Pottering around town, I haven’t enjoyed our long-term E 350d to its fullest. Sure, the 3.0-litre V6 diesel effortlessly whisks me from office to home but I’m usually sitting at the back, head pressed on the pillow-soft headrest, iPhone pressed to ear, oblivious to my surroundings and even of what’s under the hood. I’m convinced that if you’re chauffeur-driven it’s not the V6 you need but the smaller (and much cheaper) four-cylinder engine options for the E-class. But, after a change of seat (to behind the wheel) and a weekend in Mahabaleshwar, I had a change of heart. So, if you are one of those rare self-driving owners, the E 350d is the one to go for, and it’s well worth the extra Rs 12.39 lakh over the E 220d for two reasons – the creamy V6 diesel and the adjustable air suspension which really works well on our roads.
It’s on the 280km drive to Mahabaleshwar that I appreciate the engine and suspension, especially since the monsoons have converted some bits of our highway into an off-road course. On the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, I am amazed at how well the E 350d disguises speed. The V6 delivers a thick spread of torque for you to effortlessly waft on; it’s smooth, refined and barely breaks into a sweat. It’s only when you scythe past slower-moving traffic that you realise how fast you’re going. The E-class, with its extended wheelbase, feels rock-stable and the adjustable air suspension is simply brilliant because it actually works. There’s a noticeable difference between the various drive modes and I found myself toggling between ‘Sport+’ and ‘Comfort’ to stiffen or soften the suspension, depending on the road. On the uneven expressway, I found ‘Comfort’ worked best as it allowed the E to soak up bumps, but on long wave undulations, it does pitch and heave on this softest setting.
The nine-speed transmission too feels the smoothest in ‘Comfort’ and gear changes are almost seamless. ‘Sport+’ is the mode I like best even if some sharp edges and ruts are allowed to filter through. You get the best body control here and it’s ideal for barrelling up the Wai ghat to Panchgani. Deep potholes and craters, however, spoiled the fun on the home stretch to Mahabaleshwar, and the E-class had to crawl through some of the really bad patches. I was worried its long belly would ground, but apart from a small graze, the clearance was just about okay.
A mention must be made of the tyres because at low speeds, over broken roads, it’s the tyre sidewalls that takes the shock far more effectively than any suspension. The relatively tall 55-profile tyres sitting on a boring set of alloy wheels don’t do much for the looks but they do keep occupants comfortable. This leads me to the spare wheel – a space-saver that annoyingly eats up too much space in a boot that can take only one large bag at best.
The range is fantastic, thanks to the 66-litre tank which makes a round trip to Mahabaleshwar possible on a single tank, despite the V6 guzzling diesel at the rate of 8.9kpl.
The E 350d is now back to the city grind and it adjusts without a fuss. As for me, I’m back in the back seat, which, quite honestly, is the best place to be.