The E Class ancestry goes all the way back to the mid 1930s, but it was not until 1993 that the E Class nomenclature was adopted. Previously, the E was used to denote the engine size (Example: 230E). Technically, the E Class came to life in 1996 during the W210 generation (1996-2003). The E Class is to Mercedes-Benz what the Camry is to Toyota. It pushed Mercedes-Benz into the upper market, and it finally had a formidable competitor to the BMW 5 Series. This was the generation in which specific E Class design traits would develop such as the quad head lights (four separate headlights) and singular taillights. As the years passed by, the E Class continued to grow in size and importance. Until recently, the E Class was Mercedes-Benz’s best selling model. Now in its third generation, it was refreshed for the 2014 model year with exterior and mechanical tweaks.
With the facelift, Mercedes-Benz intended to create a youthful look in order to appeal to younger customers. In doing so, they ditched the quad headlights in favor of uniform high intensity headlights. While it looks edgy, some of the elegance has been lost. My biggest peeve with the front is the bumper. The bumper design comes with the Sport trim. It is too fussy and overwrought for my taste and adds to the front’s inelegance. The side profile is distinguished by a rising belt line which extends to the trunk while the side is adorned by a well defined character line. The rear is not as uncluttered as the front, and there is a pleasing effect to it. However, the rear diffuser which also comes with the Sport trim mars the look of the rear. The E Class is still a fine looker. It’s just that my preference is skewed towards simple designs which is why I do not expect other people to share my opinion regarding the styling. The interior is tasteful and polished with enough luxury touches to add to its appearance.
There are two versions of the E350: Sport or Luxury. This Sport trim is equipped with a stiffer suspension and lower profile tires than the aforementioned Luxury trim. With that in mind, body control is remarkable for such a grand sedan. The body stays impressively planted, and tire grip is lasting. Turn the wheel, and the car reacts with alarming precision. The steering can be slightly vague on center but it has decent feedback overall. It is light but weights up in a linear manner as speeds increase. With the stiff suspension, the ride quality is not what you would expect in a Mercedes-Benz. The ride is firm, and road imperfections become noticed. It is not intrusive, but if you want a comfortable ride quality, you are much better off with the Luxury trim.
For 2012, the E Class received a new engine upgrade. The 3.5 liter V6 engine was upgraded from 268 to 302 horsepower. It is mated to a seven speed automatic transmission. The V6 provides effortless and abundant power. It never feels strained, and its impressive flexibility renders the E550’s V8 irrelevant. The seven speed automatic transmission is smooth, but can occasionally lurch. The stop start function can be problematic. It shuts the engine off in order to save fuel economy but it is noticeably abrupt. It shuts off as you are coming to a stop with your foot on the brake and restarts when you press the accelerator. It also shuts off when you are moving at low speeds, so if you are trying to move slowly into a parking spot, the engine will shut off. It can be turned off though. Fuel economy is decent at 23 mpg overall.
The interior is well finished. It is well assembled and it exhibits impressive attention to detail. There are some nice luxury touches such as an upscale analog clock. One unusual thing I love about the gauges is the “magic” needle for the speedometer. It looks like the needle is moving on its own. The ambiance is classy and unmistakeably Mercedes-Benz. The seats are cushy, and they offer excellent support. Same goes for the rear seats. Visibility is excellent thanks to the big windows and slim pillars. The E350 is brimming with technology. It has front and rear cameras as well as a parking assist system and the usual array of blind spot detection and adaptive cruise control systems. Controls in general are intuitive although scrolling through the menus via the multifunction controller can be tedious. The gear lever can be an issue as you have to press a button in order to shift to Drive. Thankfully, the AC is not integrated within the navigation, and the radio controls are easy to access. Speaking of access, access is excellent. The cabin is roomy as well, and the trunk is large.
If you are in the market for a midsize luxury sedan with enough room for your family and decent driving dynamics, this will not disappoint. I generally do not like Mercedes-Benz, but what I like about this car is how serene you feel. I do not have a palpable reason as to why, but the E350 gives off a feeling of familiarity. Nowadays, cars are becoming needlessly complicated, and there are talks of cars that drive themselves. When I was driving the E350, I felt at home. The seats are inviting, and once you get past the initial complexity of the controls, driving the car feels…natural. Like I said, I do not have any tangible reasoning as to why, but I really feel the reason why this car sells so well is because of how easy it is to drive and how comfortable it is. In a society where luxury cars are either too hard riding or not engaging enough, the E350 provides an ideal balance even though it is not as comfortable as the older generations. For a midsize luxury sedan that provides an inviting blend of decent handling and comfort, the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 is hard to beat.