Drive Test – Mercedes E 350 Coupe | Drive Magazine

24 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Drive Test – Mercedes E 350 Coupe | Drive Magazine
Mercedes E 350

SUBSTANTIAL STYLE

Drive Magazine, October #8217;09

Christo Valentyn

I am an outspoken fan of big cars, which is odd since I, as a single guy, have absolutely no need for abundant space. I’ve learnt to appreciate the current status quo dictated to us by the ‘green’ police with its mantras of fuel efficiency and low carbon emissions, but there remains a part deep inside me that lights up whenever a big car arrives at my door.

While I firmly believe that there’s no replacement for displacement and quite often find the growl of a proper V8 aurally more stimulating, there’s something about a good V6 that makes me smile a confident smile of contentment. Six cylinder engines, especially when fitted to a big car, so often strike a beautiful balance between outright performance and everyday luxury that bigger, and smaller, engines often struggle with.

Bringing out the intangibles

However, that balance needs to extend to other aspects of the driving experience as well. It needs good dynamics to complement the engine under all driving circumstances, whether you’re on a Sunday-afternoon cruise or speeding over a mountain pass. Even if it’s luxuriously kitted, there needs to be something intangible to it that brings out a raw, almost primal passion, regardless of whether it looks the part or not.

As such, the Mercedes-Benz E 350 Coupe excited me from the minute it arrived. The spiritual replacement to the very successful CLK (of which Merc sold 250 000 units in seven years), it has an aggressive air to it the CLK never had, and an underlying masculinity that fits well with the elegance of its coupe lines, something the CLK also never got entirely right. Where the CLK never scared anyone unless there was an AMG badge on it, the E-coupe boldly declares that there’s more to it than meets the eye.

Looking the part

On the outside, the new rhomboid-shaped – not square – headlamp treatment works wonders especially combined with the new LED light clusters that double as daytime running lights and fog lights down low in the front bumper. The chrome slatted grille and large three-pointed star adds further menace to the front view, adding a purposeful face to the macho stance.

The bulging wheel arches at the rear that sweep into the taillights further enhance the E’s gorgeous coupe lines, tapering into the much-debated new taillights, LED clusters I quite like. It’s not that different from the E-class sedan, but certainly fits in well in this application. The absence of a B-pillar  puts the focus on the smaller glasshouse, and together with the sweeping bonnet and low roof brings the sporty coupe look in line with the ageing (but still beautiful) CLS.

Interior architecture

The cabin has an aesthetic edge I’ve not seen in a Mercedes-Benz in a while, at least not in those without AMG-badges. The interior is all-new, the dash configured to accept a high-mounted 7-inch display, as the COMAND controller interface system is standard. It does differ from the sedan though in that the gear selector is on the console rather than the steering column.

As is convention with Mercedes-Benz’s B-pillarless coupes, there are robotic arms that move the belts forward when the doors are closed, and believe me, they’re quite handy.

There are high-tech features galore, these including the optional Distronic Plus at R18 100, a system that bundles radar-based adaptive cruise control with Brake Assist Plus that, without touching the brake pedal at all, will apply 40% braking power if it determines a collision is imminent. In a similar situation when the driver does apply the brakes to any degree, the system will apply the extra force necessary to bring the vehicle to a complete stop.

Attention Assist measures more than 70 different parameters, the most important being sudden steering corrections, to determine if a driver is drowsy and sounds a chime if it makes that determination. The E350 Coupe has electronically controlled damping as standard, and our Avantgarde test model was fitted with an optional AMG Sport package (R28 000) that includes 18-inch AMG wheels, cross-drilled brakes, steering-wheel paddle-shift capability and brilliant high-bolstered sport seats.

These seats feature four simple dials on the inboard sides, controlling inflatable bladders in the seat bolster, lower side bolsters and two lumbar areas #8211; this, of course, on top of the standard ten-way electronic adjustment. Even the scalloped back seats are beautifully sculpted and supportive, although I wouldn’t suggest offering a ride to long-legged rear passengers. A Harman Kardon Logic 7 surround sound system is standard kit.

Under that long bonnet lies Mercedes-Benz’s familiar 3.5-litre V6 engine. This is admittedly one of my favourite six cylinder engines, and develops a decent 200kW of power and 350Nm of torque in the E350 Coupe. Acceleration to 100km/h is quoted at 6.4 seconds, which puts this E-coupe on an acceptable middle ground in terms of performance.

It does feel slightly slower though, probably due to its sheer size.

The E350 Coupe is one of those balanced six-cylinders I mentioned earlier, doing its job efficiently and without too much fanfare. The 7G-TRONIC adaptive automatic transmission is super smooth in an urban setup (where I spent 60% of the time I drove it) and, even though it was rarely needed, the power was always there, making it a magnificent everyday means of transport. When I did push it, the available power was there and often quite surprising, the gearbox adapting accordingly to hold gears for longer during the acceleration process.

Mercedes E 350

Shifting the gears manually occasionally adds more engagement to the driving experience, and certainly on more demanding (read: fun) roads. Unfortunately, most V6 coupe drivers aren’t big racers, which equates to handling best described as above-average and not brilliant. In fact, the E350 Coupe handles twists and turns with such ease that you rarely get that both-hands-on-the-steering-wheel feeling that’s part of the sports car driving experience.

And the Competition

With none of the options ticked, the E350 Coupe will set you back an acceptable R670 000, inclusive of the Mobilodrive 120 maintenance plan. Competitors are few and far between, with only Audi’s marginally smaller A5 3.2 FSI Quattro Tiptronic coming close.

It’s got a slightly smaller engine, slightly less power and torque, a higher top speed and a significantly smaller price tag. At R513 000, it’s a steal. Start ticking on Audi’s notorious options list and you’ll still pay less for it than a bog standard E350 Coupe.

Think outside the box and Jaguar’s XF 3.0 V6 – or even the Diesel S – makes a compelling argument for two more doors. The Diesel S, for example, trumps the E350 Coupe on power and torque at a mere R2 000 more… But then again, Mercedes-Benz owners are a unique breed of loyal buyers, and those wanting a large coupe wouldn’t look further than the E350 Coupe. Even I could easily live with an E350 Coupe provided that my current penchant for cruising remains.

And that’s the crux of the matter: the E350’s sublime looks are deceiving. While it looks the business, it’s a cruiser at heart, a car so well executed that its substance overpowers the senses. Accomplished in every sense, it just doesn’t elicit anything primal or passionate beyond the realm of cruising.

I’ll take an XF, thanks.

Engine: V6 petrol

Induction: Nat-asp

Capacity: 3498cc

Power: 200 kW @ 6000 rpm

Torque: 350 Nm @ 2400 – 5000 rpm

Mercedes E 350
Mercedes E 350
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