Driving

My biggest issue was with the E350's stiff accelerator pedal. I did most of my driving on icy roads, and that's not where you want to be abrupt with the gas pedal. Thing is, the pedal was so stiff it was hard to fine-tune just how much acceleration you wanted.

Also, the acceleration was OK, but it's a weaker point in the E350 4Matic than in, say, the more powerful E550. Put another way, the E350 is capable, even with the heavy 4Matic hardware, but the E550 is quick. You notice it most when charging up on-ramps or passing on the highway, but even around town the V-6 feels short on low-end oomph compared with the V-8.

Another shortcoming: The steering is heavy at low speeds, then lightens up quickly. It's as if it feels like it doesn't want to turn, then it wants to turn too much. Some other variable-ratio power-steering systems Ч and some all-wheel-drive vehicles I've driven Ч do this, and I don't like it. It makes the steering vague, and I don't think it inspires confidence in parking maneuvers. The system is actually quite good on the highway, and I'm not sure why it can't be as good in parking lots as it is there.

The high point of driving the E350 is its ride. Mercedes has come up with a suspension that offers a comfortable ride over rough pavement Ч even with our E350's Sport Package, which adds 18-inch wheels Ч yet still manages to feel firm when you go through turns. Other reviewers who've driven both the E350 and the E550 say the E550 is even better in this regard. I'd be hard-pressed to imagine how, given the excellent quality of the E350's ride.

Finally, the cabin is quiet Ч no wind noise, and just enough sound from the engine that you don't feel isolated.

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