This is the 3rd Mercedes I have purchased for my wife. The first was a GLK 350 4-Matic, the 2nd a 2014 E350, and this 2016. Our lease was up on the 2014 so I went through the usual reevaluation of the Mercedes lines that fit our needs and her taste as well as looking at other brands. Here is what drove our decision as well as some thoughts on competitive vehicles. Long review:
1. Our needs: we live in a mountainous area on CA 9 in the SF Bay Area. Lots of fog, occasional black ice, & twisty roads. We need a safe, powerful and comfortable vehicle. My wife drives 2 hours/day taking our son to and from school.
2. Style, comfort & TCO: This is our 4th new Merc.: get the prepaid maint. Outside of the regular maintenance the Merc's are very cheap to operate on par with Honda's. We've never had a breakdown or an expensive repair. Mercedes leases are typically cheaper than their competition but it is very model specific. For example E's, GLK's & C's are the cheapest: S's, CLS's, & GLE's (old M's) the most. The interiors are beautiful but teutonic, not the Baroque lounger of the Lexus GS (prepare to get sea sick on winding roads), Infiniti or Cadi. Just smart, elegant and tasteful. I upgraded her to chocolate leather vs. MB-Tex and it was well worth it. The adaptive headlights are amazing in the E350. We put 39K miles on our last E350 and it looked, drove and smelled new when we turned it in. The car wears very well and all the materials looked the same as the day I bought it. I want to love the BMW 528 as I have driven 3's since the 80's but now the 528 looks old & dated to me in comparison. the E350 has a slightly better crash test rating than the 5 series as well. I liked the XJ too but it was a stretch for cost and I worried about resale and TCO perhaps unfairly.
3. IMHO the E350 is the best handling of it's class. The Infiniti's & Lexus feel heavier and the Lexus just feels like a water bed on mountain roads. We looked at Audi A's series and they looked terribly dated, were expensive and felt cheaper inside than the less pricey E350. The handling in the A series was "ok" but the E350 felt far more confident. The Porsche SUV's were fun but overpriced for the value. The gas milage is great in the E350 too my wife often exceeds city/highway ratings whereas I generally get a bit lower. The car is light for it's size owning to aluminum hood and body panels etc. so the 302HP V6 is really amazing.
4. Style: this is the last year for the current E350 body style. The seats are amazing and very comfortable on long trips we've driven a lot cross country and never feel cramped or worn out. We love this current style but it can be color dependent. The metallics and lighter colors tend to age better whereas the blues and black tends to age faster. Next year brings a higher price tag and the usual terrible Mercedes finance offers on new models. Typically Mercedes relents after 6 months or so. The interior layout is great and spacious. Controls are reachable and the command navigation is good. The cruise control stem remains oddly placed. cup holders are good and the options lists and packages make sense.
5. Dealership and servicing: Mercedes servicing really is the best. They always have a well appointed lounge and good staff. Make sure that you pick a service advisor. That way you are always assured a free loaner car, car wash or a ride and pick up anywhere you go. Otherwise you are on a 1st come 1st serve basis. Getting to know your dealer also means you get a better price on everything. One of the best parts of owning a Mercedes is that it is an experience versus a toil. When I go into a non Mercedes dealership it sometimes feels like a cattle call. At Mercedes even if I am not driving their most expensive model, I am treated like a friend and I'm happy. This makes my wife very happy and she loves the brand because it has shown her real value.
Overall the E350 is a great value: powerful, stylish utilitarian and safe.