The Driver's Seat: Mercedes-Benz E350
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Honestly? I thought this car was an Acura the first time I saw it. The all-new, fourth-generation E-class is said to be more muscular in appearance than previous versions, though. (That’s gotta mean muscular as in Michael Phelps’ muscles, not The Rock’s.) And, while it’s marketed as a “mid-sized” luxury sports sedan, it seemed more like a compact. The sports-sedan part might be pushing things, too. Powered by a V-6 paired with a 7-speed automatic transmission, the 2010 E350 had decent acceleration and handling, but nothing to write home about.
BOTTOM LINE: This Mercedes is handsome, graceful, and eminently civilized, as you’d expect from the venerable nameplate. But its real appeal may lie inside the leather-clad cockpit. In addition to wood trim, satellite radio, and a power sunroof, the driver’s seat-back “gives” as you turn to the left or right; it’s like a personal masseur is back there supporting your spine. There’s also a rear-view camera, making backing into heavy traffic a lot less scary. And, maybe best of all, there’s something called an Attention Assist Driver Drowsiness Monitor that comes standard. If you start drifting behind the wheel for any reason, an espresso-cup icon on the instrument cluster starts emitting an audible warning.
TO BUY OR NOT TO BUY: Despite some pricey extras on the version we drove, the base price of the 2010 E350 is said to be $4,600 less than the 2009 model. The sticker on our car, nonetheless, came in north of $60,000. Before dropping that for the E350, we’d recommend any non-Benz diehards first check out sportier rivals like the Infiniti G37, an Audi A6, or any six-cylinder BMW.