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F10 / F11 (2011 - Current)
The new chapter in the highly successful story of the BMW 5 Series Sedan (F10) and wagon (F11)

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Old 05-31-2011, 05:01 PM
Imothph Imothph is offline
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Location: Auburn, WA
 
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Mein Auto: 535i
E350 Versus 535i - a "butt in the seat" perspective (Long)

I drove both cars multiple times, at three different dealerships (each) and cumulatively spent several hours in each car in varied road and freeway conditions.

I’ve never owned a BMW before, or a Mercedes, so I’ve nothing to compare these cars to except themselves. I can’t for example tell you how much better or worse the F10 steering is versus previous BMW’s or if the interior plastics of the new E350 are better than those of the old. I also can’t speak to how each car lives up to their heritage, or if that even matters, and I’m not even claiming everything to come is entirely accurate. So what is this then? Its exactly what it appears to be, one persons opinion, on two cars, from a “my butt in the seat” perspective.

First up – Exterior Impressions

Styling is so subjective and personal that I almost didn’t bother writing anything. As I thought about it though, I figured its worth giving an opinion, even if it doesn’t count.

The E350: It took me a bit to like this car’s exterior and once I finally decided I did like it, I had a hard time figuring out why it took so long – then it came to me – it’s a different car from every angle. Unlike most cars where there’s a general theme, the E350 is almost a collection of styles that in this reviewer’s opinion, don’t necessarily go together. As a result, it’s like trying to decide if you like three different cars, all in the one car – which I suppose is why it took three times as long. Its almost as though Mercedes gave the front, rear and side design jobs to three different designers and aside from a few basic guidelines, told them they couldn’t communicate with each other. The front is aggressive and dramatic – easily the best part of the car, and particularly in sport package format. The side of the car is also aggressive with a nice rake – that is until you get to the rear quarter – where from nowhere, sprouts a rounded “hip”. Why is that? – there’s nothing rounded on this car! – That’s sort of the point with this design, right? – angular, aggressive, sharp lines? - where does the rounded hip come from? Individually it’s not that bad, but it doesn’t keep the theme of the front. Then we get to the rear…..oh dear. I’m not sure what it looks like exactly and I’m not even saying its bad, but not what I would expect. The added “mini spoiler” on the trunk lid helps quite a bit but the rear is easily the biggest let down for me. Once I got all these separate designs stitched together in my head into a single automobile, I decided I liked the design, poor rear end and all, and perhaps more than the BMW.

The 535i: I immediately liked this design, but in the way you like vanilla ice-cream - its classic, reserved, relatively simple and has just enough flare to keep from being outright boring. There’s no “shock” value with the 535i - no one will walk up to it and want to barf on the hood, but similarly, no one is going to walk up to it and propose marriage either. To me its one of those designs most everyone will generally like – its inoffensive, it doesn’t try shout its presence yet it has enough lines, bulges, flares and styling quirks to have people stop and appreciate its “un-vulgar completeness”. This of course, is also a problem. While the E350 styling is far more debatable, the point is, it will generate debate - love it or hate it, it will get people talking and generate passion one way or the other. Not so much with the 535i I think.

Verdict? – For me, it’s a draw. The cars are so far apart in style and degree of flare (or not) that the best conclusion I could come up with is that they are both nice designs, each appealing to different people for different reasons.


Interior Impressions:

Open the door the 535i and the driver’s seat calls to you – “sit in me, lets go someplace and lets do it fast”. The cockpit feel, the way the center consol has a gradual rise and the subtle flow of the arm rests and door trim are all very inviting – giving you the impression that the interior is already in motion, just waiting for you to put the car in gear. In contrast, the E350 interior isn’t so much inviting as it is demanding – it doesn’t invite you for a drive, it orders you to get in (probably in angry German) and gives you an ultimatum to drive or face the consequences. Like the outside, the interior of the E350 is very angular. Unlike the outside however, I’m not sure the interior lines work. It’s as though the exterior designers were punished for their somewhat miss-matched designs by having all their tools taken away, except for rulers, and then put to work in the inside. I suppose that explains the grid-like array of buttons on the center stack – or perhaps they had rulers and a waffle maker? It’s not a terrible design; it’s just very stark and staunch. I’m surprised the interior didn’t come standard with a can of spray starch and a steam iron to make sure your pants retain perfect creases and never get wrinkled while driving - and if it did, I’m sure the car would automatically iron you, even over your pathetic objections, to maintain the linear perfection. The big difference is that the BMW interior makes you want to drive it, while the E350 just doesn’t. It could even be argued, somewhat successfully, that the 535i has a more luxurious look and feel.

