It's been a bit over two weeks since I picked up my new E350 Wagon and so far I have driven a bit over 1,200 miles in the E-class. I said in the E-class and not in my wagon as the car has been in the shop since last Wednesday, after only 700 miles on the odometer the check engine light came on. The error codes are P0111 and P0074 which would indicate a faulty Intake Air Sensor or a fault Ambient Temperature sensor. Either way I've been driving a loaner for the past week and put 500 miles on it.
Today I was ready to pick my car up in the morning only to have the check engine light back on by the time I got to work, this time the error was P0071 after the replaced the ambient temperature sensor already. I think the faulty part now is the Intake Air Sensor and hopefully they will replace it tomorrow.
While I'm disappointed that I've been in a loaner almost as long as I've been in my car it gave me a chance to appreciate and review the options I choose on my car and the ones on the loaner. So here is a short little review of each individual option in my opinion and whether it's been worth it or not. If you're the short attention span type, I'll spare you the details, every single option is worth it and you can only get one, get the Driver Assist Package! If you'd like the nitty-gritty feel free to read on...
I ordered my 4Matic Wagon with the following options:
- Indigo Blue Exterior
- Porcelain/Black Interior
- Black Ash Wood Trim
- Sport Package
- Leather Package
- Premium P01 Package
- Lighting Package
- KEYLESS-GO package with hands free access
- Active Multicontour Driver Seat
- Active Ventilated front seats
- Heated Steering Wheel
- 18" AMG Wheels
- Parking Assist Package with Surround View
- Driver Assistance Package
- Rear Seat Entertainment
- 115V Power Outlet
Total MSRP was $75,700. The only option I did not order was the panoramic roof. We have panoramic roof on my wife's Audi A4 Avant and I really don't care for it or use it much so I opted against it on the build.
The loaner I got was a RWD E350 with the following options:
- Palladium Silver Exterior
- Silk Beige/Espresso MB-Tex
- Burl Walnut Wood Trim
- Sport Package
- Premium P01 Package
- KEYLESS-GO package with hands free access
- Sport Wood Steering Wheel
- 18" AMG Wheels
- Driver Assistance Package
- Comfort Box
- Rear Spoiler
- Split Folding Seats
So let's get down to the details:
Indigo Blue Exterior
The color is stunning! I ordered the color blind without actually seeing one in person as they were so rare at the time that no dealer had one on the lot for me to look at. On photos the color can look gray in one photo while it will look like purple in another photo. The color in real life does the same thing. Depending on the ambient light it can take on a different hue that can look like a steel blue metallic with a lot of shine or a muted purple/gray with practically no metallic look to it. I am extremely happy with how it looks, it's not as dark as Lunar Blue but it's definitely not a boring shade of the usual monochromatic palette that the E350 usually comes in (no offense to silver lovers). I got a lot of compliments for not going with another black/white/gray E-class at the dealer but more importantly I really like the color. It's not as bright as my Montego Blue BMW 3-series was but it's blue nevertheless.
Another color choice I made blindly. In the sea of Diamond White/Silk Beige wagons it was difficult to get a glimpse at what mine would look like. I looked at on-line photos and based on my BMW being Oyster/Black interior (BMW talk for cream white) I kind of knew what I was getting into. Having a white interior and two small children should be a recipe for disaster but I beg to differ. My BMW fetched top trade-in dollars and the interior was immaculate after 50k miles and 3 years. If the W212 will wear as well as the BMW did I'll be one happy camper. The black headliner and black/white doors as well as the black carpeting provide a very nice contrast in the cabin that you just don't get with any other color combination on the Benz. The only other color I would have entertained was Chestnut Brown/Black with the same color contrast but I'm glad I went with Porcelain, it is truly beautiful. The loaner's beige carpeting is stained way more in 4k miles than my black carpet ever will. I would never get a car with beige carpet, the loaner even has a black mat put in on the driver's side because they know how badly the beige would stain.
