Test Drive: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic

For us, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class is a perfect fit for our lifestyle.? It is large enough to carry another couple comfortably on a long trip, but it doesn?t have one of those cavernous limousine-like back seat areas with all the entertainment equipment and reclining seats.? We figure, why have all that luxury and comfort in the back, just for someone else to use occasionally.

We had a chance to retest this theory on a recent trip to Washington?s Olympic Peninsula with another couple.? We were all very comfortable, with plenty of room and even enough cargo space (15.9 cubic feet) for luggage and treats for five days.

Of all the features included on our test E-350 4Matic sedan like the active cruise control, parking aid, lane assist, blind spot assist, ?hard-disk drive navigation system and on and on, the feature we liked most was the way the E-350 drives.

Powered by the smallest of the gasoline engines offered by Mercedes in the E-Class, the sophisticated 268-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 engine provides excellent power delivery over the full range of conditions.? Acceleration from 0 to 60 takes only 6.5 seconds and it has a top speed limited to 130 mph, if we had a track to run it on.? What we appreciated most was the confidence and safety of the outstanding passing power.? This was especially important on the two lane rural roads of the Olympic peninsula, which are often filled with slow-moving vehicles.

The engine efficiency is enhanced with the precise Mercedes seven-speed automatic transmission, which includes shift buttons on the steering wheel for manual shifting and better driver control. ?The E350 has an EPA rating of 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.? We actually averaged 22.3 mpg during our trip in a full-loaded car.

We?ve experienced the optional 4Matic ($2,500) all-wheel drive system at other times in inclement weather and found it to be one of the most effective and transparent systems we?ve driven.? We also like the extra security of the system on dry roads where the system can kick-in and provide extra traction in an emergency.

The four-wheel independent suspension system includes a standard agility control system that allows the driver to adjust the ride for more comfort, or to a sport mode that provides even better dexterity for more aggressive driving or more challenging conditions.? Even with the full load, the E-Class always stayed grounded, flat and stable.

With about $20,000 in available added features and advanced technology, the E350 can get quite spendy, but even at the $51,975 base price, including the destination charge,? for the 4Matic version, the car is very well equipped and lacks no safety features.? Other E-Class sedan models include the 30 mpg plus diesel-powered E350 Blue TEC, V-8 powered E550 and the awesome 518-hp E63 AMG.? The E-Class is also available as a coupe and cabriolet, plus a wagon version will be added later this year.

The E350 is one of the very best midsize sport sedans we have driven and an excellent value when you consider the content and quality.? The elegant styling and luxury appointments combined with the precise driving qualities make this the type of car owners look for excuses to drive.

[Rating:8.5/10]

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