TheCarConnection.com's editors drove the new 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class to write this hands-on road test summary of the new sedan's styling, performance, comfort, and features. TCC experts also compared the E-Class to other vehicles to give you the best shopping information possible and prepared a companion review of road tests from other auto sites to provide you with a comprehensive look at the new E-Class. High Gear Media accepted travel expenses to Las Vegas to be among the first auto publications to drive the new E-Class lineup.
With more ridges and resistors than ever, the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the edgiest and most technologically complex mid-size sedan ever produced by the German automaker. It takes more time to become familiar, but once you do, the ninth-generation E-Class' better performance, higher refinement, and more efficient powertrains show clear progress-even if the styling confuses fans of the softer silhouette of old. This review covers the E-Class V-6 and V-8 gas-engine cars; TheCarConnection.com reviews the 2010 E-Class Coupe separately, and an AMG E63 sedan, a diesel, a wagon, and a convertible are still yet to arrive in North America. Sedans start at $49,475 for the V-6; a V-8 version starts at $57,175. All-wheel drive is offered on both the V-6 and the V-8 sedan, but won't arrive until later in the year.
With this E-Class, Mercedes-Benz drops the goggle-eyed look of the past two generations and significantly sharpens the edges on its most traditional sedan. It's a divisive look-there are lots of lines to draw your attention and lots of shiny jewelry in the design. While BMW is toning down its Bangle butts and Lexus drifting into a more elegant ether, the E-Class is striking out in a risky direction. The creases remind TheCarConnection.com's editors of the large S-class sedan-and the GLK sport-ute. Two versions offer distinct touches: "luxury" versions have four slats in the grille and a stand-up hood ornament, while "sport" versions get three slats and a large badge on the grille. Eighteen-inch wheels are common to both, but the Sport also wears a lower air dam and a more pronounced trapezoidal shape on the air intake below the grille. The cabin's been polished, too, but in a more traditional way. A hood over the gauges also mimics the S-Class, but plenty of polished wood graces the dash, door panels, and console. The transmission shifter stays discreetly planted on the steering column; the two-door E-Class moves it to the console.
The edge shows up in the 2010 E-Class' dynamics as well. Engines are familiar to fans of the last version, but a seven-speed automatic, revised steering, and a new suspension give the E-Class a lighter, more precise feel. The E350 drives into the new model year with a 268-horsepower V-6 that injects a bit more growl in the cabin than you'd expect, and the simmering 382 hp of the V-8 E550 broadcasts its intentions. It sounds purposeful and runs effortlessly up to a 130-mph top speed. While either engine pulls cleanly and quickly to those triple-digit speeds, the new suspension setup maintains a steady sensation. Mercedes' "Agility Control" uses a mechanical valve to set V-6 cars into a firmer suspension feel under sporty driving; the V-8 car uses an AIRMATIC air-shock suspension to do the same. A general improvement in sensation and driving fun permeates the new car, and it's a welcome change.
With a stronger, roomier body, the new E-Class grants more space to its passengers-and feels more luxurious than before. The 2010 E-Class sedan is longer by about 1 inch and wider by 1.5 inches, and it has almost 1 inch more rear legroom to go with almost 2 inches more elbowroom. Wide, adult-shaped seats in the front grant plenty of space, and the back bench fits three adults with minimal griping. The front seats are power-adjusted, by the way-and while vinyl seats are the standard material, most U.S.-market cars will be fitted with leather. Making up some points on the luxe scale are the more lavish use of wood trim on this new E-Class, better cup holders, a more tightly constructed feel, and increased quietness all around.
Safety equipment is a point of pride for Mercedes-Benz; E-Class sedans can be fitted with 11 airbags (including a driver knee bag, standard, and optional side airbags for the rear seats), stability and traction control, anti-lock brakes, and brake assist. Add to that list a new feature called Attention Assist, which interprets driving patterns to judge when a driver may be falling asleep at the wheel. Options include a blind-spot alert system; Night View Assist; and automatic high-beam headlamps with bi-xenon lamps. Adaptive cruise control, another available feature, can apply 100 percent braking power to stop or mitigate an accident. And lastly, the E-Class' lane-departure warning system will vibrate the steering wheel to alert drifting drivers. The preliminary safety score for the E-Class will be finalized when both NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) crash-test the new vehicle. Neither has performed tests to date.
As with safety features, Mercedes-Benz has luxury and entertainment features in the 2010 E-Class sedan covered. Luxury versions come standard with 17-inch wheels; COMAND controls for the entertainment and climate systems; oval exhaust pipes; air conditioning; cruise control; a sunroof; power windows/locks/mirrors; and almost shocking, vinyl seats. Sport versions are outfitted with 18-inch wheels, distinct gauges, and trapezoidal exhaust pipes. Option packages include a navigation system with voice control; Sirius and HD radio; a rearview camera; heated seats; automatic headlamps and high beams; Keyless Go push-button starting; adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warnings and parking guidance; a panoramic sunroof; split-folding seats; massage seating; Bluetooth; a Harman/Kardon 610-watt audio system; a rear-seat DVD entertainment system; and a full leather interior.
The Bottom Line:
The 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedan swings to the masculine side of the pendulum and sharpens its driving appeal in the process.