Black Ash Wood Trim
This was almost a no-brainer. I knew that there was no way for me to get burl walnut. I'm just not that kind of person. I like a sporty look and burl walnut is anything but sporty. I ordered my BMW with aluminum trim and I was contemplating the same for the Benz but ultimately chose the black wood because it's really close to piano black and I liked the black ash in my co-worker's C-class. It is just a touch more class than aluminum without looking like an Oldsmobile. I'm 37 so I wasn't ready for the "luxury wood treatment" yet. Having driven the burl walnut loaner for a while I'm not hating it as much as I first thought I would but given the choice I would not get it myself.
There is a lot of discussion on the boards about how the sport exterior looks gaudy with the giant star in the grille and the styling is over the top. I personally love the look. It is sharp, mean and looks fantastic. Given that I wanted Black Ash for the interior I had no choice in the matter and I think Distronic being hidden behind the star in the grille looks way better than the black panel in the middle of the grille on the luxury model on top of how sharp the sport version looks. On the wagon you get airmatic in the rear for both sport and luxury and I'm not sure how different the suspension is tuned but I find the ride perfectly fine, it's a bit more forgiving and not as crisp as my E90 was if anything.
This is another place where a lot of people are perfectly happy with their MB-Tex and think that $1,600 for this option is such a waste of money as MB-Tex not only feels the same but it wears better and lasts longer. Given the options I wanted (ventilated seats and Porcalain/Black color) I had no choice in this matter and had to go with leather. However having driven the MB-Tex loaner for 500 miles I can say that MB-Tex is not leather. It's not even close. I don't care how it wears, the feel is just not there. If the MB leather wears like the one did in my VW Passat 3.6L Sport I will be disappointed. If it wears like the one in my BMW 328xi did I'll be elated. But based on the miles I sat in both seats I can say that leather is leather and MB-Tex is MB-Tex. There are other small things that come with the leather package, the stitching on the door panels is much nicer and the front headrests are amazing. My wife said "what's up with these headrests, I can actually rest my head on them." and 5 minutes later she was sound asleep. They are plush, they are soft and they are fully adjustable and fold in like the ones on airplanes do. The MB-Tex ones in the loaner are hard, they are far back and they only serve the purpose of protecting your neck from snapping in an accident. So while the $1,600 price tag might seem high, I think it is well justified. I'd also mention that the seats in the loaner can go lower than they can in my car which might be due to the Multicontour, or the ventilated or the leather feature.
Premium P01 Package
This is one of those options that is just part of the base cost of the car and you will be challenged to find one without it. If you read the list of features the package comes with it is long but in reality it's mostly useless fluff.
- 80GB Navigation. First of all who cares how much hard disk space navigation takes up? I certainly don't. It's a navigation package that works as good as other OEM navigation packages, they all buy the software from the same vendor just put a different front end on it. I am hooked on Waze and Google Maps so unless I'm lost in an area with no cellphone reception I will hardly ever use the built-in navigation. I have yet to use it for any of my drives but the driver who picked me up in a C-class when I went to get my car used it and the lane guidance was already telling him to merge into the wrong lanes because construction in our area constantly chances the roads. I can see how the system is well thought out and looks refined but what good is a system that only gets map updates every other year in a quickly developing metroplex like Dallas/Fort Worth?
- 10GB Music Reader. Another useless feature. The system reads USB sticks and SD cards that you can load up with your own mp3 files from your computer while the 10GB music register can only rip CDs onto the 10GB hard drive partition. Why would I want to use this feature? My wife's Audi has the same feature as well as dual SD card readers so we just have our own SD cards with music on it. When you can buy a 64GB SD card for less than $50 a 10GB Music Reader sounds like something left behind from 10 years ago.
- Harman/Kardon sound system. I had the Harman/Kardon system in my BMW, a $875 option, and it was a worthy purchase. The Harman/Kardon system in the E-class is just as good. I might not be an audiophile but the sound definitely meets my needs. This is one of the features in the package that is worth the price in my opinion. Had it been a separate $900 option I still would have ordered it.
- Gracenote. Another useless feature. It has a database of CDs so it can display CD cover and artist and song information for CDs that you play. Since you can embed the information into mp3s the whole thing is moot as I don't listen to CDs.
