The E350 is Mercedes-Benz’s sensible sedan. Standing in the shadow of the extroverted E63 AMG and conceding the efficiency crown to the forthcoming E250 BlueTec diesel, it earns respect by effortlessly balancing form and function in a practical and attractive package. In many ways, the E-class is Mercedes; integrity is everything when you have that kind of weight on your shoulders.
Honing and Toning
Freshly resculpted for the 2014 model year, the W213-generation E-class traces its lineage to 2010. Although the grille covers roughly the same real estate, its corners are now softer, and the previous quad headlamp lenses have been shaped into two longer, leaner units that blend more naturally with the sleek rake of the fascia. The Mercedes shape-up program didn’t neglect the glutes, either, as the formerly flared rear fenders now appear more tight and toned, and the overall package displays a more cohesive and athletic look than did the previous car.
Our test car came in a slimming shade of Lunar Blue ($720) and was equipped with the no-cost Sport Styling package that—in addition to the sport suspension; 18-inch, twin five-spoke alloy wheels; and interior touches—swaps the standard grille and the traditional stand-up three-pointed star for a two-bar grille with an integrated emblem. Weight was shaved by rendering the fenders, hood, and doors in aluminum and a decklid made from a composite. All in, our example tipped the scales at 4136 pounds.The variable-efforti /ielectric power steering is superlight when stopped in traffic and at low speeds but firms up nicely as speeds and tire loads increase. It’s short on contact-patch communication, but at least it’s consistent and accurate. Lateral acceleration registers 0.86 g, and given the choice, we’d take the E350 Sport package’s firm body-motion control over a setup that goes weak in the knees when challenged. /p table border="0" cellpadding="2" cellspacing="0"x">
An engine stop-start system is standard for 2014, as are a few safety features such as Attention Assist, which monitors your driving behavior and lets you know when it thinks you are drowsy or distracted, and collision assist, for when you’re clearly not paying attention at all. Our car had the optional ($875) Lane Tracking package, which includes blind-spot assist and lane-keeping assist, two features that go unappreciated until you need them.
Namaste, the New Zeitgeist
From the driveline and seating to the steering and suspension, from the exterior refresh to the conservative yet elegant interior, Mercedes has taken a holistic approach with the 2014 E350. Although it might not stand out in any single category, the way the E350 seamlessly blends its many strengths is a work of art in its own right, and a longtime Mercedes skill. The prerefresh W213 had us wondering if perhaps the lines of communication were degrading slightly among engineering, product planning, and design. They all seem to be speaking clearly to one another now.