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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

A real two-door coupe can be a thing of breathtaking beauty as demonstrated by Mercedes-Benz's fresh latest 2+2 mid-size hardtop. Deleting the B-pillars and sweeping the roof gracefully yields the most attractive Mercedes I've seen in ages. But for $58,295, I expect more than a gorgeous body. To complement the beauty, I need truth in the form of an engine producing more than 300 hp, a transmission that holds gears to the redline in manual mode, and steering with actual road feel. None of the above is provided here. And, while the ride and handling are pleasant for tooling around, there's no spirit evident when the hammer's down and some twit in a BMW is gaining in the race to the horizon. Please don't mount all-season rubber on my eighteen-inch AMG wheels for what is billed as a sport suspension. Give me a serious exhaust note, add a larger tach and direct fuel injection. Wrap it up without topping $50k, and then you'll have a world beater.

Don Sherman, Technical Editor

As usual, Don Sherman sums up the experience quite well. I completely agree the E350 coupe looks good but needs more power, steering without the artificial level of boost, and something other than all-season tires on these AMG wheels. What's worse is the requirement of 91-octane fuel for this rather lethargic 3.0-liter V-6.

I'm disappointed by the interior quality in the E-class coupe. I had really hoped Mercedes would disguise the C-class roots of this coupe with a much nicer interior full of high-quality materials and that distinctly Mercedes feel. Instead, only the design of the interior is nicer than the C-class's cabin, and the materials don't feel any better than those in the C-class. Even the steering wheel feels cheap compared with other Benz offerings in the U.S. It's one thing to charge $48,000 for a smallish luxury or sport coupe, but this coupe feels neither luxurious nor sporty.

Still, I think the E-class coupe will sell well enough. As a fashion accessory, this car is wonderful. The distinct shape with no B-pillar could trick some onlookers into thinking you're actually driving a CL coupe. From the outside, this car still looks the part of a Mercedes, and it will be right at home near trendy boutiques and fancy restaurants -- which is a good thing, because enthusiasts driving an E-class coupe will walk away largely unsatisfied.

Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor

I'm not as enamored of the E-class coupe's styling as my colleagues seem to be. To me, it almost has an old-school two-door-sedan profile that's awkward from some angles, particularly because of the little sliver-window at the very back of the side glass. Regardless, though, I commend Mercedes for continuing to build a comprehensive lineup of stylish coupes, even if this one's new name (replacing the CLK badge) is a bit misleading.

The E350's engine isn't overwhelmingly powerful, but it does the job and sounds nicely throaty. The steering is too light for my liking, especially at everyday, legal speeds. This is particularly disappointing because I've really liked the firm steering of the newest batch of Benzes (S-class, C-class, SLK, SL).

Wrestling a baby seat into the back of this slick coupe isn't for the stiff of joint or the large of frame, I can tell you that. Elsewhere inside, the dash design is very vertical, which doesn't make it feel very luxurious in this case. On the plus side, Mercedes-Benz's Comand multimedia system continues to be my favorite, just ahead of iDrive in the new 7-series and Hyundai's system in the Genesis. Finally, the rear windows lower to reveal no B-pillar, convertible-style, which is great for checking your blind spots and, in concert with the big sunroof, for letting in lots of wind and light.

Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

I'm not sure what to think of this car. It feels like more of a C-class coupe than an E-class. It's a pleasant enough, luxury two-door, but it lacks that measure of specialness to merit the E-class badge. This is Mercedes-Benz's volume two-door car and it should feel very special because it's a Mercedes-Benz and because it's a coupe. This is not to say that there aren't any nice touches: I really like the Panorama sunroof, which brightens up the cabin considerably. There's good forward visibility, there are seatbelt presenters for the front passengers. The interior aesthetics are pleasant enough; our tester had a creamy taupe base topped by a brown instrument panel, accented by some decent wood trim. Comfortable enough, just barely fast enough with this V-6. The car looks good, but I'm left a little cold.

Joe DeMatio, Executive Editor

I find the new E-class very attractive - its larger grille, crisper lines, and more swooping profile all add up to a car with a more compelling design than the CLK coupe that it replaces in Mercedes' lineup. Inside, the instrument panel now has five round gauges (speedo, tach, fuel gauge, oil gauge, and analog clock) placed in front of the driver. One of my colleagues said that he thought the steering wheel felt a little flimsy, but I personally like the wood rim - although I can't say that I'd tick it off on the options box, seeing as how it costs $750. A leather-rimmed steering wheel would probably do just fine, thank you. If you think of the E350 coupe as a posh highway cruiser or an upscale grocery-getter, you won't be disappointed. As others have pointed out, however, those who are looking for performance to match the $1950 appearance package will likely be dissatisfied.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

2010 Mercedes-Benz E350

Base price (with destination): $48,050
Price as tested: $58,295

Standard Equipment:
Leather Upholstery
Power tilt/sliding panorama sunroof with one touch open/close
COMAND system featuring 8-speaker sound system. In dash 6-disk CD player, in-dash memory card slot, auxiliary input jack and Bluetooth Interface
Central controller w/ 7" high-mounted display
Multifunction 3-spoke leather steering wheel & shift knob
4.5" instrument cluster display
14-way power adjustable front seats
Tilt/telescoping steering column & exterior mirrors
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Electronic cruise control
Remote central locking with smartkey
Power windows with express up and down
Auto-dimming driver and rearview mirror
Integrated garage door opener
Intermittent wipers with rain sensor
Hand polished burl walnut wood trim
Integrated NECK-PRO active front head restraints
Dual stage front airbags
Window curtain airbags
Front side airbags
Driver and front passenger pelvic airbags
Driver knee airbag
Adaptive 4-wheel disc brakes w/ antilock
Electronic stability control
PRE-SAFE system
Roll-over sensor
Anti-theft alarm with engine immobilizer

Options on this vehicle:
P01 Premium Package: $3950
-COMAND with 40GB hard-drive GPS Navigation, real-time traffic dta, voice control, 6GB Music register, Harman/kardon LOGIC7 surround sound system with dolby digital 5.1 HD radio. SIRIUS satellite radio, iPod/MP3 media interface, iPod media interface cable, heated front seats, power rear sunshade, rearview camera
Wood/Leather steering wheel package: $750
Appearance package: $1950
18" AMG twin 6-spoke wheels, agility control sport suspension, perforated front brake discs, front brake calipers with MB logo, stainless steel pedals with rubber studs, multicontour front seats, gearshift paddles, all season tires

Fuel economy:
17 / 26 / 20 mpg

Size: 3.5-liter 24-valve aluminum V-6
Horsepower: 268 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 2400-5000 rpm
7-speed driver adaptive automatic transmission