At first glance, there's nothing special about the redesigned-for-2010 Mercedes-Benz E550. It's not a performance AMG model or even uber-luxurious, and maybe that alone makes it special. You can envision yourself wanting to drive this stylish coupe every day, especially if you aren't in the standard Benz demographic. Goodbye, stodgy.
Appearance: We think even younger drivers will appreciate its contemporary look, with a hood that slopes to a grille featuring a large Mercedes three-point star, an aggressive front air dam and angular headlights. Peter thought it looked fast standing still — kind of like his favorite Ray, Carl Crawford. We both loved the pillarless roofline, which gives the car an unblemished visual profile. From behind, the E550 sports large wraparound LED tail lamps and chrome exhaust tips sculpted into a somewhat wide rear end. The look suffers in comparison to the front of the car.
Performance: Our experience with Mercedes has been limited to the steroid power of the AMG versions, so it was refreshing to drive this "normal" Benz. But here's proof you don't need an AMG makeover to have exhilarating performance. The 5.5-liter V-8 has surprising get-up-and-go (0 to 60 in about five seconds) even for its 382 horsepower, which is about right for such a car and more than most of us will ever need. The seven-speed automatic shifts smoothly with a steady pull. But go for the manual mode for more kick, using either the paddles or shifter. Lyra found the steering wheel, with the turn-signal stalk positioned low, to be annoying for drivers who favor the 10-and-2 hand position. Peter is all over the clock when he grips the wheel, but also found it far too easy to hit the cruise control when you want to put on the turn signal. Lyra felt the steering was a bit light. The ride is comfortable — but never boring or "boaty."
Interior: It's a little conservative when compared to the exterior. Because this is a mid-level Benz, there seems to be more plastic — although quality plastic — in the otherwise well-designed cockpit. We liked the premium perforated leather seats, which work well in the Florida climate. They also have ventilation and heat. One nit: The lumbar adjustment can take some fishing to find — especially for the front passenger. The panoramic sunroof brings in lots of light. A retractable mesh screen can keep the sun out. The rear seats are snug, but not unbearably so.
Our 3 favorites
Driver drowsiness monitor: The sensor "asks" if you need a rest when it detects changes in your driving habits.
Ride: It's in a sweet spot between performance and comfort.
Power: Who needs more than 400 horses, anyway?
Well protected: It's loaded with state-of-the-art safety features.
Seat: 14-way power adjustable perforated leather seats. Ahhhh.
Styling: Contemporary and aggressive.
The bottom line: Lyra wasn't as taken with the E550 as Peter. There isn't any one thing that will wow you — except maybe the styling. But it does everything well. And the price for a luxury coupe in this rarefied air is not outrageous.