Got to run around in this the other day to run errands for a friend who was out of town. It's my first Merc experience and here's how it went.
The prestige and reputation of the marque is what strikes you first. Merc is so deeply rooted in the minds of us commoners as THE luxury brand that it kind of makes you want to praise it to high heavens even before you've had a chance to get into the car.
Outwardly, the new E class coupe is more aggressively styled. The oblong-ish quad headlamps replace the old oval "bug eyed" styling which I didnt care for. And the LED lights on the air intakes are a neat touch. Though not as stately as what you'd expect from a Merc (see, expectations strike again) but it is handsome nonetheless.
On the inside, what strikes you first is the sumptuous amount of leather used. The leather is not only luxurious to the touch, there is also a waft of the leather aroma in the cabin - sensual and seductive. The dials and instruments are where they should be and are easy to read. The only worrying sign here is that the CLOCK, yes the clock, is bigger than the tachnometer. And THAT is always a worrying sign. Luxury before performance.
As you start the engine, the electric seat belt extenders stick out to hand you the seat belt. And when you think all's well and you're ready to drive, the seat belt tensioners kick in and attempt to strangle you. The car tensions the seat belt to keep you safe in case of an accident but to me, it half as nearly strangled me!
Performance wise, the V6 engine is surprisingly quiet. Which to me, is not such a great thing. Merc is after refinement and the E350 is one refined gentleman's car but I want something more edgy, perhaps a hint of a growl at the top end of the engine to betray its feral nature. Nope. Nothing. It has power and torque. For regular driving, the Merc is one seriously smooth operator. But for spirited driving, for when you want to feel that extra bit special, it kind of lets you down.
Think of the E350 as Arthur from the movie Inception. Remember the scene with the grenade launcher and Eames? The Merc, like Arthur, is exceptionally well groomed and talented but lacking in imagination and excitement. I suppose Eames would more likely be the BMW 335i, feral but still refined.
As you can see, my experience with the E350 has been quite eventful. The car pulls a lot of attention especially with a young bloke at the wheel. But I can't help but feel a little cheated inside. For with all the expectations that I had of the Merc, perhaps, they have all been just that; expectations. Lofty ideals are often dragged down by the harsh facts of reality. And the reality is that the E350, though it is a great car, pales in comparison to the 335i in terms of sheer driving pleasure and, in my opinion, loses out the the stunning Audi S5 in terms of design.
The 335i has the inline 6 that I adore. The S5 has the styling that melts my heart. But the Merc, oh the Merc, has neither but I bet you, it would be the one amongst the three that is easiest to live with.