Since launch last year, the facelifted Mercedes-Benz E-Class has been available with the option of a four-cylinder diesel (E250 CDI), a four-cylinder petrol (E200) and a manic V8 petrol (E63 AMG). This E350 CDI, then, marks the return of a ‘big’ diesel to the E’s engine line-up. As on the older E350 CDI, this one features a 3.0-litre, V6, common-rail diesel motor. But, courtesy updates to the engine, power, torque and correspondingly performance figures see a big improvement. In current form, the E350 CDI makes a rather strong 262bhp and 63.2kgm, with Mercedes claiming a quick 0-100kph time of just 6.6 seconds.
Be it acceleration from a standstill or through the gears, the E350 CDI is quick. You’ll be quite surprised by how strongly the Merc pulls even post 140kph. But the remarkable thing about the engine is it doesn’t make a song and dance about delivering smashing performance. Even with the throttle mashed to the floor, the decibel levels in the cabin don’t really go beyond a distant hum. It’s so quiet and relaxed in the cabin that it’s easy to find yourself driving faster than intended – the E350 CDI masks speed brilliantly. For many, this engine’s superb refinement alone is worth the outlay over the E250 CDI, whose twin turbo unit can be intrusive at times.
But it’s not the engine alone. Even the suspension does its job without much noise or drama. Sure, some sharper surfaces like expansion joints can be heard, but it never really breaks the calm in the cabin. Ride quality on the whole is very good, with good bump absorption at city speeds and fantastic stability at high speeds. Even around the bends, there’s a certain fluidity to the steering and a poise to the handling that make the E-Class a car you’d be tempted to drive with enthusiasm. However, when doing so, you will find that the E350 CDI could do with a more responsive gearbox; the 7-speed unit doesn’t respond to inputs at the paddles with the immediacy of say, a BMW’s 8-speeder.
Another point of contention on the E350 CDI (and on all E-Class’ in general) is the dashboard. It’s beginning to look its age and is the biggest reminder that the E has been around since 2009. Even the COMAND interface for the infotainment system could do with a serious upgrade – it lacks the resolution and ease of use of competitors’ systems. On the plus side, the E350 CDI’s large central screen also displays images from a 360 degree camera that helps remove the guesswork while parking. The rest of the cabin is the same as the other mainstream Es, so quality and detailing are fantastic are all around. Good space, large windows and excellent seats further aid the ambience in the cabin.
On the outside, the E350 CDI isn’t all too different from the other Es. Badging aside, you’ll be able to identify this one by its regal multi-spoke alloy wheels. Given that this is the more powerful version of the E-Class diesel’s, Mercedes could have gone in for some further visual differentiation.
The above would also help further justify the pretty excessive near Rs 10 lakh premium over the standard E250 CDI. Yes, at Rs 57.4 lakh (ex-showroom, Pune) the E350 CDI costs that much more than its smaller-hearted stablemate. That said, the E350 CDI is still cheaper than a BMW 530d. The thing is, where sportiness is at the core of the BMW’s appeal, the Merc in large diesel puts luxury and refinement above all else. The E350 CDI delivers all the power, pace and grace you’d expect from a big Mercedes and does so quite successfully.