Sunday, December 24, 2017

Mercedes E350 4matic first 100k miles

We bought a 2010 E350 4matic in the summer of 2015 with 34k miles on it.  Usually I search a wide radius and spend weeks looking for cars but in this case, it was the 2nd one we drove and we bought it only a few miles from our house.  I would have preferred red or blue but this car looks pretty good in silver in my opinion.  I think this is the best looking Mercedes sedan.  It is sportier looking than the S-Class in my opinion, but I would be open to an S-Class too.  This was the first Mercedes we ever owned but it will likely not be the last.  IN fact, we are shopping for another right now but we will also keep the E350.  I wanted to share our experience with this car after it passed 100k miles.  Actually it has 105k on it as I write this.  We have a 500 mile drive to visit our daughter that we make several times a year.  About 1/3 of the miles we put on this car are trips to see her.  The rest are normal mostly in-town miles.  We get all the seasons here including snow and ice.  Would I buy one again?  Heck yeah!  This has been a great car and I would highly recommend it to others.  These cars are a bargain as used cars.  They drop fast so you can pick up one with low mileage and only a few years old for less than half of new.  You can even find Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) for around half of new with a factory extended warranty.

Driving Impression

We have owned many cars over the years but this is the best overall car.  Driving the 500 mile trip as we often do leaves the driver with no fatigue.  The car inspires confidence and this makes for a low stress driving experience.  For a car of this size and weight it handles very good.  High speed driving feels comfortable and controlled.  Navigating through tight traffic is also as good as it gets.  The 4matic works well in poor traction conditions such as snow and ice.  With 105k on the car it honestly drives exactly the same as when we first got it.  I can get 27mpg on the highway at times, even when averaging over 70mph for the trip (which includes in-town driving).  We get about 20mph in town.  I am quite happy with that.  The engine has acceptable power for the car.  I would prefer the E63 AMG of course but it would be wasted on my wife and this is her daily driver.  

The Good Stuff

This has been a great car overall.  I would buy another in a heartbeat. 
  • Virtually non-existent driver fatigue even on long trips in bad weather, which we do often.
  • Excellent entertainment system with a dedicated volume knob.  By far the best way to control volume is a good old knob you can feel. The system are an AUX input and you can add an SD card adapter with in the dash.  It also had a hard drive you can store music on.  It has satellite radio built in for those who want that (which is not me by the way).  I wish it had Android Auto but it was built before that was available.
  • Excellent controls for the navigation and entertainment system.  The knob control is FAR better than a touch screen.  It is easy to control with one hand while keeping your eyes on the road.  Much less distracting that a touch screen that you have to look at.  
  • Great design of the center console door.  It is split in half and opens to each side.  This is far better than most than have a single hinge.
  • Great backup camera.
  • Excellent 4matic all wheel drive.  This system is full-time AWD with a center differential which is far superior to the automatic engaging part time AWD in most cars.  This system mechanically prevents loss of traction instead of just reacting to it.  It also has stability control to further enhance the system.
  • Paddle shifters.  The shifters have a great feel and short throw.
  • Transmission controls.  I actually like the Mercedes lever for selecting forward, neutral, reverse, and park.  It is out of the way and simple to use.  It is different than other cars and takes some getting used to.  It clears the console for drink holders and the drink holders are in exactly the right spot.  In most cars the shifter gets in the way and the drinks end up in an odd spot.
  • Entertainment display.  I love the way the entertainment display is placed in the dash like it actually was designed for it.  Many new cars have this ugly tablet looking thing sticking out of the dash like it was and afterthought or aftermarket.  Also, I like that it is not a touch screen.  The controls are far superior to a touch screen and the screen remains clean.  
  • Hook for grocery bags in trunk.  This is a small but awesome feature to keep your groceries from flailing around in the trunk.  Nets are OK but this hook is far better.  
  • I can reset the service reminders myself without any tools!  This is a great feature missing from most cars these days.  Honestly I am surprised Mercedes would do this.  I do my own service and I need to be able to reset the maintenance reminders myself and this car has a way to do that using only the steering wheel buttons.
  • Engine access is very open.  I replaced the spark plugs and this is the easiest car I have ever changed plugs on.  The air cleaner assembly comes off with no tools and you can then see all the coils in plain sight with open access.  Most modern cars have the engine tucked so deep under the windshield that you can only see half the engine.  
  • Ride.  This car is a great compromise between smooth ride and good handling.  It is serene even at high speeds.  Very low road noise.  You can have a conversation at a whisper while going 90mph even on crappy Midwest roads.  It handles fantastic for a car of this size and weight.  
  • Cruise control.  Mercedes did a great job with the cruise control.  You can easily see your set speed on the speedometer.  The simple lever has 2 detents for up (accelerate) and down (decelerate).  Clicking in the first detect changes the set speed by 1mph.  Clicking to the 2nd detent however takes you to the nearest 5mph point.  For instance, if you are going 72mph and you click it up to the 2nd detent once, you will go to 75mph.  If you clicked it twice to the 2nd detent you will go to 80mph.  
  • The trip computer. It has an automatic trip computer feature that tracks your trips automatically.  It makes some assumptions about what constitutes a trip and it is pretty good.  You can of course manually start your trips too if you want.
  • Everything in the car requires little effort to operate.  It is a great car for older folks or people with arthritis because of this.  

