Great Drives: 2010 Mercedes Benz E550 Coupe
Bright Lights, Big Cruiser
Here's a dirty little secret that isn't staying in Las Vegas: although it's similar in looks and pricing to the new E-class sedan, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class coupe isn't a two-door version of the E-class. Like the CLK it replaces, the coupe is a C-class in size - think of it as a C-class coupe with E-class engines, safety equipment, and interior materials.
Whereas Mercedes-Benz's primary competitors use slightly higher model numbers for their coupes (the Audi A5 coupe is based on the A4 sedan and the BMW 6-Series coupe is based on the 5-series sedan), Mercedes has decided to reduce the number of model lines by dropping the CLK moniker and calling the new coupe an E. This may be somewhat of a stretch, but the simplified naming scheme helps Mercedes buyers keep track of which model is which.
Like the E-class sedan, the coupe comes with a seven-speed automatic transmission mated to either a capable 268-hp V-6 (E350) or a muscular V-8 (E550), which can happily produce 382 hp and two black strips of rubber on the asphalt. The E550 looks butch, too, with a standard AMG body kit that includes a more menacing front end, side skirts, and a black diffuser with dual trapezoidal exhausts.
Several aspects of the E-class coupe's styling are awkward, including rear fender flares inspired by the 1950s pontoon-bodied Benzes but which seem out of sync with the rest of the sculpted, modern design. The cabin, however, is elegant and modern, with outstanding ergonomics and four aggressively bolstered buckets. The rear seats offer lots of legroom and fold-down access to the sizable trunk.
The two-door E-class glides down the road in a hushed, relaxed manner that belies its size. The E550's computer-controlled dampers are more supple than the E350's conventional shocks, although both models suffer from numb steering and rear ends that always feel half a beat behind in corners. But there aren't many corners in the desert - and the Vegas Strip is as straight as an arrow. Let's face it, most people will purchase the E-class coupe for its appearance, not its canyon-carving ability or its chassis components. And when in Vegas, it's all about appearance. This is one place where nobody cares if your name is a bit of a fib.
The over-the-top Vegas hotels, casinos, and shopping are well documented, but here are a few things that car enthusiasts can do when they've had enough of walking around on foot.
- The Auto Collections at the Imperial Palace. Like everything on the Vegas Strip, this is no eleemosynary exhibit set up for greater social good - it doubles as a high-end automotive flea market. But it's still an enormous, 125,000-square-foot showcase of some of the most incredible cars of all time. autocollections.com
- Hoover Dam. Only about thirty miles from Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam is one of the most visually impressive engineering achievements in the world. It's located in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area, too, which means that wet relief from the dry desert heat is just a bathing suit away.
- Valley of Fire State Park. Fifty-five miles from Las Vegas is Nevada's oldest and largest state park, loaded with red sandstone formations whose scale and natural beauty eclipses anything you'll see on the Strip.
- Scotty's Castle. Just like most things in Las Vegas, this castle, located at the north end of Death Valley National Park, is shrouded by a little deception and a whole lot of money. It's about 170 miles from Vegas, an easy day trip in a car with powerful air-conditioning.
- Grand Canyon. Depending on the speed of your chariot and how much you trust your radar detector, the 280-mile trip from Las Vegas to the Grand Canyon might be dispensed with in just a few hours. With so much to see, make sure to book at least a night there. It's a peaceful break from the bright lights of the Strip.
The Specs: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E550 coupe
On sale: Now price: $55,525 Engine: 5.5L V-8, 382 hp, 391 lb-ftDrive: Rear-wheel