Tuesday, March 14, 2006

M-Benz E350 is a Seriously Beautiful Luxury Sedan

This may come as a shock to some folks but one in every four Mercedes Benz sales in the U.S. every year is an E-class, which makes it the most successful European luxury sedan in the world.

There are lots of changes for 2006 in the E-class, most notably under the hood where the German automaker’s most powerful V-6 is now taking up residence. The 3.5 liter DOHC V-6 produces 268 horsepower at 6,000 rpm. That is a mere seven horses less than the V-8 that powered the previous E430 with its 4.3 liter V-8.

The new V-6 was first seen in Mercedes Benz’s SLK roadster and it is the first-ever V-6 from the German firm with dual overhead camshafts. It is a muscular powerlant, producing 258 lb-ft of torque, with maximum torque available from 2,400 rpm all the way to 5,000 rpm.

My Granite Grey tester came with a five-speed automatic transmission featuring Touch Shift, plus Mercedes Benz’ 4Matic all-wheel-drive system. Too bad the weather was consistently sunny and in the mid-60s throughout the week in which the Tapscott driveway was graced by the E350.

Regular readers will recall that the V-8 powered E500 drew extremely laudatory reviews in this space, both because of the impressive performance of that model’s 302 horsepower V-8 and the handsome exterior lines of the E-class.

Opting for the V-6 model rather than the V-8 hardly represents a sacrifice, as it streaks from rest to 60 mph in 6.92 seconds. With the engine’s variable valve timing system, performance above 3,500 rpm is also impressive, which is crucial for things like passing semis on two-lane highways.

All E350s equipped with 4Matic have to make do in the transmission department with the five-speed automatic. Rear-wheel-drive only models benefit from the seven-speed automatic that eventually will see service throughout the Mercedes lineup.

Inside the passenger cabin, the E350 provides high levels of comfort and functionality. The standard comfort and convenience equipment includes dual zone automatic climate control, 10-way power-adjustable seats for driver and passenger, a multifunction, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, premium audio system with a single disc player and AM/FM and tilt and telescoping steering wheel, among much else.

Like the rest of the E-class, the 350’s exterior look combines muscle and gracefully flowing lines that I find vastly more attractive than the Dude Ranch Dandy CLS four-door coupe. The E is a seriously luxurious and beautiful sedan.