Gripes

This is a short list but, as with most cars (Porsche Cayman excluded) there are a few things that could be better.

  • Seats.  The seats are very comfortable except for the fake leather.  I think you can get real leather as an option and I would.  While the fake leather does not wear at all, if does not feel good when wearing shorts and it gets hotter than real leather.  Perforated leather would be a great upgrade here.
  • Drivers side blind spot.  The drivers side mirror is small and leaves a big blind spot.  I added a small convex mirror to correct this.  Very simple fix but Mercedes should have dealt with this in my opinion.  Some models has the blind spot warning system which would also be good.
  • Transmission.  The transmission shifts to a high gear and holds it to the bitter end.  This is actually very common with newer cars.  They do this to optimize fuel economy but it makes the car feel sluggish and jerky at times.  The worst part is merging on from a long ramp such as a cloverleaf.  The transmission shifts all the way up and then when you step into it to merge there is no power and a big delay in downshifting.  Here is where I use the paddle shifters to manually lock a lower gear.  Speaking of the shifters, they seem to be a mere suggestion rather than a command.  Sometimes there is a delay between requesting a lower gear and actually getting it.  Under certain conditions such as requesting an upshift when going downhill, it ignores you all together even when the RPM will still be well below any concern level.  The transmission can occasionally have a jerky downshift.  This improved dramatically after having the fluid and filter changed though. 
  • Headlights.  They are fine except I got used to HIDs in my Jaguar and Porsche and my E350 does not have the HID option.  You can get the E-class with HIDs and I would highly recommend it.  You can also retrofit HID which I may do.  
  • Cruise control braking.  OK, many would call this a feature but I am not a fan.  If your speed exceeds the set speed of the cruise control by too much, the car will actually apply the brakes to get the speed back down.  I would prefer it not do this under most conditions.  We live in the flat land but in mountains you would actually want to downshift for this, not apply the brakes.  My use case on the flat land is when passing with the cruise set.  I accelerate to get around and then once I am back in the right lane I release the throttle to allow the cruise to resume.  This braking feature kicks in and slows me down rapidly which is not necessary or welcome.  It is easy to just disengage the cruise to pass, then re-engage it after your speed get back to the cruise set speed.
  • Seat lumbar controls.  Actually I have this same issue with many cars lumbar controls.  They are not very intuitive and it seems challenging at times to get them set right.
  • The entertainment system lacks Bluetooth A2DP (music streaming).  It's crazy how many cars lack this still.  A2DP has been around for a long time before this car was built.  Flip phones supported it back in the eary 2000's yet this 2010 does not support it.  Stupid.  It does have Bluetooth hands-free for phone calls and that works fine.  It also has a port in the glove box where you can connect all sorts of things such as USB and 3.5mm jack with the right adapters.

Repairs & Maintenance

So far this car has been one of the most reliable cars I have owned.  It is also easy to maintain.  While this is the first year of the W212 E-class it is a very reliable and durable car.   
  • The biggest maintenance cost with the exception of tires has been the transmission service which cost me $433 to have done at a local shop. The dealer wanted over $700.  Mercedes recommend this every 40k miles which seems excessive.  The fluid is an expensive synthetic which is actually good for life but they recommend changing it due to clutch material building up in the fluid.  My Jaguars used a Mercedes transmission too and back then they claimed they did not ever need a fluid change.  I had a problem with my XJR at 120k miles because of debris in the fluid so I know why they want it changed.  I changed it at 80k.
  • Spark plugs.  This was very easy to do at home with only basic tools.  I don't think I spent more than 20 minutes on it.     
  • Rear brake rotors and pads.  I have replaced these once due to normal wear.  Parts cost is typical of these components, nothing out of the ordinary and simple to replace. I may not have needed new rotors but I don't skimp on brakes so I replaced them anyway.  I have yet to do the fronts after 105k miles.
  • Tires.  Normal wear item of course and I get decent miles from a set.  Cost is typical for a car like this, $229 each on Tire Rack for the OEM Continentals.  Tires are not an area to skimp on so I do not look for cheaper brands.  I also changed the TPMS sensors when I did the tires.  They were all working fine but I wanted to get new ones with the tires rather than wait for them to have dead batteries.  Cost for these was also typical at $52 each on Tire Rack.
  • Gas cap.  I had the check engine light come on.  I pulled the DTCs and I had 2 evaporative emissions DTCs.  This happened several times and I check to make sure the cap was tight.  It ended up being a leaky gas cap.  Simple and inexpensive fix.
  • Air filters.  These have a bunch of screws to access them but it is still not hard.  There are 2.  Cost is typical of air filters. 
  • Oil changes.  I use the recommended 0W-40 Mobile One oil.  Filter change is simple.  Cost for the whole oil change is about $70 and it is very simple to do.  
  • Drivers lower seat cover tear.  There is a seam that tears on some of these cars over time.  I have a new cover on the way that cost me $229.  I will update with how this goes.
  • HVAC fan motor noise.  It occasionally makes a faint squeaking type noise at certain fan speeds.  This is a common issue in most cars except most cars have enough road noise you don't hear it.  I have one on order for $180.  I will update after I replaced it.
  • Battery.  Typical maintenance item.  Lasted about normal.  Simple replacement.  Typical cost.  

I also posted this review http://jimroal.blogspot.com/2016/12/owning-mercedes-e350-4matic.html after we had the car for a while.  
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