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Mercedes-Benz E350 CGI BlueEfficiency review (2010 onwards)
Model: Mercedes-Benz E350 CGI BlueEfficiency Avantgarde
Bodystyle: Four-door saloon
Engine: 3.5-litre V6 petrol
Transmission: seven-speed auto
What is it?
If you thought large executive saloons were dead, consider this. Mercedes sells some 200,000 E-Class cars a year worldwide, starting way back in 1947. There's still a market for the right car with the right badge.
This latest incarnation is known to Mercedes insiders as the W212 and follows a tried and tested formula. Saloon and estate, a whole raft of petrol and diesel engines and shovelfuls of technology.
A big deal with this latest E-Class is upping its game in terms of CO2 and economy. Mercedes quotes lots of impressive figures, though dig deeper and it's the models with manual transmission that are the highlights.
Of course, with a Mercedes most drivers look for an automatic gearbox, which isn't quite so good. Yet with a seven-gears on this E350 CGI, things are looking up.
Where does it fit?
The E-Class range starts at around £26k for the E200 CDI diesel, but this 3.5-litre petrol V6 is £10k more. That includes automatic transmission and the extensive Avantgarde equipment package.
It's a more comprehensively equipped car than previously, but essential extras - sat-nav (including 6GB of music storage and MP3 interface), metallic paint and electric seats - add another £4k to the price.
Audi and BMW offer petrol versions of the A6 and 5 Series with similar power at a similar price. Jaguar, at least in the UK, concentrates on diesels in this price band, though there's a version with close to the Mercedes' power.
Is it for you?
While it was the newest car in its class in 2009, this business doesn't stand still, and now there's a fresh BMW 5 Series to contend with. In our eyes the Mercedes is much better looking, though Jaguar's XF is still pretty fresh, and offers a different take on the exec saloon market.
The new E-Class is a very different styling proposition to previous models. It takes the more angled approach of the latest C-Class and adds some magnitude and gravity to the design. For us it works well, more modern and less stuffy than before.
What does it do well?
Most E-Class buyers will find themselves in the diesel. But this 3.5-litre V6 is something of a treat, especially if by now you have forgotten how well a state-of-the-art petrol-powered car can drive.
There are two characters to this saloon, and it's quite feasible that many will never discover the second. They will stick the column-mounted gearlever into Drive, release the weird parking brake and go.
This is quality motoring as it should be. Smooth ride, silent engine, effortless acceleration. The transmission slips unnoticed from gear to gear while you simply ease the steering wheel through the bends.
It's all so delightful once you get accustomed to the odd quirks that driving a Mercedes has always involved. It's especially pleasing to see 30mpg showing on the trip computer.
The other side to the character is found via the Sport button to the left of the master control knob on the centre console. Press this, keep your foot planted and once the rev counter reaches 4,000rpm, the driving experience turns into red-blooded sports saloon.
The engine starts to howl, the car hunkers down and it simply flies. While the steering may be a touch light, it lacks nothing in precision and accuracy, making the E350 CGI a joy when the road is clear. It's a real surprise.
What doesn't it do well?
If you are looking for the chance to fine-tune the suspension and gearchange settings, then you'll be disappointed. There's just a Sport button to change the gearchange programme and also the option to change gears with paddles behind the steering wheel.
It's irritating that once you've used the paddle it doesn't automatically return to full auto after a decent period, as it would do in an Audi. Instead, you have to reset it manually.
But otherwise, and to its credit, it's rather good having a car that is so right in the first place that it doesn't need a whole raft of chassis functions for you to adjust.
What's it like to live with?
Very pleasant in most respects. Choose a black interior and it's all a bit too plain and workmanlike, though the white-dialled instruments are lovely. The leather front seats are very comfortable.
Space in the rear is arguably the weakness of the E-Class. Perhaps it is the additional depth of the front seats with the optional electric adjustments, but there is precious little space under the seats for those in the rear to tuck their feet.
The climate control system seems slow to get up to temperature in cold weather and heaven only knows how you get air out of the central vents and on the floor at the same time.
This, and the 'binging' that occurs repeatedly from somewhere behind the dash, could no doubt be addressed by delving into the Encyclopaedia Mercedica that lives in the glovebox. When you have a spare hour or two.
The luggage compartment is massive, as you'd expect, with the lid releasing and opening via the key fob. That Mercedes parking brake continues to be a hateful thing. As Renault has been fitting automatic parking brakes for 10 years in cars half this price, it's about time Mercedes bucked its ideas up.
How green is it?
BlueEfficiency is the Mercedes byword for its improved range of cleaner, more economical engines. For a car with 292hp to produce a combined result of 32.8 mpg is indeed impressive. Better still, you can get close to this with ease.
On the other hand, drive this E-Class like the very good sports saloon it is, and you'll be pleased to see 20mpg. It's that sort of car. CO2 is 201g/km.
Would we buy it?
Undoubtedly yes. The E-Class ticks all the boxes it should, looks classy without being brash and drives superbly. It could do with a bit more rear legroom, but that's about it.
Gallery: Mercedes-Benz E350 CGI
Compare the Mercedes E350 with its rivals using our Car Guide
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