Mercedes E350 Blends Entry-Level and E-Class

The bottom of the E-class range now sports a higher number on the trunklid and a little more power.

Introduction

With few exceptions, the badging on the back of most Mercedes-Benz models hasn’t related to engine displacement in more than a decade. So, the E350 badge on the back of the Mercedes-Benz E-class sedan doesn’t mean there’s a 3.5-liter anything under the hood. However, the E350 does wear a larger number than the outgoing E300 and replaces it at the bottom of the current W213-generation E-class lineup. The new, higher number indicates that there have been changes to the engine under the hood.

Performance, Engine and Specifications

Those changes result in 14 additional horsepower to the turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four bringing the total to 255 horses. Maximum torque remains the same at 273 lb-ft yet it peaks 500 rpm later than in the E300, at 1800 rpm. The intake tracts have been strategically shortened to move air more quickly into the engine, while exhaust gas feeds a new twin-scroll turbocharger. E350s sold in other markets include a 48-volt motor-generator that helps bolster the engine’s low-rpm response while the turbo spools up, but Mercedes keeps that hybrid setup to the E’s inline-six and V-8 engines in the United States. A nine-speed automatic transmission is standard; the car we drove came with the 4Matic all-wheel-drive upgrade.

While seemingly minor, the improvements work. Just as this new engine brought a bit more life into the updated GLC300 and old C300 models, the E350’s engine brings an ease to low- and mid-range acceleration in normal traffic, but there’s a lack of enthusiasm beyond highway speeds. Mash the accelerator in the Sport or Sport+ driving modes, and the new 2.0-liter surges with a linearity that was lacking in the previous engine, but the E-classes with the turbo six pull so much harder than the turbo four that we started looking at what it cost to upgrade. Benz does keep the E350’s four vibration and noise in check. And yet, it’s hard to forget that this is a heavy car motivated by a small engine. We weren’t able to quantify any gains in straight-line performance, but the E350 will likely beat the E300 4Matic sedan’s 6.5-second sprint to 60 mph.

One thing you can get for free is the Sport Styling package that puts the star in the grille instead of on the prow of the hood and lowers the car by 0.6 inches. Even on the lowered suspension, the E350’s ride quality remains comfortably smooth.

Wheels and Suspension

Air springs and adaptive dampers are optional, but the standard coil springs and passive dampers are up to some fun should the mood strike. The body will roll into corners, and the steering is a bit light in Comfort mode. Switch it to Sport mode, however, and the E350 still has enough poise to tackle decreasing-radius turns and curvy back roads.

About Interior

Until the refreshed E-class arrives later this year, buyers will have to do without touchscreens and Benz’s latest MBUX infotainment system. We actually prefer the scrolling-wheel controller to the new infotainment system’s touchpad interface and often intrusive voice-activated assistant. From our experience with our long-term E450 wagon, which was powered by a twin-turbo V-6. The easy power and silky smoothness of that turbocharged inline-six is a better match for the grace of the rest of the E-class.

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