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Weidel on Wheels: E550 offers improvements without ballooning costs

Mercedes-Benz sedan provides impressive performance and handling
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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It’s not like the price tag has dipped low enough that every car shopper can now fit this luxury automobile in their modest budget. But give Mercedes-Benz credit, the prestigious German automaker is making strides in that direction. Understandably, the 2010 Mercedes E550 lists at approximately $56,300, which certainly remains out of reach for many people. Yet, even with some significant improvements over last year’s model, the classy E550 can be purchased for $5,400 less in 2010. And there aren’t many, if any, auto manufacturers making that type of cost reduction. This is a departure for Mercedes, which has been accused in recent years of escalating prices while providing diminishing quality. But that appears to be something Mercedes wants to reverse. The E550 is one example of the new trend, and so is the new E-Class coupe that is cheaper than the CLK-Class model it replaces in the Mercedes lineup. So what’s the real story? Has Mercedes actually lowered prices while maintaining its reputation for extraordinary quality? Judging by the E550 sedan driven here for a week, that seems to be the case. However, beware that the optional packages can definitely hike up the bottom line. The test model had more than $13,000 in upgrades. Still, the E550 is quite the vehicle. In summary, the styling has been altered yet remains attractive, the interior is upgraded, the standard features package is still abundant and the Mercedes performance, handling and comfort remain top tier. In the performance department, the impressive mid-sized E550 features is a 5.5-liter, V-8 engine with 382 horsepower that can get anywhere in a hurry, evidenced by its 0 to 60 mph clocking in 5.3 seconds. Of course, that impacts gas mileage, which at 16 to 24 miles per gallon is a bit less than many people desire. The E550, the top-selling Mercedes sedan, provides instant acceleration and offers impressive safety that Mercedes has always been noted for providing. Standard for 2010 is a driver fatigue alert system and presafe, which automatically secures occupants during an imminent crash. Also available is a driver assistance package that adds blind-spot and lane departure warning systems. One superior aspect of practically any Mercedes is the handling. The E550 lives up to the reputation with excellent ride quality and makes driving this sedan feel effortless at times. There are no worries with road noise -- it’s practically nonexistent with this classy ride that provides extreme comfort for both driver and multiple passengers. __________ 2010 Mercedes E550 Price: $56,300 Power: 5.5-liter, V-8 engine with 382 horsepower Mileage estimate: 16 mpg city; 24 mpg highway Standard features include: Driver fatigue alert; 8-speaker sound system, in-dash 6-disc DVD/CD changer; sunroof; leather steering wheel; 14-way adjustable power front seat with memory system; dual climate control; smartkey; integrated garage door opener; wood trim; leather upholstery; emergency inside trunk lid release; daytime running lights