I am going to wrap a pair of vehicles into this Grinding Gears entry. As we head down the 2010 highway I need to do a bit of housekeeping left over from the last decade. This time around I offer a coupe from across the Atlantic and a hybrid from across the Pacific.
Mercedes-Benz E350 Coupe
I begin with the new E-class coupe from Mercedes-Benz. The luxury German marque showed a Cabriolet version at the big auto show in Detroit but as we are still smack in the middle of winter here in the northern hemisphere the hardtop version will do just fine for now, thanks.
Our tester arrived in E350 form, meaning it came powered by the smooth yet spirited 268hp 3.5-liter V-6 which was backed by their seven-speed Driver-Adaptive automatic gearbox. I mentioned in a previous writing that I was appreciative of the fact that Mercedes chose to put a real console shifter in this vehicle as opposed to the column stalk we have seen in other new vehicles carrying the tri-star emblem.
Many of you may recognize this set of wheels as the one Mercedes-Benz marketing wizards crash through the front glass of the Mercedes automobile museum in TV commercials. I didn’t find my driving experiences quite as exhilarating as all that (and no accompanying jaunt through the black forest) but I did enjoy the E-coupe and the modern Mercedes experience it brings.
The vehicle is a four seater only, but who really wants folks climbing over the front seats to settle for a view from the rear. Most buyers will likely be in a one- or two-person household only, I’m sure.
The new E features updated classic Mercedes styling and all the latest safety and technological engineering, including offering automatic self-braking similar to what we saw in the Volvo XC60. Our test model also came with the optional AMG styling package to upgrade wheels and tires, add agility control sport suspension, upgraded brakes, stainless steel pedals and multicontour front seats.
Fuel economy for the six is rated at 17 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. Pricing for the 2010 E350 Coupe begins at $48,050 with our tester coming in at $56,195.
Next up is a hybrid rerun from Honda. They have resurrected the Insight nameplate for a new hybrid model, this time offering a rear seat for the model and updated powertrain technology.
Insight was the first hybrid rolling on American soil but did not gain much respect due to its diminutive size and funky rear wheel well covers (reminiscent of motoring days gone by). Admittedly, this new Insight is only slightly larger than the previous one but does offer cargo storage behind the rear seats (that fold for additional room), but we found the vehicle still lagging behind its continental competition. And this Honda still incorporates the Idle Stop technology in its hybrid component so there is still a noticable bit of engine studder when moving your foot from brake to gas.
The gearbox is a CVT (continuously variable transmission) unit but the car has steering wheel paddle shifters for those of you dreaming you are in a 98hp Ferrari I guess.
Honda includes ECO assist function with the new Insight so that one can truly be sure their driving habits are suitable to impress any Sierra club member.
Honda also includes the latest safety technology in the Insight including vehicle stability assist, side impact and side curtain airbags, ABS and brake assist and active front head restraints. And there is a modest amount of creature comfort features as well.
Fuel economy for the new Insight comes in at 40 mpg city and 43 mpg highway, which is unusual for a hybrid powertrain as most feature better city fuel economy due to the nature of the gas/electric powertrain. As the Honda is never powered solely by the electric motors it does not enjoy this benefit.
Pricing is in line with the competition. Our 2010 Honda Insight five-door EX model comes in at a final sticker of $22,010. And it even comes with a global warming rating of 10, on a scale of one to 10 with 10 being the cleanest.