First Drive: 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class

We recently took the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan and Coupe through their paces on the wide-open roads of Nevada in order to get a sense of their full potential on the pavement.

We first drove the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Sedan, which comes in Luxury and Sport trims. The Luxury model is designed with comfort in mind, with a soft suspension and refined burl walnut trim, while the Sport trim features a sport-tuned suspension and sleek black ash trim. The E350 will feature a 268-horsepower V6 engine, while the E550 will have a 382-horspower V8. Both engines offer plenty of power, and we can attest to the E550 Sport Sedan's zero-to-60 time of 5.2 seconds, after opening it up on a deserted stretch of road. AMG Sedan models are promised later this year, while BlueTEC diesel sedans will become available early next year. An E-Class wagon is planned for mid-2010.

We then drove the all-new E-Class Coupe, the replacement of the current CLK Coupe. Drawing strongly from the design of the E-Class Sedan, the Coupe manages to exhibit a personality all its own, with strong lines and performance-inspired touches. We were immediately struck by the Coupe's beauty and continued to be enamored when we got behind the wheel. Sport seats cradled us as we hit the open highway. Curvy roads became a game, as this fun-to-drive, yet graceful machine easily maneuvered the twists and turns. Although it shares engine platforms with the Sedan, the E-Class Coupe was more agile, thanks in part to its shorter frame. Our E550 Coupe was equipped with Dynamic Handling Suspension, but we preferred the E550 Sport Sedan's suspension -- which we felt gave us a better connection with the road.

The biggest news surrounding the 2010 Mercedes-Benz E-Class is its bottom line. The E-Class Coupes will be priced lower than the out-going CLK coupe, and the Sedan will also cost a couple thousand less as well. That's not to say that Mercedes is pinching pennies or dumbing-down the E-Class, though. The new E-Class actually offers more standard features along with the lower price, including industry-leading safety equipment like the Attention Assist Driver Drowsiness Monitor and PRE-SAFE System.

Overall, the Coupe is much more satisfying to drive than the Sedan if you like to let loose on the highway, but we'd recommend the Sports Sedan if you normally carry more than two people. There's no mention of a diesel or Cabriolet version of the Coupe, but hopefully Mercedes-Benz will alter plans if demand arises.

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