Looking and feeling however, is somewhat less important than sitting and the E350 claims some wins here. It was far easier for me (6’1) to get comfortable in the E350 with the standard seat. The seats are firm (which I like) and the armrest ergonomics were near perfect. It was also easier to get the steering wheel in a comfortable position without blocking the speedometer and the seat side bolsters were much better – particularly if you add the upgrade massage seat. The BMW was also comfortable but I was still adjusting the seat well into the test drive, on all three occasions. On a 20-minute solo ride I adjusted the seat the entire time – and this was the standard seat. The upgrade seat for the 535i ups the adjustments yet again and while most everyone I talk to says the upgrade seat is a must, I didn’t like it. Well, I liked it, but I just didn’t think I needed it. The standard seat is firmer, which I like and in testing the upgraded seat, the most comfortable position I could find didn’t make use of either the extendable thigh support or upper seat back adjustment. I’m quite sure the upgraded seat is great once you set it up, but I felt the standard seat worked just as well – for me anyway. Other ergonomics were generally good though the BMW does have a very thin armrest which is adequate for me, but just. The steering wheel is equally adjustable but finding the most comfortable position forced me to either block the speedometer or accept a less than optimal driving position – to be fair though, it wasn’t anything I wouldn’t get used to.

A point of note here – the BMW had leather, the E350 wasn’t and after testing both, I cannot recommend the Mercedes Leather. I was adamant that my car have leather but I tell you now, I wouldn’t have an E350 so equipped. You’d be better off ripping the seat out and replacing it with a block of granite – seriously. I like a firm seat but even I have limits. I was actually surprised when I sat in the E350 leather for the first time – during the test drive it seemed “ok” but I’m not sure how I’d feel after a long drive. Perhaps the leather softens after some use; I don’t know and wouldn’t want to take the chance to be honest.

Other “nit-picky” things I didn’t like (but would probably get used to) on the BMW included: Turn signals that don’t actually stay up or down, they return to center and the cup holders seem a little further way than ideal. The start-stop button works great for start but it took me a bit to figure out how to get the car all the way off. Lastly, the steering wheel on the 535i has three “spokes” whereas the steering wheel on the E350 is arranged with four. The difference for me is that I’m accustomed to the E350 arrangement and I felt like I was missing appropriate hand-holds / rests with the BMW arrangement. The E350 is available with a similar “sports” steering wheel.

Driving Dynamics

Comparing apples to apples here and perhaps more importantly (for me) comparing the car optioned as I bought it – the BMW I drove did not have the Dynamic Handling or Sports packages - so no fiddling with the suspension. So comparing a standard Sports E350 to the standard 535i:

I’ll give some support to the Mercedes here in that it did a lot better than I thought – which is to say the BMW still killed it, but it was more a minor blood-bath versus the expected outright massacre. The BMW boasts better numbers (HP, Torque, etc) and as they say, numbers don’t lie. I was impressed by the E350 and it exceeded my expectations, but there is no doubt that the 535i is the “sportier” car – even without adding the sports packages. It wasn’t just a matter of zooming to 60 MPH faster, the BMW is so much more confidence-inspiring in the corners – I felt safe throwing the big 5-series into a corner, the E350 did the job but frankly it made me a tad nervous. As far as straight-line performance, there was a nice long on-ramp available and both cars did well, but one stood out. Again I give credit to the E350 for grabbing hold of every ounce of muscle and hauling itself up that ramp in relatively impressive style. The BMW however asked “what ramp”? and after putting your face back together, you could look back and marvel at how the on-ramp got so small so fast in the rear-view mirror. I’ve driven faster cars to be sure, but the 535i was impressive. Lets be clear here too – the E350 was very good – great in fact versus many other choices, it just didn’t have it under the hood to compete with the BMW. So the BMW gets the win in terms of pure grunt and the mechanics to handle it – but if performance is a position or two lower on your priority list than it was on mine, the E350 is not far off.