- Sirius/XM. If you don't have a large music selection of your own or you get bored with your own stuff and like variety or you'd like to listen to Howard Stern then this is for you. Otherwise you may as well pass on it. I used to have satellite radio but not in the last 7 years. I don't think I'll be renewing my subscription after the 6 month trial. For traffic I use Waze on my phone.
- Enhanced Voice Control. The voice system works better than any other I've seen or used. I'm still faster with the COMMAND knob and I could live without the voice command system for sure. I might use it at times but I don't think it will be a frequently used feature in the car.
- Heated seats. I think this are a must have option.
- Power Rear Sunshade (Sedan), manual side sunshades (wagon). With my two kids the rear sunshade is a must. Great feature! The rear sunshade on the loaner seems to have a better design than the one my BMW had and failed twice. The side sunshade on the wagon has nice coverage and unlike the BMW one it is a one piece unit and my son seems to be able to use it easier.
- Rear-view Camera. It is standard on the wagon but only part of the P01 on the sedan. The camera works well on the sedan. The guide lines are very nice and operate smoothly and seem less pixelated than on my wife's A4. The image quality is OK, it has problems with high dynamic range which is a common issue with cameras. Given that the camera costs $500 as a spare part I'm not that impressed by the quality. The only problem is dirt. The camera does get dirty and once it's dirty it's worse than not having one at all. So you have to make sure that you keep the lens clean and wipe it daily during the winter. I thought the camera on the loaner was worse than the one on my wagon but it was just dirty. Once I cleaned it it was the same quality. It turns on when you put the car in reverse which is the way it should be but it can be turned off, although I don't see why anyone would do that.
So overall I think the features that are worth it from the P01 package are the Harman/Kardon sound system, the heated seats, the rear sunshade and the rear-view camera on the sedan or the side sunshades on the wagon for $500 less than the sedan. The rest of it is pretty much useless fluff. Given the cost of the package it is certainly not a bargain item but overall you have no real choice but to get it.
This is the only feature that I wasn't sure about after my initial experience with the car. All new E350s come with LED low beams which are just as good if not better than xenons. They all come with LED daytime lights as well. So $1,500 for getting LED high beams and "adaptive headlights" seem like a lot of money and questionable if it's worth it. After having driven my car for 500 miles I still wasn't sold on it and almost felt like the extra $1,500 was unjustified. But after spending 400 miles in the loaner without it I can say the $1,500 is well spent. To me it's not about the "looks" of the DRLs on the lighting package. I had Adaptive Headlights on my BMW but they only turned with the steering wheel and the road and they did not adapt to the distance of the car in front of you. The US version is not as fancy and sophisticated as the Euro version due to regulations but it's still very impresive. The Adaptive Headlight can be permanently turned off in the menu system or you can disable it by switching the light switch from AUTO to manual ON. In ON mode the high beam comes on if you turn it on instead of the high beam switch enabling the Adaptive High Beam feature.
The cornering lights work great and I would sure miss them now. But the adaptive lights are really impressive. I did not notice how good they were until I started driving the loaner without them. The adaptive lights really illuminate the road fully between you and the car in front of you even if they will not turn on the high beam hardly ever due to traffic and road conditions. But they definitely light up way more road than the regular ones. And after having bi-xenon headlights on my last 3 cars, the halogen high beams are really sad. So after an initial regret having driven the standard headlight for 400 miles with a lot of night driving I can safely say that the Lighting Package is absolutely worth it.
KEYLESS-GO with Hands Free Access
Both my car and my loaner has the feature. My Wife's A4 and my BMW also had the feature. It is something once you have you just don't want to give up. The push button from the loaner was missing but I missed the start button feature enough that I went back to the dealer and pulled my own push button from my car and put it in the loaner for the time being. It is also a godsend with kids, we can just walk up to the car and they can grab a handle and open the car. The hands free access is a bit gimmick-y as now there are 4 different ways to open and close the trunk, from the front door, from the keyfob, from the outside or inside button and from waving your feet under the bumper. I have used the open feature a couple of times but given how hit/miss it is it's usually faster and more convenient just to push the handle on the trunk. For closing I also prefer to push the button on the trunk as there is a lock button which not only closes the trunk but locks the car. That is a much nicer feature to have than the hands free access.
