Up Close: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class
At last night’s hoopla-filled unveiling of the E-Class — it reportedly won’t be at the show today — I had a chance to see the car up close. I agree with Dave’s styling assessment from his report: There’s too much C-Class going on up front, and the rear leaves me flat. There are, however, some interesting elements in the eyebrow-shaped fog lights and the tauter profile. The quad headlights? Only time will tell.
Interior quality varies. The plastics in one display model had a grainy finish that was too close to that of the entry-level C-Class, and while most controls improve upon their predecessors — Mercedes replaced the old E’s flimsy climate dials with firmer rocker switches — they aren’t quite up to Acura RL or Lexus GS refinement. Opt for the leather-wrapped dashboard, which a second display car had, and perceived quality takes a major step forward. Product manager Bart Herring said most cars will come with the upgrade.
As knob-based interfaces go, Mercedes’ Comand system beats Audi's MMI and even BMW’s vastly improved new iDrive system in usability, if not in graphics quality. Indeed, the E-Class may prove to be one of the more user-friendly cars in its class. The backseat has decent room, and the optional folding rear seat — a feature many competitors don’t offer — operates in one step to create a relatively flat floor. The outgoing E-Class annoyingly required you to flip the seat cushions forward first.
The new version also anchors the middle seat belt in the seatback, so you aren’t stuck angling large cargo around the belt when the seat is folded. Up front, the center console finally gets an armrest rather than the old E’s slatted console cover, and storage space underneath is pretty generous. Finally, the trunk has a collapsible grocery bin that stows out of the way and can hold maybe a couple bags in place. No more fumbling with a cargo net to keep the groceries upright. Clever.