I found the brakes to be equally different. I’m undecided whether the BMW brakes are “better”, given that they appear to be designed to smash your face into the steering wheel. I considered the fact that you stop faster, there’s more control and again, they enable more aggressive driving- but the whole “steering wheel imbedded in your skull” factor is a sizable downside. The E350 brakes felt “normal” no better or worse than most any other car. In the BMW though, I immediately took note of the need to retrain my braking foot. My guess is this will be a different experience for everyone depending on what you’re used to and even if, like me, you’re in the “Holy fractured skull Batman” group – you’ll get used to the brakes (and your new neck brace) pretty quick.

The E350 took the win in overall ride quality – no real surprise there, but I preferred the sportier if less cloud-like ride of the 535i.

Transmissions: I was a bit worried about an 8-speed auto….I mean eight gears……REALLY? I have cars that make do with a 2-speed powerglide. For the BMW, it was worry wasted because the 535i’s gearbox seamlessly did its job and using some auto-magical process, managed to get itself in the right gear no matter what I did as the driver. The E350 7-speed auto though was another story and frankly this played a big part in my decision. On multiple occasions (and in entirely different E350’s) the transmission seemed…..confused and worse…clunky…yes..CLUNKY! I don’t mean I’m describing its shifting as clunky…I mean it actually, audibly…clunked. Generally the Mercedes transmissions operated without a hitch but when multiple cars, multiple times have transmission “hic-ups”, clunking noises and harsher than expected gear engagements – I does tent to raise one’s eyebrow……particularly if the related eye is looking at a $58,000+ price tag. I’ve heard this can be considered “normal” for the Mercedes transmissions and I’ve driven some older design Mercedes transmissions that have similar “personalities” so maybe….but I don’t want my transmission clunking and playing guess-who with its gears, even if it is “normal”.

In terms of “normal driving” so around town at 40 MHP or less or cruising on the highway both cars were good but the BMW started to show an irritating side to its personality. For starters, in two of the three test 535i cars, you could just about read a chapter of War and Peace in the time between pressing the gas (from idle) and the car actually moving. Ok, perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but there is a serious and irritating delay that I hope is either 1) Just getting used to a new car or 2) something that goes away / can be dialed out by the dealer. I decided it was livable but jump into the E350 and the instant response feels like a minor miracle in comparison. There’s also something similar going on at lower speeds where it wasn’t as easy to get a smooth take-off and transition with the BMW as it was with the E350. Your tolerance for fidgety gas peddles will vary, mine borders on zero. I’ve put this down to “It takes time to get used to a new car” and a few test drives won’t cut it.

Steering: Honestly, I didn’t find much to complain about. Perhaps because I don’t have a BMW benchmark to compare against but I hear the F10 steering is “numb” and the E350 is even more “disconnected”…maybe it is, but nothing jumped out at me and screamed “ALERT! bothersome issue”. I actually forgot all about the potential steering issues the first test drive and had to purposefully remind myself to pay attention the 2nd time – still couldn’t detect anything “woefully wrong”. Sure its different than my current car – expected, my current car is a lot bigger and heavier. I have 5 vehicles at the moment, four of them from different decades – talk about steering differences. Perhaps I’m used to getting comfortable with different steering systems or maybe my current daily driver is just as “disconnected” so it feels the same, I’ve no idea. All I do know is that nothing about the steering made me flinch. I will say that the steering has a different feel going from X-drive to non-X drive 535 – not bad or better, just a bit different. In terms of comparison, I can’t say I’d give the win to one car over the other.

