2010 Mercedes-Benz E350
2010 Mercedes-Benz E550
2010 Mercedes-Benz E350
2010 Mercedes-Benz E350
1953 Mercedes-Benz 180 Ponton
1953 Mercedes-Benz 180 Ponton
Top to bottom: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E350; 2010 Mercedes-Benz E550 (head-on and profile photos); 2010 Mercedes-Benz E350; 1953 Mercedes-Benz 180 Ponton; a control dial for the A/V, telephone and navigation menus occupies the space freed up by the relocated shifter. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Madrid, Spain – When the redesigned 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans arrive in Canada this July – V6-powered E350s and V8-powered E550s will come first; E350 BlueTEC diesels, E63 AMGs and wagons will arrive next year – they will be, arguably, the quietest, most comfortable mid-size luxury sedans on the market – and possibly the safest, too.

Initially, there’s likely to be a lot of discussion about the new headlight design which abandons the distinctive four oval lenses in favour of four angular headlight covers – a theme that emulates the recent changes to the C-Class and GLK-Class vehicles, but also looks uncomfortably like a certain mid-size Lexus sedan. Also somewhat controversial is the unique rear fender shape, a design inspired by the rear fender of the 1953 Mercedes 180 “Ponton” saloon.

But overall, traditional E-Class buyers will likely be pleased that this “three-box” sedan design remains conservative, with a discreet Mercedes star propped up on the hood rather than an oversized one set into the middle of the grille; a prominent, upright chromed grille; and simple, wraparound taillights.

They’ll also probably appreciate the fact that the E-Class’ overall exterior dimensions haven’t ballooned to unwieldy proportions. The wheelbase has been increased by 20 millimetres while the overall length has increased by 16 millimetres, width by 32 millimetres, and height lowered by 10 millimetres. Incredibly, the new E-Class’ coefficient of drag is now just 0.25, a CD matched only by the slippery new Toyota Prius hybrid. One of the tricks used to reduce drag is automatically adjusting fan louvres which vary the airflow to the radiator depending on the engine’s cooling requirements.

New interior

In keeping with the new E-Class’ emphasis on safety and comfort rather than performance and styling, the interior has been completely reworked, and is roomier thanks to the longer wheelbase and wider track. The extra cabin width benefits both front and rear passengers while the longer wheelbase gives rear passengers more knee and legroom. Even though the car is lower in height, there’s even more headroom – this was achieved by lowering the powertrain and floor.

The wholesale redesign of the E-Class’ cabin has resulted in the relocation of most major controls (except the steering wheel). Notably, the floor shifter has been relocated to the steering column where it has morphed into Mercedes’ delicate wand shifter. A manual shifting function for the new seven-speed automatic transmission (replacing the five-speed) is now operated by shift paddles behind the steering wheel rather than the current method of tapping a floor shifter left and right.

The relocation of the shift lever frees up space in the lower centre console for a new control dial which operates the audio/video/telephone/navigation menus in the dash-mounted screen, which itself has been relocated from the centre to the top of the dash where it is now protected from glare by a shroud. Moving the shift lever to the column also frees up room in the centre console for more storage cubbies including a new twin-door centre armrest/storage bin.

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