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Saturday, January 29, 2011

2010 Mercedes E550 Review

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2010 Mercedes E550 Review
With so much improved about the all-new 2010 E-Class, hold on to your wallet, because there’s more to come 

Mercedes-Benz is in the midst of a product renaissance. The CLS started the ball rolling, while the revamped C-Class, SL, new GLK and SLS AMG have kept the world buzzing. However, the new E-Class is the one that matters the most. 
Available as a coupe, convertible or sedan, the E hits the broadest point in the company’s line-up. And while the four-door E350 and E63 AMG offer either great value or massive performance at either end of the spectrum, it’s the E550 that tries to balance those two attributes.


As expected, the E550 differentiates itself by its engine: in this case, a 5.5-liter V8 that produces 382 hp at 6000 rpm and 391 ft-lbs of torque from 2800 to 4800 rpm. It’s still reasonably competitive compared to its rivals and the standard seven-speed automatic transmission allows for a quick 0-60 mph sprint of just 5.2 seconds. The sound doesn’t have the sharp, muscle car roar of the AMG cars, but it is throaty enough.
Fuel efficiency isn’t bad either, with 16/24-mpg (city/highway) being above average in the class. Because of some creative construction techniques, curb weight is relatively svelte at 4,034 lb.


When it comes to putting that power to the road, the E-Class is a willing partner. It banishes the waftiness that came standard with every previous generation car. What’s left is a machine that’s much more controlled on every surface. It doesn’t have the right-now reflexes of a sharpened BMW 5-Series, but it’s not sloppy either. The standard 17-inch wheels are stylish, and the low-ish profile tires don’t beat you up over rough pavement.
The steering is responsive and offers a decent level of feedback through the wheel. And the brakes are fuss free, backed up by standard ABS and brake assist.


Other than cheating by looking at the badges, it’s difficult to spot the differences between the lesser V6 models and the more powerful ones. Regardless of engine, the E550 features chiseled flanks with ‘those’ rear arches, and it is miles more attractive than the bland-new 5-Series or over-the-hill Audi A6.
This brings the potential buyer to a serious decision: you can have your E550 in two flavors, regular or spicy, with no extra cost. The Luxury Styling is the more traditional, with the smaller wheels, wood-lined interior and softer settings. The Sport Styling throws on deeper sills, 18-inch AMG wheels, aluminum accents instead of the lumber, and a three-spoke AMG steering wheel. The changes are subtle – but the driving experience is so good to start with. And the sport suspension settings firm things up nicely.

2011 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Gullwing - Official Photos and Info

One other mechanical option is the company’s 4MATIC all-wheel drive, which adds $2,500 to the bottom line. 4MATIC also adds just over 100 lbs. of weight and makes it slightly slower to 60 mph (5.3 sec), but adds a big measure of stability in harsher climes.


Speaking of harsher climes, the E550’s cabin gives you plenty of space required to get away from the crush of everyday hassles. The seats are comfortable and supportive, the gauges are clear and bright, and the dash mimics the no-nonsense style of the C-Class, but with better materials. The rear seats won’t make passengers feel unwanted either.
But, since this is a very German car, the list of options and packages is lengthy. The Premium 1 package adds a hard-drive based navigation system with voice control, a harmon/kardon audio system, a rear-view camera, power rear sunshade, and heated and cooled front seats, all for $4,400. Stump up another $2,200 to upgrade to Premium package 2, and you get active bi-xenon headlights, LED running lights, heated headlight washers and Keyless-Go.

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For those who don’t like paying attention to traffic, the $2,900 Driver Assistance Package includes Distronic active cruise control with Pre-Safe braking, along with blind spot assist and lane keeping assist. Further standalone options include anything from Parktronic, to split-folding rear seats, to a night-vision pedestrian-detection system.


Start adding any of those to the E550’s base price of $56,300 and without much trouble, you’re looking at the nearly $70,000. Hardly a value proposition. With the new twin-turbo V8 5-Series and 400-plus horsepower Infiniti M56 rolling into dealerships soon, the E550 will be outgunned for at least a year while Mercedes-Benz rolls out its new twin-turbo 4.7-liter V8 to fight fire with fire.
Until then, the E550 still delivers more than its badge promises, which reflects the company’s positive change in attitude towards building great products. And it does successfully straddle the line between performance and panache.

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