Active Multicontour Driver Seat
This was one of the features which I thought would surely be a gimmick and not something I'd want to use or need but ordered it for the extended seat cushion and the adjustable side bolster feature. The extended seat cushion was a bit of a let down. The seat is just a big air balloon and the extension is marginal at best. The sport seats in the BMW extended far more and far better IMHO. They were also more hugging on the seat part. The side bolsters are just as good and adjustable as the BMW ones were and the dynamic feature is great and I love it. I use it in mode 2 which is the more aggressive setting and I enjoy the little nudge I get in every corner or steering input on my outer side. It is all placebo but fun and makes you feel more connected than you would be otherwise in a rather uneventful ride. The massage is also nice and I usually set it on fast and vigorous which is actually neither fast nor vigorous. I never thought I'd like something so stupid like this but it's actually very well implemented. The entire system uses an air compressor in the trunk and it pumps air to the seats. The seat extension failed to work on my car once so far but after a restart it was back in business but I researched the whole seat situation at that time and it seems like the pneumatic system is prone to breakage, another reason why I chose to buy the 7 year 125k mile extended warranty.
Active Ventilated Front Seats
I haven't used the feature much yet, it's winter after all. But I did turn it on for a passenger and he noticed the air blowing through the seats. I tried it on my side and I felt nothing. I don't know if it has to do with the driver seat already being full of air cushions and other stuff so air has a harder time to pass through it but as of right now I'm still not convinced the ventilation works all that well. My dad's CLS had this feature and I remember using it in the summer and it worked but only the summer heat in Texas will tell whether it was money well spent or wasted.
Heated Steering Wheel
Another feature that I really enjoyed on my BMW and now consider a must-have, even in Texas. It's a bummer that you can't get the sport steering wheel nor the wood wheel with the heating element, especially after having used the wood wheel in the loaner which I found rather nice. But with the colder temperatures that we had lately I'd still take the heated leather over the wood. Maybe my opinion would change come summer.
18" AMG Wheels
There has been a pretty active discussion about the 18" wheels on the board as there is a "new" style and an "old" style. The "new" style is the one my wagon came with and the "old" style is the one I had on my loaner. Without a doubt I like the "new" style way better. It has a gunmetal darker finish and a sharper edge to the spokes with a different dual tone finish while the "old" one is a more single color silver wheel that looks more cast than the newer one that looks a bit more machined even though they're both cast. I asked my sales guy and he said it's been a luck of the draw as far as how their order was processed, some come with one while others come with the other. I'm not entirely sure that is the case as there are two completely different part numbers for the two different styles, actually there are four as there is staggered and non-staggered ones so maybe if you can ensure you order the correct part number you get the correct wheel. I would without a doubt go for the "new" style.
Parking Assist Package with Surround View
I had front and rear parking radar sensors on the BMW and my wife has rear camera and rear sensors on the A4. I bought the system primarily for the radar sensors, the extra feature of assisting with the parking was just icing on the cake. The Surround View is really neat. As I wrote in the rear-view camera section, the cameras have to be kept clean. The white balance on the side cameras and the frond and rear cameras is not 100% matching so the upside view is not entirely seamless. The fish-eye lenses have distortion correction and blending applied to them and they assume that the objects in the video are flat and at ground level. So if you're on uneven ground or there is a curb or other obstructions visible in the view they will not be mapped and blended correctly due to parallax error and it will look a bit wonky. Even with these limitations the system projects a very usable and very nice view around the car and the additional cost of $300 for the surround view is worth it in my opinion until something breaks as the front and rear cameras cost $500 a pop and the side cameras retail for $350 or so as spare parts. Again, extended warranty is not a bad choice with the number of electronic parts that can break. The radar sensors work as expected, I like the LED display on the dash that gives you a visual on side proximity to obstacles. There is one in the ceiling too for the rear but I have yet to remember to glance at it while backing up, the cameras do a fantastic job giving me the visuals of my surrounding.
