By Mathieu Yuill
I had the opportunity to test drive a $60,000 vehicle the other week from a manufacturer not typically known for its high-end luxury sedans. It was a nice ride and had plenty of comforts not found on most modestly priced automobiles, but one thought kept creeping through my head: there’s no way this competes with the Mercedes-Benz E350 I had driven the week earlier.
Granted, the E350 had a sticker price of about $7,000 more than the car I was currently driving, but that $7,000 drastically upped the level of luxury and refinement compared to the car I was currently in.
The E Class has been around since the 1950s and all those years of innovation shine through. The suspension is smooth when driving in a civilized manner, but when pushed even a tiny bit the E350 proves it is as nimble as it is refined. Equipped with 4MATIC permanent all-wheel drive, it sends torque to each wheel independently to optimize traction and control.
Standard engine configuration includes Mercedes’ 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic transmission. It adapts to your driving style and actually skips several gears when you need that sudden burst of speed or want to stop in a hurry.
I drove an E350 equipped with the optional premium package that included voice control, Harman Kardon surround sound, power rear window sunshade, electronic trunk closure, keyless-go and COMAND APS – which is Mercedes’ central system for controlling pretty much everything in the car.
Combined with standard Bluetooth there was almost no reason for my hands to ever leave the steering wheel. The LINGUATRONIC voice control did a fine job of recognizing my voice and the experience of telling the car to dial specific numbers or calling names from my address book was second only to Ford’s excellent Sync system.
BMW, Audi, Infiniti and Lexus all have sedans that compete directly with the E350, but no other manufacturer has the same reputation for luxury than Merecedes-Benz does and with the E350 they’ve found the right balance of driving dynamic and comfort to keep that reputation.