Beige. For me, beige is the color of death. It s the color of all the OAP s (Old Age Pensioners) I encountered during my 16-year English adventure: beige jackets, beige trousers, beige skirts, beige shoes and yes, beige socks, shirts, handbags, scarves and caps. I reckon only a person ready, willing and able to quietly slip into that long good night would turn to a salesperson and say It s nice, but do you have it in beige? Our test Mercedes E350 s interior was dominated by a particularly vivid — or is that dull? — shade of beige. It brought up unpleasant memories and colored my whole experience of the car. Or, um, not.
To say that the Mercedes E320 4Matic is a car designed for old people would be wrong. For one thing, the go-pedal is so rigorous (as in rigor mortis) only a person enjoying the vitality of youth can get the car moving; your average octogenarian would have to stand on the accelerator to create forward progress. For another, the 401K set are pretty tight with their money, what with on-going funding issues surrounding their lazy, good-for-nothing children. The E350 clocks in at $50k or so, and that s one late ass hour for our financially/chronically challenged ancestors, who only use their car to drive to church on Sundays and wonder about the Vicar s questionable sexuality. Which would account for the chairs pew-like solidity. On the other hand
The E350 s steering wheel seems to be made out of the same spongy material used for Zimmer frame handles. And it s roughly the same circumference. Thanks to nuclear power assistance, helmsmanship is easier than opening a bottle of child-proof aspirin. In fact, the E350 s steering is lighter than the finger-flummoxing fluff lingering in Grandma s candy. Although minor course corrections are amazingly accurate, once you turn the mid-sized Merc s wheel, it s as if you re riding on balloons. The effect creates a new definition of oversteer : continuing to turn a corner after you ve turned it. (Walkers, you have been warned.)
There s also the complete lack of COMMANDitude. Mercedes decision not to equip their stalwart E with one of the mouse-driven control interface thingies afflicting the S-Class and its ilk could well reflect their kind consideration for buyers who remember when computers were steam-driven. The E350 s buttons are refreshingly logical and sensibly placed. (If only they were twice as large.) And the 4Motion system makes perfect sense for our less mobile population; if you can t [remember to] change the snow tires every year, gripless all-seasons with four-wheel-drive is better than gripless all-seasons without four-wheel-drive.
Maybe I m being too harsh here. Driving a $50k car with a glove box with all the heft of a Pamper s wipes lid, and a visor mirror that wouldn t look out of place on a child s plastic compact, can put me in that kind of mood. There s no question that the E350 4Motion is a wonderfully relaxing and reassuring car when you want to go from point A to to Maybe I ve driven too many sporty cars — including AMG Mercs — to understand that most people consider quietly competent and completely numb desirable attributes in a luxury car. Or maybe it s just because I M TOO YOUNG TO DIE! [by Robert Farago]