Power: 382 hp, 391 lb-ft
Engine: 5.5-liter V8
Fuel consumption: 15 city, 23 hwy
Price as tested: $65,715
It didn’t matter their age or gender, every one of my friends and family—some general bystanders too—fell for the “Mars Red” E550 Coupe I drove over Memorial Day weekend. Whether just standing around it or riding inside, no one had a bad word to say. It inspired awe with its beauty and power. The graceful chrome arch of its side glass, the exquisite contrast stitching on black leather, tomb-like silence on the highway, coddling cooled seats to beat the heat—the E550 mingled all of those elements and more to intoxicate its occupants. Guys who normally favor burly Camaros and Mustangs raved about the smooth, potent V8—how it bellowed and shoved them in the small of the back when summoned with the throttle. This car makes most others look half-baked. It shrugs off triple-digit speeds and consumes miles on the highway with ease. If all of this sounds sappy—sorry. I was smitten too.
Yet as hard as we fell for the gorgeous E550, there was no denying its shortcomings. The thing was an oven with its large glass roof, which had only a perforated shade that didn’t fully block the sun. Also, the coupe’s reflexes didn’t quite match its sporty looks. The steering felt too light and loose, the chassis too soft. But the buyers of this car probably want it plush, which means they should forgo the optional 18-inch AMG wheels our test car had. Mercedes’ “Command” system for the audio and nav systems had an intuitive menu system to navigate with the large metal knob on the console. The problem was having to hunt and peck for what you needed, and sometimes never finding it—like a pause button when playing music from an iPod. The last hit goes to not having a rear center seat. Several times,someone had to suffer and sit on the tray that’s there instead.
The Mercedes E550 is a stunner that commands a steep price for the privilege of driving it. But this slick coupe proved as practical as it did alluring, gracefully hauling four—sometimes five—people plus a trunk full of cargo. And it averaged 19.7 mpg, which isn’t bad for all that power.