The system's assist feature also works as advertised, at least for perpendicular parking. I haven't used it yet to parallel park but played with it to back into a spot couple of times. The system needs more room than I would need and the parking job that I can do in one swoop takes two moves for the system always. It has yet to back into a spot in one try. It will park the car perfectly aligned to the already parked vehicles and equidistant between the two. Unlike previous versions, this one steers on its own and it applies the brakes as well. If you're a decent driver the assist feature is more of a novelty than actual use, especially for backing into a spot.
So while I think the park assist feature is overkill and not something I see myself using on a regular basis the parking sensors and the surround view are great and well worth the money. I'd spring for the package with the surround view cameras for the extra money, I think it's worth it, the older non-surround view version bight be phased out anyway. The loaner did not have this package, only the rear-view camera and I missed the sensors and the surround view.
Driver Assist Package
If there is one package anyone should get, this is it! This is the mother of all features. I find it surprising that so few cars that dealers order with it, granted it's one expensive option package. This package also includes an enhanced version of the Lane Tracking Package and the PRE-SAFE Brake package. While every E-class comes with BAS (Brake Assist System) and Collision Prevention Assist, The Driver Assist Package adds BAS Plus and PRE-SAFE Brake.
The Lane Tracking Package is augmented with Blind Spot assist that not only warns but intervenes if you're about to change lanes into a vehicle by applying the brakes on the opposite side. The Lane Keeping Assist is also augmented with and Active component that steers the car back into the lane. The system works great, I played with and tested it on numerous roads. It recognizes whether the lane is a solid lane or a dashed divider and while it will steer you back if it's a solid lane where you're about to leave the roadway it only bumps the steering wheel and lets you cross a dashed line even without blinkers. A lot of thought went into the system for sure to be as least intrusive as possible while providing the maximum amount of safety.
The safety features are also numerous:
- Brake Assist SystemThis system applies increased brake force when it detects that you depressed the brake pedal in an emergency type braking situation. It makes the determination whether it's an emergency based on the speed you moved your foot from the accelerator to the brake. All W212 comes with this system. The system will not brake automatically.
- Collision Prevention Assist, it comes on all new W212 standard. The Collision Prevention Assist has two features:
a) Distance Warning Function. This system beeps and blinks at you if it thinks you're approaching the vehicle in front of you too fast. The system only monitors for moving vehicles and moving vehicles which came to a complete stop. It will not monitor stationary objects, pedestrians or oncoming or crossing traffic. It can be turned off.
b) Adaptive Brake Assist. This system is the secondary part of the collision prevention assist. It increases brake pressure to optimal brake pressure should you apply the brakes too lightly under an emergency braking situation. You must apply the brakes yourself, the system only increases the brake pressure should it deem it insufficient for the given situation. As the Distance Warning Function, it only responds to vehicles that were once in your path and picked up by the system as a moving vehicle.
There are more systems which only come with the car if you have the Driving Assistance package.
- Braking Assistance Plus (BAS Plus).This system not only applies the brakes at full force when it detects that you moved your foot from the gas to the brake too fast but it will also do it automatically if it detects cross traffic or pedestrians jumping in front of you. This system is smarter than the BAS as it will apply brakes based on how closely you're closing in on the vehicle or person in front of you and it will optimize the braking distance to reduce the chance of you getting rear ended as well by maximizing your brake distance and stop you as close as possible to the car in front of you giving the person behind you more room. Again, no automatic braking takes place.
- PRE-SAFE Brake. This is the only system that applies the brakes automatically. It will apply the brakes at up to 50% brake force automatically if it detects a rear end collision is possible without corrective action and you failed to apply the brakes on your own to reduce the impact but not completely eliminate it. It will apply up to 100% brake force once it recognizes that the crash is imminent. It can also apply 100% brake force to stop the vehicle if you're going slower than 44mph to avoid stationary objects and/or pedestrians. One more feature is that if it detects that you are about to get rear ended yourself it will brace you by pulling the seatbelts tight and applying the brakes so you car won't lurch forward upon impact.
