- The engine is just silly fun. Ridiculous torque at diesel engine RPM levels, no turbo lag, and even sounds good
- German reliability (!)
- Comfortable highway cruiser with plenty of amenities, great stereo
- No one gives it second look
- CPO warranty has been useless!!
- Not a canyon carver? (shocking for a 4,400 lb luxury car)
- It seems to be jinxed - it’s had a garage door closed on the rear bumper, been rear-ended by an idiot on his phone, and has a mysterious scrape under the front lip now
- Warning sensors for danger ahead sometimes register false positives - which makes me very glad that they don’t have the capability to take any action
It’s been almost 16 months since I bought my E550, back in May of 2018. It was a CPO car, with 1 month left on the new car warranty, plus a year of CPO coverage (unlimited miles), and I bought 2 more years on top of that (again, no mileage limit). It had 35,600 miles at the time, and will cross 50,000 in the next couple of weeks - I was unemployed most of that time, so the mileage is fairly low.
In a nutshell, the car still makes me smile, and I look forward to driving it. It’s - by far - the quickest car that I’ve ever owned. C&D tested it when new at 4.5 seconds from 0-60, and 13 flat @111 in the 1/4 mile. Not bad for a 4,400 lb car. There really aren’t many cars around that are that quick - - but have ZERO sporting pretense. Sure, you can get a Tesla, but after that, it’s big $ luxury cars.
Oh, and the point about the warranty being useless? That’s because nothing has really broken. I’ve had 2 minor glitches - the driver’s window ‘auto up’ feature stopped working, and the tilt wheel motor stopped working. Both of those bugs were fixed by re-setting them - in the first instance, the service advisor did it, not a tech. No parts. That’s literally it. On a car that’s now 6 years old and pretty loaded with gadgets.
Below is a more detailed update of my original impressions.
This is literally what sold me on the car. I only deducted a half point because it’s not hand built, and doesn’t have the signature of the person who built it on it, I guess?
Full disclosure - my bias is *heavily* toward big torquey engines, not revvers that have to be above 4,000 RPM to make any power. And a big torque machine is exactly what this is. Lots of torque, all the way from idle, and no turbo lag.
It even sounds good - cold starts are surprisingly growly, considering this car isn’t an AMG. The noise is a very low, rumble, which you can hear any time you’re accelerating. Kind of like a 440 in an Imperial for those of you old enough to get that - plus turbo noises. It’s a pleasant noise, which disappears once you’re at steady speed.
It’s a 7 speed torque converter automatic - not particularly quick shifting. It helps that the engine is so damn flexible, gear choices don’t matter much anyways. 5th gear is 1:1, and 6th/7th are both overdrive.
It has two modes, and in true Mercedes-Benz fashion, the car pulls away in 2nd gear in Eco mode, which is the default. Sport mode starts in 1st gear, which isn’t really necessary most of the time.
It does have some quirks, which remind me of the old cars that I had back in the day. When the car is cold, the first couple of shifts of the day (2-3 and 3-4, duh) will be delayed, and slow, and harsh. Just like a TH350! After that, it’s fine. Also, I’ve noticed that on hot, humid days, economy mode acts a bit like sport mode - holding gears a bit, maybe to keep revs up and mask any turbo lag? IDK.
The brakes are great, and feel is generally good - one thing I really like is the front to back balance. Much like my E46, there’s no dive at all because the proportioning is correct.
One quirk is that it has ‘emergency braking assist’ - which means that when it senses that you’re braking urgently (I guess when you jab at the pedal?) it firms up the feel. The end result when it does it unexpectedly is that the brakes feel a bit grabby. The solution of course is not to stab at the pedal, but it happens to me on rare occasions.
The ride is on the soft side - this is a luxury car, not a sports car. The only ding on it is that over certain sharp bumps, it’s a bit jarring. The funny thing is that these same bumps (on I-290) are also jarring in my wife’s 2017 RX350, but my 20 year old BMW convertible handles them fine. Whatever, IDOT is finally fixing the damn bumps.
Again, it’s a luxury car, not a sports car, and it doesn’t pretend otherwise (sport package be damned). This was the one thing that made me hesitate in getting a Mercedes (and what kept me from getting an E350 when I got the GS350 back in 2015, too).
Body roll is more than I would like, as is understeer, and this car isn’t meant to be driven all that hard. That said, the car is a little easier to steer with the throttle, thanks to a more cooperative transmission, and more power. As long as you slow down before turn in, and are on the throttle throughout a curve, it’s not bad. Still don’t have any plans to autocross it, though.
The more I get used to the steering, the more I like it. Yes, it’s overboosted at low speeds. But it’s not bad at speed, for being electric.
I *still* really like the look of this car - - perhaps a bit boxy or overchromed for some, but I love it. I think the whole design is coherent and elegant. The Sport Package (standard on the 550, optional on the 350) makes the car look just right to me, and I love the wheels, too. One thing I’ve noticed is that the car sits a bit lower than I expected (and lower than my old GS350). I’m still paranoid about scraping the front lip spoiler as a result - my GS would go over parking curbs, and this car won’t. And apparently I scraped the driver’s side at some point, ugh.
Another thing that I like (and many would disagree) is that the ONLY exterior difference between this car and an E350 Sport is the “5" on the rear decklid. It’s a bit of a sleeper in that regard.
Very comfortable seats. Across the board (switchgear, leather etc), materials are higher quality than my GS350 had - which they should be, this car was originally some $15-20k more than the Lexus when new. Leather is high quality, and supple. As a bonus, this car has the optional massaging/contour seat - something I was specifically looking for. The massage feature comes in handy on long drives, though I generally don’t use it commuting (unless my back is sore).
Also important for me is the rear seat room - this car seems to have a little more rear legroom than most cars in its class. Certainly more than the GS.
I’ve come to like the black interior, which I’ve generally avoided in the past. It looks classy, I guess, though I’d prefer brown.
The stereo is great - this car has the Harmon Kardon system that most E classes have. It’s not *quite* as good as the Lexus, but it’s fairly close. Still crystal clear listening to broadcast radio at full volume, it’s just that ‘full volume’ is a little lower than the Lexus was. Probably a good thing for my ears, really...
Did I mention the massaging seat? It also will hug you around curves, which is kind of interesting if you drive it hard. It also has the panoramic sunroof, which I really like, GPS, Parktronic, heated/ventilated seats, headlights that see around curves (don’t ask, IDK), and a rear sunshade which is pretty useful in the summer with small kids in the back that hate direct sunlight.
One contrast between my wife’s RX and my car is the backup camera. Mine has a much smaller screen than hers - but the camera and screen are so much better, it more than makes up for it. Hers is in an awful position that gets completely washed out in sunlight, and is very dark at night. Mine seems to compensate for low light, and isn’t affected by glare.
I do wish it had the blind spot monitor- the side mirrors are smallish, and I got used to having it in the GS. Same goes for a heated steering wheel - I wish this car had it in the winter.
GPS - whatever. I use my phone.
400 HP luxury car that’s been reliable and has a warranty - at a price that non-luxury brands sell for new.
tl;dr - fast, reliable luxury. It’s good.