Because of the wide range of options available, the 2010 Mercedes Benz E-Class represents the kind of cars that form the backbone of the German automaker’s reputation. They may not incite the drooling of the AMG or SL-Class models, but instead aim at a broad segment of buyers as reliable, refined cars whose luxury still retains a level of modesty that alludes other manufacturers. For some that boils down to boring. But Mercedes has an answer for that too; it’s called the E550 Coupe.
Long before the intrusion of foreign and fellow German automaker BMW, the E-Class was the undisputed standard bearer of midsize luxury. Amazingly, the dissolution of the marriage between Daimler and Chrysler that spawned the Crossfire seems to have left no scars on the Mercedes brand. Now like any self-respecting divorcee would do, the boys from Stuttgart have gone back on the prowl luring the upwardly mobile who may have jumped ship to Lexus or BMW.
The E-Class sedan is offered in two multiple versions, distinguished most notably by the use of either a 3.5-liter V6 or a 5.5-liter V8. These are both carry-overs of the 90-degree “V” engines that were used in the previous E-class, but efficiency has been increased 3% for 2010 as the outgoing cars. Both engines are coupled to a 7-speed automatic gearbox that can skip gears while downshifting and make use of a fuel-saving torque converter lock-up on all seven gears. Mercedes reports that 80% of E-Class sales are with the V6. As the designation indicates, the 550 Coupe predictably makes use of the larger engine engine, which is a significant powerplant. As opposed to the V6 which some complain loudly goes about its work when pushed, the 382 horsepower, 391 lb. The E550 is said to make 60 mph in a sprightly 5.2 seconds with a limited top speed of 130 mph.
Despite the fact that the new model is 0.63 inch longer, 1.3 inches wider and 0.47 inch lower, and rides on a 0.79-inch longer wheelbase, the 2010 E feels at least as compact if not more so than its predecessor. This is a benefit to the body which is 31 percent more rigid thanks to expanded use of high-strength steel. The hood, front fenders, trunk lid, front cross member were then all made of aluminum to reduce weight.
Standard on the V8 is Mercedes’ AIRMATIC suspension, which comes leveling air springs that and electronically controlled dampers. Ride quality is adjustable between “comfort” and “sport,” each of which feels tight, yet forgiving. Which is a bit like choosing between two different words for “fun.” But the driver does get the pleasure of pushing another button while driving, which is always fun. As compared to other luxury cars that isolate the driver from the road, the handling and steering are incredibly accurate with just enough road feel to make you feel connected to the driving experience.
A great deal of Mercedes efforts have gone into both preventing and protecting occupants against accidents. To that end, a new system is in place in the E550 that monitors steering and accelerator input to determine if the driver’s style begins to change in ways that may indicate driver fatigue. If so, warning sounds and a steaming cup is displayed on the dashboard. The Lane Keeping system uses a camera to analyze painted lines on the road and send bursts of vibration through the wheel if the car wanders across one of those lines.
Other active and passive safety systems are liberally employed including the most advanced anti-lock brake and electronic stability control systems, as well as a total of nine airbags. Adopted from the S-class is Blind Spot Assist and Adaptive Highbeam Assist which adjusts the intensity and spread pattern of the low beams, extending their range from 200 to 1,000 feet in ideal conditions, instead of simply switching from high to low beam with oncoming traffic. This is inconjunction with dual-infrared-beam-based Night View Assist Plus system and full xenon headlights that swivel up to 15 degrees into a turn, based on steering.
Finally, Distronic Plus automatic cruise-control system, which can now stop the car in traffic and get it going again automatically, if you stop for no longer than three seconds is matched with the Pre-Safe brake system, which includes Brake Assist Plus and can apply full braking force to avoid or reduce the force of a collision.
Still think Volvo is the leader in auto safety?
Fuel economy ratings for the V8-packing E 550 are 14/20 mpg.
In comparison to the bulbous Mercedes of the past decade, the 2010 model continues the companies trimmed-down movement. Some may think it boring, but like many of the finer things in life, its conservative styling underscores its quality build and shedding of excess baggage. While edgier than previous E versions, aerodynamic performance have been further improved for 2010.
The overall lengthening of the E-Class has given an additional 1.5 to 2 inches in elbow and shoulder room as well as an extra inch in rear legroom inside the cabin. Mercedes interiors, whether you ultimately like them or not, are always focused on being enduring, not modern necessarily. Like making a long term investment. This is no different for 2010 with switches and surfaces which will be just as high-quality in 2040 as they are today. Mercedes makes extensive use of hand-polished walnut on the center console, instrument panel and door panels, and all models get a high-mounted center ICE/Navigation screen. Specific to V8 versions is a 3-spoke sporty steering wheel that is squared off at the bottom.Like other interfaces that seem to befuddle more than amuse, Mercedes’ COMAND system uses a large, console-mounted aluminum control knob, that is purported to be easier to use than the original version.
Seating is highly adjustable with 14 separate adjustments and are equipped with standard active head restraints, cooling, heating and two-level massage mode. Side bolsters can also inflate automatically to increase lateral support while cornering. They are even equipped with two massage modes. In back, rear seats are equally roomy and come with head restraints that can be lowered from the headliner with the push of a button from the front seats. The split-folding seatback is optional, to connect with a big, 15.9 cubic foot trunk the same size as the outgoing model.
When contemplating whether the E550 is worth the extra cost above a V6 version, keep in mind that while a new E350 is priced at $48,600, opting for the larger engine costs a relatively minor premium of around 8-grand at $56,300. Not exorbitant for the luxury crowd and actually 10% cheaper than trends for prior versions and in comparison to contenders from Audi and BMW.