2014 Mercedes Benz E350 Coupe: A driver’s dilemma

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Forget what you read about autonomous cars. Forget that you’ve seen news about cars that drive themselves, stop themselves, keep your eyes on the road while you’re texting or fighting with kids in the back seat. Forget that this very automaker makes a car with night vision to see when you can’t.

2014 E350 4MATIC CoupeRemember that automakers are building cars you’ll want to whale on all day then take out on a Saturday night. Remember that coupes are the one thing manufacturers such as Mercedes Benz are making now better than they ever have. Remember that the 2014 Mercedes Benz E350 is the epitome of a car that’s begging to be driven, despite the mélange of electronics meant to forgive you for not paying attention. For instance: an adjustable Attention Assist safety feature warns weary drivers if they’re drifting or if they’ve been behind the wheel for too long and a performance package drops 18-inch wheels shod with sport tires begging to squeal around corners.

Into this contradiction Mercedes Benz drops the E350 Coupe this year, which is slightly different than last. The mid-cycle refresh features a new front end (headlights and sharper front bumpers) and a tighter tail. All told, the exterior sheet metal upgrades aren’t something to write home to the folks about, but the outgoing model was no minger to begin with.

The coupe is based on the sedan with the same first letter (“E”), which is to say that it’s Benz’s mid-sized platform. Bigger than a “C” (not by much, the C-class has the same wheelbase and is 4.3 inches shorter overall), but not as big as an “S” (dramatically different), the E-class coupe is the mid-sized fighter in a growing segment. Spackled with Germans such as the BMW 6-series and Audi A5, all mid-sized coupes are an empty-nester’s first attempt at blowing someone’s inheritance. I wouldn’t blame them much.

Starting at $52,900, the E350 Coupe is somewhat of a bargain, if I can say so. Thrown under the hood is Mercedes’ 3.5-liter V6, a stalwart of German engines. Cranking 302 horsepower and 273 ft.-lbs. of torque, the Benz motor matches favorably against Audi and BMW’s competitors, even if it’s a graybeard. Power swells from the front hood to the rear wheels and equipped with Mercedes’ 4Matic all-wheel drive system, one might get the false sense that the E350 can handle snowy roads well; it doesn’t.

The 2014 E350 begs for open stretches of pavement that are willing to be eaten, chewed and swallowed without any regard for what it feels like the morning after. It takes 6.1 seconds for the E350 to reach 60 mph from a standing start and it feels like time well spent. The exhaust note pipes through the open front and rear windows, and the tires reach a fever when you’re pressing the fun pedal around every corner. You want to thump the E350 like it owes you money.

In reality, you’ll owe it a hefty sum instead. I imagine Mercedes will sell roughly 3 of the $52,900 E350’s. For the rest of us, we’ll have to live with sky-high markups for packages that we’re mildly excited about. Our tester, a E350 4Matic, was fitted with a premium package, a sport package, a lighting package and lane tracking package that boosted the overall price to nearly $65,000. A line item called “Special Order” dropped another $250 onto the bottom line without logic. I guess for a car this pretty, you need no reason for things like that.

That’s not a bad thing either. So far this year, automakers have churned out mid-sized coupes that are better for gawking than driving. They’re all very pretty things, but when you start asking too much from one of them they fall apart like a Kardashian.

Quite frankly, I have no idea what a 2014 Mercedes Benz E350 Coupe will feel like once you’ve put 90,000 miles on it. Quite frankly, I don’t care.

Driving the E350 Coupe you get the idea that you’re the only one on the road that matters. In a week with the car, I put on more miles than if I commuted to Wyoming for work and thanked the E350 for most of the trip along the way. There are niggles, such as the navigation requiring a degree to instruct, and Benz’s instance on strange pneumatic bolsters and lumbar support that I can never quite understand. There’s room in the rear seats for grocery sacks, and that’s all. The front seats are where you’d rather be in the E350 and for good reason: they’re fantastic. It’s a front row to what the E350 does best, which is handle like a true driver’s car.

I can tell you for most of the miles up to 90,000 you’ll have driven the screws off this car. Throttling the pavement beneath your feet and thanking your coupe for asking more from you.

You can have autonomous cars, I’ll take the ones that are gluttons for punishment.

 

Aaron Cole is managing editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at [email protected]