2010 Mercedes Benz E350

I'm having a bit of difficulty finding the right context for the E-class coupe. Its name says I should be looking at the BMW 6-series, while its price tag and its C-class underpinnings say I should seek out comparisons with the Audi A5.

In fact, the new coupe has much more in common, at least in concept, with the American coupes of years past. I'm thinking particularly of the Pontiac Grand Prixs and Chevrolet Monte Carlos of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Like those cars, the Benz emphasizes luxury and style over performance. No, there isn't a velour seating or vinyl roof option, and the E-class's driving dynamics still clearly come from a part of the world where people drive very fast. Steering is confident and precise, and the ride has that distinctly German, buttoned-down feel. But try to treat the E-class like a sport coupe, and it very quickly informs you that it's just not that kind of car. Body roll inhibits fun in corners, and the 268-hp V-6 feels like it has just enough power, but no more.

Want to like the E-class coupe? Climb onto the nearest interstate and stay there for a few hours. I had a choice of either this E-class or our Four Seasons Nissan GT-R for a three-hour trip to the Mid-Ohio racetrack, and within thirty miles of flat, straight cruising, I knew I'd made the right decision. The E-class does 80-85 mph in comfort and near silence. I also grew to appreciate the infinitely adjustable bolsters, which work via roller dials on the right side of the seat. I wish I could say I was as pleased with the aesthetics of the cabin, which impressed me in pictures but, at least in this brown and tan color scheme, come off as a bit drab.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

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