Is there any surprise really, that in the list of the top 20 selling cars in the US in 2019 – nine were SUV entries. Notwithstanding, that the US market is widely different from ours and their insatiable appetite for trucks is something of an anomaly for most other marketplaces.
However, given that the cost of vehicle ownership is far more reasonable in the US – without a crippling taxation structure – in addition to having a plethora of vehicle choices (both foreign and domestic) at virtually any price range; customers are free to simply go out and buy the best vehicle that suit their needs and budget.
However, the crucial takeway from 2019, as Motor1.com reports, is that the sedan/saloon bodystyle is still very much popular amongst buyers, despite pundits saying that SUVs are largely replacing them.
Cars like the Toyota Camry, Honda Civic, premium saloons such as the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class respectively held steady in 2019.
Which got me thinking, if SUVs are the new defacto mainstream, are stylish sedans the new way to stand out in a crowd?
If so, the E350 AMG Line is a damn good place to start…
First introduced in early 2019, the E350 AMG Line takes its place at the top of the E-Class range (non Mercedes-AMG models), above the RM329k E200 SPORTSTYLE Avantgarde (yes, that’s quite a mouthful), and the RM379k E300 Exclusive Line.
The E350 AMG Line dips just under the RM400k mark, and receives the latest generation (M264) 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine which is aided by a mild-hybrid 48V starter/generator. The engine alone makes 370 Nm, boosted by an additional 150 Nm of boost contributed by the RSG (the outputs from engine and starter generator motor peak at different engine rotational speeds so the figures can't be summed up numerically).
In addition to the new engine, the E350 also gets the Driving Assistance Package and Dynamic Body Control adaptive suspension system supplied as standard.
In terms of equipment, the AMG Line trim adds 19-inch AMG 5-twin-spoke light-alloy wheels and more aggressive front and rear bumpers. The Night Package on the hand adds subtle details such as the gloss black wing mirror covers for that extra touch of aggression.
In terms of competitors, the E350 AMG Line goes up against the (G30) BMW 530i M Sport (priced at RM 372.8k) and Audi A6 3.0 TFSI (priced at RM 589.9k). The Audi A6 is a fully-imported vehicle hence the huge disparity in price over the Merc and BMW.
- Price: RM399,162
- Engine: 2.0-litre, inline-4, turbocharged petrol, 48V starter/generator, EQ Boost
- Power: 299hp at 5,800 rpm
- Torque: 400 Nm between 3,000-4,000 rpm
- Transmission: 9G-Tronic 9-speed automatic transmission
- Safety: Seven airbags, ABS with EBD, Stability Control, Dynamic Body Control, Collision Warning, Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Keep Assist with steering correction, Adaptive Cruise Control, Blind Spot Information System.
- Origin: Locally-assembled at Pekan, Pahang.
With a greater emphasis on their SUV models, and with it a large influx of SUV Mercs hitting the roads in recent times – it’s good to know that the humble ol’ E-Class can still hold its own and turn heads down a busy road.
While I do believe that the W213 generation E-Class lost some of its individuality – in looking different from the S- and C-Class – the older models had; there’s little doubt the overall proportions and pizzaz still make it a thing of beauty.
The deep blue colour featured on the test car is the best of the lot in my opinion, there is beauty, and careful restraint in the way Mercedes has contrasted the exterior colour against the black and chrome design elements peppered on the outside.
While its closest competitor, the 530i M Sport is arguably the more aggressive looking of the two – the E350 offers grown-up looks with oodles of pizazz.
The stylistic treatment of the E-Class’ exterior continues on the inside – gentle curves on the outside and flowing lines find themselves on the dashboard fascia, and continues downwards towards the centre console.
There is a real sense of occasion when getting on the E-Class, which is made even more impressive at night when the ambient lighting (literally hundreds to choose from) of the cabin illuminates virtually every crevasse between the upper and lower sections of the interior.
The AMG Line interior package serves up wonderful Nappa leather seating, a sporty multifunction steering wheel (also in Nappa leather) – which is superb by the way – and other bits to demarcate the E350 from other models within the range. The “metal weave” trim affixed to the dashboard and door panels does look suave and tactile to the touch – though that was not my initial impression, thinking instead that it was meant to copy the carbon trim of the E63S; even so, I wouldn’t fault it for that.
Other notable highlights of the interior include the massive Panoramic-sliding sunroof and dual configurable screens making up the main focal point of the interior.
If I had to nit-pick a downside, it would be the piano black centre console, which scuffs easily and feels a tad flimsy compared to the other components of the interior.
To summarise in not so many words – the E350 is pretty much all the E-Class one would ever need.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the roaring V8 of the E63 as much as the next guy, but realistically speaking – 300 hp and 400 Nm is plenty on a day to day basis. The E350 accelerates with gusto from virtually every gear – hence you never feel short of power when trying to climb a hill or when overtaking.
On a bendy B-road the instantaneous torque – from as low as 1,800 rpm – slingshots you out of corners, rising up seamlessly through the nine forward ratios. This gearbox does seem to want to hold a higher gear as long as possible – and that’s perfectly understandable – given it’s not a hot-hatch, hence the paddle shifters come in handy when trying to drop a gear and line the car up for a corner.
On the highway, the E350 cruises calmly at 140 km/h making this a venerable mile-muncher, and it will hit 200 km/h in very short order if space permits.
All this performance while still returning around 6.0-litres/100km during highway driving and around 7.8-litres/100km when in the city – superb figures for a car weighing more than 1.7 tonnes. To give you a comparison, the super-efficient Honda City Hybrid returns marginally better numbers than those, but delivers less than half the power and torque the E350 gives you, which is undeniably aided by this car’s 48V electrical architecture and starter-generator motor.
Given its standard fit Dynamic Active Body Control active suspension, the E350 has a beautifully plush ride – almost mimicking the S-Class’ comfort levels to a tee – even on the worst of city roads. Needless to say, on the highway, it’s a magic carpet ride.
Yes, it stiffens up considerably when you toggle into the sportier drive modes, but this is first and foremost a cruiser, hence, while the E350 will not shy away from a fast corner, the whole process might seem a bit contrived. In addition, when you wish to calm things down, the brakes are very powerful too.
The 530i M Sport might be a sharper steer all around, but for the most part, the E-Class offers a great duality of comfort and driving dynamics.
The E-Class is quite possibly one of the most prestigious nameplates in the motoring world.
With a heritage and model lineage spanning more than six-decades – if you trace the E-Class’ roots back to the W120 Ponton from the mid-50s – it has always managed to epitomise style, technology, safety, and driving performance in equal amounts.
In its latest iteration, it remains an utterly relevant vehicle simply because regardless of the growing masses of SUVs, the E-Class and in particular the E350 as featured here still offers all the above, and two very important quantums that are a by-product of the aforementioned – prestige and exclusivity.
Come to think of it, the more SUVs there are, the more special and unique sedans will become, and that’s no bad thing if you ask me!