Value

The best value will depend on what options you want, but in general terms, BMWs decision to enable ala-cart optioning coupled with their complimentary 4-years, 50K free maintenance (which is better than the Mercedes version, which isn’t free) makes for very good value for money.

You absolutely can option up a BMW to where the price exceeds even the most expensive Mercedes, but generally only by adding options Mercedes doesn’t offer. If you option the cars as close to the same as possible, I found you get more of what you want, with less of what you don’t, with the BMW. Naturally this depends on your wants and needs – my guess is most BMW buyers will go for the options Mercedes doesn’t offer on the E350 (Dynamic Handling, for example) so the comparison isn’t really valid. In may case though, with the E350 I’d have been forced to pay for multiple options I didn’t want or have use for in order to get options I did, whereas my BMW build was tailored to those options I wanted and nothing more. Sure the E350 would have had more options overall, but I’d have paid an extra $4000 (MSRP) for options I didn’t need, want or use.

You run the risk of building a “Frankenstein” car that nobody will touch with a ten-foot pole when trade-in day comes along, but so long as you don’t ala-cart yourself into a lime green 535i with purple interior, one heated seat and a navigation system that only goes to Walmart, you’ll probably be OK.

Conclusion –

Buy the car you like. I did (Jet Black 535i)
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  #2  
Old 05-31-2011, 05:12 PM
Ronsell Ronsell is offline
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Mein Auto: 2011 528i
Quote:
Originally Posted by imothph View Post
i drove both cars multiple times, at three different dealerships (each) and cumulatively spent several hours in each car in varied road and freeway conditions.

I’ve never owned a bmw before, or a mercedes, so i’ve nothing to compare these cars to except themselves. I can’t for example tell you how much better or worse the f10 steering is versus previous bmw’s or if the interior plastics of the new e350 are better than those of the old. I also can’t speak to how each car lives up to their heritage, or if that even matters, and i’m not even claiming everything to come is entirely accurate. So what is this then? Its exactly what it appears to be, one persons opinion, on two cars, from a “my butt in the seat” perspective.

First up – exterior impressions

styling is so subjective and personal that i almost didn’t bother writing anything. As i thought about it though, i figured its worth giving an opinion, even if it doesn’t count.

The e350: It took me a bit to like this car’s exterior and once i finally decided i did like it, i had a hard time figuring out why it took so long – then it came to me – it’s a different car from every angle. Unlike most cars where there’s a general theme, the e350 is almost a collection of styles that in this reviewer’s opinion, don’t necessarily go together. As a result, it’s like trying to decide if you like three different cars, all in the one car – which i suppose is why it took three times as long. Its almost as though mercedes gave the front, rear and side design jobs to three different designers and aside from a few basic guidelines, told them they couldn’t communicate with each other. The front is aggressive and dramatic – easily the best part of the car, and particularly in sport package format. The side of the car is also aggressive with a nice rake – that is until you get to the rear quarter – where from nowhere, sprouts a rounded “hip”. Why is that? – there’s nothing rounded on this car! – that’s sort of the point with this design, right? – angular, aggressive, sharp lines? - where does the rounded hip come from? Individually it’s not that bad, but it doesn’t keep the theme of the front. Then we get to the rear…..oh dear. I’m not sure what it looks like exactly and i’m not even saying its bad, but not what i would expect. The added “mini spoiler” on the trunk lid helps quite a bit but the rear is easily the biggest let down for me. Once i got all these separate designs stitched together in my head into a single automobile, i decided i liked the design, poor rear end and all, and perhaps more than the bmw.

The 535i: I immediately liked this design, but in the way you like vanilla ice-cream - its classic, reserved, relatively simple and has just enough flare to keep from being outright boring. There’s no “shock” value with the 535i - no one will walk up to it and want to barf on the hood, but similarly, no one is going to walk up to it and propose marriage either. To me its one of those designs most everyone will generally like – its inoffensive, it doesn’t try shout its presence yet it has enough lines, bulges, flares and styling quirks to have people stop and appreciate its “un-vulgar completeness”. This of course, is also a problem. While the e350 styling is far more debatable, the point is, it will generate debate - love it or hate it, it will get people talking and generate passion one way or the other. Not so much with the 535i i think.

