Yeah, but what’s it like to live with? Mercedes E350 Sport

mercedes-emblem

What’s parked outside this month is a Mercedes E350 Sport.  This particular car is a 2008 model with a bit over 40K miles.  Nice examples are commonly available in the upper teens to low 20s.  A good value for an upper level sedan.  Let’s see how it stacks up:

E350 Sport

Mercedes has a long history of performance sedans.  The E series is their mid size car, competing against the BMW 5 series and the Audi 6.  Within that group, it’s a bit bigger and a bit heavier.  That extra size also means some extra room.

The styling is conservative but attractive.  A lot better, in my opinion, than the Bangle designed 5 series or the well used bar of soap Audis.  It has the usual MB “chiseled from a single block of granite” solidity.  In fact, the doors have some extra resistance that makes them feel like you’re closing a bank vault.  That’s Mercedes thing.  It gives a safe and secure impression.

This extra heft drains a bit of the “sport” off.  The car feels big and substantial.  Acceleration is pretty decent.  More than adequate for most situations.  It’s doubtful anyone would track this car.  Handling is also very competent.  Better than most.  It just doesn’t encourage sporting driving.  It is happiest humming down the interstate taking you quickly to your destination.  It is an excellent vehicle for a family trip.  Seating is very comfortable and not fatiguing.   Rear seat passengers commented that the seats were a bit low so entry and exit was not as easy as expected.

The car excels as a comfortable and convenient daily use family car.  The controls are well balanced. The engine and transmission are well matched and unobtrusive.  The ride is perfectly controlled and quiet. Mostly short trip driving netted a respectable 19.6 mpg.

Oh yeah, I was supposed to be talking about the sporting aspects of the car.  Well, there isn’t much.  It is nearly the match for the 5 series in performance; it just doesn’t feel like it.  Mercedes is a luxury car with some sporty added on.  BMW is a sporty car with some luxury added on, if you get the difference.  The two should meet in about the same place but they don’t.  That’s not bad.  It depends on what you want.

Mercedes has an enviable reputation for quality and reliability – right behind Lexus.  Repairs, though not frequent, will still likely be expensive.  Very few things about the car are annoying in daily use:  The center armrest is uncomfortable on the elbow because of  the pointless roll up console opening and I never got used to having two control stalks on the left side of the wheel.  I would always reach for the cruise control stalk to signal a lane change instead of reaching for the stalk under it.  Why Mercedes?  There is no stalk on the right.

When I first picked up the car, the radio was on a particularly annoying radio station.  With the dizzying array of buttons surrounding the infotainment screen, could I change the station?  Not until I stopped and read the owner’s manual.  I miss knobs.  Mercifully, the climate controls are simple knobs and buttons mounted high on the dash.  The rest of the controls are easy and logically laid out.  Overall the cabin is a very pleasant place to be.

I drove a BMW 528i for several years.  It was one of the best cars that I have owned.  I would put this Mercedes into that category as a solid and capable family car.  There are many other cars with more “sport”.  If you want more sport in a Benz, AMG would be the ticket.  So this is a fine car but (yawn) a bit boring for the car enthusiast.  I will review something more interesting next time.