So to summarize unless you have Distronic Plus your car will never brake on its own but it will apply increased brake pressure should you fail to apply enough brake pressure in a given situation and it will give you audible and visual warning in some instances should you opt to leave such warning on.
So while the Driver Assist System provides you with a slew of safety features it also provides you with convenience features. The Distronic Plus with Steering Assist is very impressive and I use it more than I ever thought I would. It keeps perfect following distance, applies the brakes and even steers your car to keep it in the lane which is a bit freaky at first but once you get used to it it makes driving way less stressful. I still find myself covering the brakes more often than not but I have only intervened a couple of times from when I thought the braking was not aggressive enough by the system due to it not being able to anticipate traffic past the vehicle in fron of you. If there were no idiots tailgating on the roadway the system would work 100% and it would be flawless. But when the three cars in fron of you car are in a tailgating session and have troubles of their own to stop the system will not be able to save your butt. It simply has to rely on the assumption that the car in front of you will not rear end the car in front of it. If that assumption is wrong the system will not save you either. In situations like that I adjust the following distance and leave myself more than the minimum 1 second the system allows and get closer to the 2 seconds the system allows as maximum following distance.
I find the way the system drives given its limitations exceptional. I have a co-worker who has an E60 BMW with their version of adaptive cruise control and upon a test drive he said the Mercedes system is way better than his which is to be expected given that this system is 6 or so years newer. I love the steering assist at slow stop and go traffic where I don't even need to steer the car and I really enjoy the adaptive cruise control in all driving situations. Once you get past the willingness to drive the car and you're OK with relaxing the drives become far less stressful and far more enjoyable. Overall, I think this is the best feature of the car and I'm glad that even my loaner had the feature on it, I use it all the time.
Rear Seat Entertainment
There are two different versions of the rear seat entertainment that you can order on the E-class. One is a $1,900 option from the factory with dual 8" monitors and a built-in DVD player in the rear seat while the other one is a dealer or port installed option that costs a bit less with 7" screens, DVD players and SD card readers built into the monitors themselves. I ordered the factory option and I'm not disappointed. It will not play AVI files from an SD card like the port/dealer installed one but it integrates beautifully with the car.
The two monitors can use either the rear DVD player as a common source or any source from the front Command unit including Satellite Radio, MP3 player or DVDs. If I send the DVD player to the rear monitors I can change the command unit to another source and play that one on the speakers or I can keep it on the same source and listen to it throughout the car. Otherwise the rear monitors come with two headsets and two remote controls that can control either headset, the command in the front or the DVD player in the rear. The headphones are very high quality and fit a child's head, these are the first set of headphones my kids did not complain about using and it's quite weird to be driving in complete silence from the kids once they each start watching their own videos. The only limitation I find is that the system only plays DVDs so if you have a large selection of ripped movies in AVI format you have to find another way to play them. The system has 3 separate AUX inputs, one on each monitor and one on the rear DVD player so attaching a portable media player is always an option. My kids like their DVDs so I have yet to invest in another option for them.
The remotes are very easy to operate and switch between what they control, the whole system just has German engineering written all over it. The only issue I had is that MBUSA no longer gives you a paper manual for the COMMAND system so you essentially don't get a manual on how to operate the system at all. But after a short try and fumbling through some COMMAND menus, even without the manual I managed to put two separate DVDs on for the kids within a couple of minutes. Since then I managed to source a paper manual but the on-line PDF works just as well. They upgraded the headphones since the manual came out so the batter compartments are different and the new headphones are much nicer than the previous ones.
Overall I foresee a great amount of DVD watching by my kiddos on long trips and I'm glad I let my wife talk me into ordering the system.
115V Power Outlet
I have yet to use the power outlet for anything other than charging my son's iPad but it was one of those no-brainer options for $115.
So this is my mini-review of all the options and features of the E-class.