Verdict? – for me, it’s a draw. The cars are so far apart in style and degree of flare (or not) that the best conclusion i could come up with is that they are both nice designs, each appealing to different people for different reasons.


Interior impressions:

Open the door the 535i and the driver’s seat calls to you – “sit in me, lets go someplace and lets do it fast”. The cockpit feel, the way the center consol has a gradual rise and the subtle flow of the arm rests and door trim are all very inviting – giving you the impression that the interior is already in motion, just waiting for you to put the car in gear. In contrast, the e350 interior isn’t so much inviting as it is demanding – it doesn’t invite you for a drive, it orders you to get in (probably in angry german) and gives you an ultimatum to drive or face the consequences. Like the outside, the interior of the e350 is very angular. Unlike the outside however, i’m not sure the interior lines work. It’s as though the exterior designers were punished for their somewhat miss-matched designs by having all their tools taken away, except for rulers, and then put to work in the inside. I suppose that explains the grid-like array of buttons on the center stack – or perhaps they had rulers and a waffle maker? It’s not a terrible design; it’s just very stark and staunch. I’m surprised the interior didn’t come standard with a can of spray starch and a steam iron to make sure your pants retain perfect creases and never get wrinkled while driving - and if it did, i’m sure the car would automatically iron you, even over your pathetic objections, to maintain the linear perfection. The big difference is that the bmw interior makes you want to drive it, while the e350 just doesn’t. It could even be argued, somewhat successfully, that the 535i has a more luxurious look and feel.

Looking and feeling however, is somewhat less important than sitting and the e350 claims some wins here. It was far easier for me (6’1) to get comfortable in the e350 with the standard seat. The seats are firm (which i like) and the armrest ergonomics were near perfect. It was also easier to get the steering wheel in a comfortable position without blocking the speedometer and the seat side bolsters were much better – particularly if you add the upgrade massage seat. The bmw was also comfortable but i was still adjusting the seat well into the test drive, on all three occasions. On a 20-minute solo ride i adjusted the seat the entire time – and this was the standard seat. The upgrade seat for the 535i ups the adjustments yet again and while most everyone i talk to says the upgrade seat is a must, i didn’t like it. Well, i liked it, but i just didn’t think i needed it. The standard seat is firmer, which i like and in testing the upgraded seat, the most comfortable position i could find didn’t make use of either the extendable thigh support or upper seat back adjustment. I’m quite sure the upgraded seat is great once you set it up, but i felt the standard seat worked just as well – for me anyway. Other ergonomics were generally good though the bmw does have a very thin armrest which is adequate for me, but just. The steering wheel is equally adjustable but finding the most comfortable position forced me to either block the speedometer or accept a less than optimal driving position – to be fair though, it wasn’t anything i wouldn’t get used to.

A point of note here – the bmw had leather, the e350 wasn’t and after testing both, i cannot recommend the mercedes leather. I was adamant that my car have leather but i tell you now, i wouldn’t have an e350 so equipped. You’d be better off ripping the seat out and replacing it with a block of granite – seriously. I like a firm seat but even i have limits. I was actually surprised when i sat in the e350 leather for the first time – during the test drive it seemed “ok” but i’m not sure how i’d feel after a long drive. Perhaps the leather softens after some use; i don’t know and wouldn’t want to take the chance to be honest.

Other “nit-picky” things i didn’t like (but would probably get used to) on the bmw included: Turn signals that don’t actually stay up or down, they return to center and the cup holders seem a little further way than ideal. The start-stop button works great for start but it took me a bit to figure out how to get the car all the way off. Lastly, the steering wheel on the 535i has three “spokes” whereas the steering wheel on the e350 is arranged with four. The difference for me is that i’m accustomed to the e350 arrangement and i felt like i was missing appropriate hand-holds / rests with the bmw arrangement. The e350 is available with a similar “sports” steering wheel.

