October 9, 2013

News & Features

Auto review: Mercedes E350 has looks and smarts

Tampa Bay Times

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The Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet starts at $60,200. (Lyra Solochek / Tampa Bay Times)

The Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet is a car that can impress even the most jaded valet. It's elegant but understated. Classic yet modern. And did we mention it's a convertible? For 2014, Mercedes has given the midsize E-Class sleeker styling and significant technology upgrades. It adds up to luxury further refined.

Appearance: The whole design looks sportier than its predecessor, which looked a bit staid. The lines now seem to flow better from front to rear. Up front, there's now an aggressive black-mesh grille with a more prominent three-star Mercedes logo. Below it sit large air scoops that wouldn't be out of place on a sports car. The upswept headlights have been elongated and are divided by sharp LED lights, which look stunning at night. (Full LED headlights are available as part of the $1,500 Lighting Package that also has curve and corner illumination.) Our tester had the 18-inch twin five-spoke AMG alloy wheels as part of the Sport Package ($1,490). The rear wheels are wider than the front for better handling.

2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet
  • Price: $60,200 base start, $74,755 as tested
  • Powertrain: 3.5-liter V-6, 7-speed automatic, RWD
  • Horsepower: 302 at 6,500 rpm
  • Torque: 273 pound-feet at 3,500-5,250 rpm
  • Curb weight: 4,101 pounds
  • Seats: Four
  • Fuel economy: 20 miles per gallon city, 28 mpg highway
  • Safety features: electronic stability program, adaptive braking technology, ABS, brake assist, attention assist, airbags and curtains, popup roll bars, blind-spot assist, surround-view camera, Distronic Plus with Pre-Safe brake and steering assist, parking assist


Performance:
The E350 comes with the 3.5-liter, direct-injection V-6. Our first thought was that it might be underpowered. That's probably because we've been spoiled by the cars from Mercedes' AMG performance division. But the E350's 302 horsepower is powerful enough for some fun. The gear selector is now on the column instead of the center (Lyra didn't like the change). The seven-speed automatic, as we've come to expect, ticks off shifts effortlessly; there are paddles on the column, but neither of us felt we needed them. The car also has Mercedes' ECO start/stop system, which some may find annoying. Still, it starts back up quickly. The electro-mechanical power steering has good feel, with just the right amount of assist.

Interior:
As you would expect, the fit and finish are first-rate, with details such as polished metallic and wood trim, double-stitched upholstery and firm yet comfortable seats. We were surprised at how quiet the cabin is for a convertible. The rear seats are actually functional for small passengers. There is now an analog clock on the dash, which may be the automaker's lone concession to traditional technology. That's because the E-Class is getting the modern safety features seen in the upper ranges of the Mercedes line. This translates into warnings, vibrations and alerts that will tell drivers when they are getting drowsy or drifting into another lane. (But why is blind-spot warning not a standard feature?) For some, these features may be intrusive.

The bottom line: The Mercedes-Benz E350 Cabriolet has the right balance of luxury, style and performance. Too much tech? Maybe. Just be careful when you hand the keys to the valet.

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