By Aaron Cole, THE AURORA SENTINEL
Every gorgeous car comes with a catch.
It’s either: hysterically impractical; as testy as Gary Busey on a four-day bender; going to cost you as much as a Space Shuttle launch; or, its made by Mercedes Benz — which in that case, it’s sometimes all of the above.
While Benz’s are famously easy to love, they’re sometimes famous for being supermodel-hard on the pocketbook and garage queens just waiting for their next repair. Fitting or not, Benz’s have been famously fussy automobiles.
So what’s a guy to think when a shiny new 2010 Mercedes Benz E-class coupe appears?
Just like the last time, love stinks.
Of course, this car really will never be track tested. The most vigorous handling challenge it’s likely to face in its privileged life is up and down a windy Aspen road in the summer and the rigors of garage life in the winter.
And that’s okay. Like most of what comes out of Stuttgart, its superb chops will hardly be tested in a McDonalds drive-thru window.
But once — and I was hoping this would be the moment — I’d like a $50,000 Benz ($59,225 as tested, add $6,000 more for the V8, give or take) to give mere mortals a taste of what its $200,000 supercars have always had: show-stopping looks, a seductive motor and a gentle touch on the track.
But just like Meat Loaf said, “Two out of three ain’t bad.”
Our E coupe was fitted with Mercedes’ 3.5-liter V6, and powered aptly down the road. While it’s a lot to ask 268 horses to power two tons, the E350 did it nicely at 17 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. I am inclined to believe the bigger-sister E550, which is fitted with a 5.5-liter V8 worth 382 horsepower, goes like stink.
Nevertheless, I was never left really wanting from the E350’s engine. Asking the E350 to gallivant from 0-60 takes a mere 6.2 seconds; in the E550 that number drops to around 5 seconds. The 6-cylinder really doesn’t have an exhaust note to speak of, but when pushed into its power band, the E350 bellows a raspy snarl from its dual exhaust.
Actually enjoying the E350’s derring-do was the biggest surprise to me, because generally speaking — even for Mercedes — the smaller, less-expensive coupe is generally the “get you in the door” coupe with the real tigers in the back of the showroom, ready to pounce on your heart and your pocketbook.
As a result, I wouldn’t kick the E350 out of bed for lack of trying. Similarly, I wouldn’t turn one away on looks either.
If you’re looking for mouth-open, spit-drying, teeth-hurting classic good looks, the E-class coupe is it.
It’s possible to parade the E-class coupe in any classical beauty pageant and ride home in a winner — I firmly believe that.
From the frameless windows, sharp-angled headlamps and badges, to the rear fenders cascading over the rear tires like the Ponton coupes from the late 1950s, Mercedes is a strikingly good-looking car from front to back.
Inside, the view is no different either. The same angles dominate the swank interior digs.
As the coupe name would imply, this car is supremely comfortable with a driver and a passenger, although it wouldn’t be a stretch to throw a kid or two in the back for short trips.
What’s new this year is the Attention Assist program that watches you watching the road. And if you seem to be a little sleepy, the Benz will blare a 21-gun salute or something comparable in your face and tell you to pull over and take a nap. Also, Mercedes touts its car will brake for you should you temporarily lose sanity and decide to hurdle your $60,000 car toward something without restraint. I chose to do neither in our test model, and I’ll trust Mercedes that the systems are there without testing either.
Our test version was fitted with the whole kit: satellite navigation, heated and cooled seats, and an electro-pneumatically controlled four-way lumbar system. If I’m honest, I could do without the complex air-bladder system pushing and pulling my kidneys and associated vertebrae in strange positions.
But sometimes it’s not about the massage as much as it is the masseur — and this one could use a lighter touch in another department.
Please understand, the E-coupe handles great for a luxury coupe. But your granddad drives a luxury coupe, too — he calls it a ’76 Cadillac Eldorado.
The steering isn’t mushy or unresponsive, it’s just not as agile as a lighter sports coupe should be. It’s like steering a drunk socialite into her limousine, you’re not going to get there without a some dips, bends and a little frustration.
I can see how they got here.
Previously, the car was badged with a CLK moniker, meaning it was a closer kin to the lighter, smaller C-class than the E-class.
Even though this year’s model has essentially the same skeleton, the E coupe earns the badging by being closer to the larger E-class is appearances and approach.
Sadly, the turning isn’t as crisp and the body doesn’t feel as glued to the asphalt as I would have hoped. I’d love the E coupe to feel like a millionaire’s supercar, but instead, it just feels like a very good car.
And that’s the rub.
The new E350 coupe is love at first sight, but it was where the rubber literally meets the road that this relationship fell tantalizingly short.
I’ll be ready to love again — I was just hoping this was the one.
Final Verdict: Three and one quarter stars out of four. To say that the 2010 Mercedes Benz E-class coupe is a head-turning car is an understatement — it’s a head-torqueing seductress. It just happens that this one, like many runway models, has trouble dealing with in anything other than a straight line. That’ll change soon though.
Aaron Cole is the managing editor of The Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303-750-7555.