I was 18 at the time, and when my father let me take the car to the market or when we took the car on father-son journeys, life couldn’t have been better.
Mercedes had more luxurious cars then, just as the manufacturer does today. But more than 30 years after driving father’s Benz, I owned a 1979 Mercedes Benz, a 280CE, for several years. It wasn’t the same, of course. It was more than 25 years old and had its issues. But it was Mercedes, I could afford it, and had the same interior and exterior color as my dad’s car, and that made it all good.
That’s also plenty of fodder to explain my fondness or Mercedes Benz automobiles, and it’s among the reasons I can’t help but like the 2006 Mercedes Benz E350. It’s everything that’s made the Mercedes brand what it is: a well-crafted and quiet luxury car made for the open road. The Autobahn, the German superhighway comes to mind.
My weekly test drive of the 3.5-liter, 24-valve, V6, 268-horsepower E350 didn’t include any high-speed missions on the Autobahn. But around town and during various freeway treks, the vehicle had it all: comfort, luxury, great handling and a commanding presence. Add the vehicle’s pewter exterior color, and it was hard not to get the approval of onlookers, particularly the crowd that appreciates simple elegance.
Of course, like other luxury brands, Mercedes is not for the economically inclined, unless you’re in the market for quarter-century-old choices, like I was. The E350 has a base price of $50,050.
Beyond paying for the premium price of the brand, standard features on the E350 are plentiful and include, among other items: a 7-speed automatic transmission, 16-inch, dual-spoke alloy wheels, electric adjustable tilt and telescoping steering column, 10-way adjustable front seats with three-position memory, nine-speaker audio system with AM/FM, single disc CD, leather seats, burl walnut trim, power windows and cruise control.
Beyond its obvious comforts and performance highlights, the E350 had two convenient functions I particularly enjoyed.
Unlike other top-end manufacturers’ approaches, the E350’s myriad seat position controls are located on the side door panels. They’re easy to use and offer a solution to inconvenience of having to reach under the front seat to maneuver settings.
Another nice E350 touch combines an oddity and convenience. The vehicle is marketed as a four-passenger sedan, yet it includes five backseat headrests. While the headrests are up and no one is sitting in the backseat, the middle cushion blocks the driver’s rear window vision. But with a push of a button on the instrumentation panel the headrests smoothly recess.
My vehicle also included three optional packages, all at substantial cost: the upgraded paint, upholstery and trim ($2,180), 6-disc CD changer and heated front seats ($1,100) and the sunroof package (glass sunroof, power rear window shade, rear side winds roller blinds) added another $1,550. With a destination and delivery charge of $720, the price of the vehicle was pushed to $55,600.
For the price point, at least some of the options should be standard features. Still, the new Mercedes has a lot to offer. And those shopping in the price range should take a careful look. I know my father would have.
2006 Mercedes Benz 350: The Weekly Driver
Safety Features — Dual front airbags with multi-stage deployment; front and rear side airbags.
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 19 (city), 27 (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 4 years/50,000 miles; Corrosion, Unlimited; (24-hour) roadside assistance program.
Base Price — $50,050.