2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Click image to enlarge

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First Drive: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
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2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

Rosseau, Ontario – I always think of individual traits when it comes to the German automakers, and for Mercedes-Benz, it’s elegance. It was the first thing that came to mind with the E-Class sedan, which is redesigned for the 2010 model year.

The entire E-Class lineup has been overhauled, including the addition of an all-new E-Class Coupe that takes the place of the now-discontinued CLK-Class. Sedan-wise, Canada gets the V6-powered E350 4Matic and V8-powered E550 4Matic, both strictly with all-wheel drive; a rear-wheel version of the E350/E550 available in other markets isn’t coming here. An E350 BlueTEC diesel and E63 AMG sedan will be added next year, along with an E-Class wagon. The E300 4Matic of 2009 is no more: according to a Mercedes-Benz representative, the engineers in Germany have not redeveloped its 3.0-litre V6 with direct injection, and so the E350 will now take its place as the entry-level model in the class.

Entry-level is a relative term, of course: the E350 starts at $62,900, the E550 at $72,300. Still, it’s a substantial drop from the 2009 models, which were $74,500 and $85,000 respectively, even though the new models are improved and the level of equipment hasn’t changed. Mercedes says the price plummet better positions the model in the segment, where competitors have also adjusted their price-tags. I just wonder if maybe last year’s buyers simply paid too much.

2010 Mercedes-Benz E-550
2010 Mercedes-Benz E-550. Click image to enlarge
2010 Mercedes-Benz E-350
2010 Mercedes-Benz E-350. Click image to enlarge

The E-Class’ engines haven’t changed since 2009: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and these powerplants definitely ain’t busted. As their names suggest, the E350 uses a 3.5-litre V6, the E550 a 5.5-litre V8, both mated to a creamy-smooth seven-speed automatic transmission that replaces the previous five-speed autobox, and was previously found only on the 2009 BlueTEC diesel version. The shifter is now a slender column-mounted stalk that you tap up or down for Drive or Reverse, while Park is set by pushing a button on the end of it. The transmission’s manual shift mode is operated by paddles on the steering wheel.

The 4Matic system is also redesigned and is now into its fourth generation. It’s lighter and is integrated into the transmission, allowing Mercedes to use the same front suspension as on the European-market rear-wheel E350. If you haven’t driven an all-wheel in a long time, and your only experience is a heavier feel and more turning effort, this car will make you a believer: it’s as delightfully lithe as a rear-driver, but with a permanent 45/55 torque split and the ability to send 100 per cent of each axle’s torque to the right or left side. This gives it exceptional handling on sharp curves, and on the slick roads I encountered during a heavy downpour early in the morning.

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