramic glass room is standard equipment. Located on the door in the shape of the chair, Mercedes seat adjustments are the best in the biz. The seats themselves, draped in leather, have good road trip support.
Remember when a single airbag was a novelty? In the E350 there are up to 11 crammed in here including side torso, knee and unique pelvis units for the front occupants. Optional side bags for the back seat compliment the curtain units.
Mercedes COMAND user interface that controls navigation, sound system, and quite possibly the Pathfinder rover on Mars seems more intuitive now but I still find it a bit fussy. The front seats however are very accommodating to passengers on their way to the rear seats, gliding forward automatically when the seat back is tipped forward.
If you re going to carry adults in back make them small. Speaking from experience, 5 9 passengers will know on both ends if the E-Class hits a big bump. I have just (and I do mean just) enough headroom. Foot room isn t great either, Again this car is aimed singles and couples. There are belts for 2 back here with basic slots for drinks and such.
Pop the trunk lid and you ll scare people. It flies open with the moves of a ninja and could possibly hurt someone standing too close. Doors are a chore when parked on a hill or tight spaces but hey, it is a coupe. While there s a long list of standard features, luxury basics such as heated seats, iPod integration and keyless ignition are not among them. These are options. E-Class sedan holds 6 packs of Kirkland brand bath tissue (my standard measurement metric), the coupe manages only 5. At least the rear seats split and fold to handle longer items.
2-doors may not be as practical as sedans but if the number of 2010 E350 coupes I ve seen on Seattle streets lately is any indication, Mercedes isn t having any problems selling them. Maybe it s the styling, maybe it s good product planning, maybe it just Mercedes being Mercedes again. They seem to have refocused on what they do best and the E350 coupe isn t trying to be BMW or Audi. This is a large stylish personal luxury coupe in the Mercedes tradition. For those looking for that in a 2 door, the E350 deserves its star.