Driving dynamics

comparing apples to apples here and perhaps more importantly (for me) comparing the car optioned as i bought it – the bmw i drove did not have the dynamic handling or sports packages - so no fiddling with the suspension. So comparing a standard sports e350 to the standard 535i:

I’ll give some support to the mercedes here in that it did a lot better than i thought – which is to say the bmw still killed it, but it was more a minor blood-bath versus the expected outright massacre. The bmw boasts better numbers (hp, torque, etc) and as they say, numbers don’t lie. I was impressed by the e350 and it exceeded my expectations, but there is no doubt that the 535i is the “sportier” car – even without adding the sports packages. It wasn’t just a matter of zooming to 60 mph faster, the bmw is so much more confidence-inspiring in the corners – i felt safe throwing the big 5-series into a corner, the e350 did the job but frankly it made me a tad nervous. As far as straight-line performance, there was a nice long on-ramp available and both cars did well, but one stood out. Again i give credit to the e350 for grabbing hold of every ounce of muscle and hauling itself up that ramp in relatively impressive style. The bmw however asked “what ramp”? And after putting your face back together, you could look back and marvel at how the on-ramp got so small so fast in the rear-view mirror. I’ve driven faster cars to be sure, but the 535i was impressive. Lets be clear here too – the e350 was very good – great in fact versus many other choices, it just didn’t have it under the hood to compete with the bmw. So the bmw gets the win in terms of pure grunt and the mechanics to handle it – but if performance is a position or two lower on your priority list than it was on mine, the e350 is not far off.

I found the brakes to be equally different. I’m undecided whether the bmw brakes are “better”, given that they appear to be designed to smash your face into the steering wheel. I considered the fact that you stop faster, there’s more control and again, they enable more aggressive driving- but the whole “steering wheel imbedded in your skull” factor is a sizable downside. The e350 brakes felt “normal” no better or worse than most any other car. In the bmw though, i immediately took note of the need to retrain my braking foot. My guess is this will be a different experience for everyone depending on what you’re used to and even if, like me, you’re in the “holy fractured skull batman” group – you’ll get used to the brakes (and your new neck brace) pretty quick.

The e350 took the win in overall ride quality – no real surprise there, but i preferred the sportier if less cloud-like ride of the 535i.

Transmissions: I was a bit worried about an 8-speed auto….i mean eight gears……really? I have cars that make do with a 2-speed powerglide. For the bmw, it was worry wasted because the 535i’s gearbox seamlessly did its job and using some auto-magical process, managed to get itself in the right gear no matter what i did as the driver. The e350 7-speed auto though was another story and frankly this played a big part in my decision. On multiple occasions (and in entirely different e350’s) the transmission seemed…..confused and worse…clunky…yes..clunky! I don’t mean i’m describing its shifting as clunky…i mean it actually, audibly…clunked. Generally the mercedes transmissions operated without a hitch but when multiple cars, multiple times have transmission “hic-ups”, clunking noises and harsher than expected gear engagements – i does tent to raise one’s eyebrow……particularly if the related eye is looking at a $58,000+ price tag. I’ve heard this can be considered “normal” for the mercedes transmissions and i’ve driven some older design mercedes transmissions that have similar “personalities” so maybe….but i don’t want my transmission clunking and playing guess-who with its gears, even if it is “normal”.

In terms of “normal driving” so around town at 40 mhp or less or cruising on the highway both cars were good but the bmw started to show an irritating side to its personality. For starters, in two of the three test 535i cars, you could just about read a chapter of war and peace in the time between pressing the gas (from idle) and the car actually moving. Ok, perhaps i exaggerate a bit, but there is a serious and irritating delay that i hope is either 1) just getting used to a new car or 2) something that goes away / can be dialed out by the dealer. I decided it was livable but jump into the e350 and the instant response feels like a minor miracle in comparison. There’s also something similar going on at lower speeds where it wasn’t as easy to get a smooth take-off and transition with the bmw as it was with the e350. Your tolerance for fidgety gas peddles will vary, mine borders on zero. I’ve put this down to “it takes time to get used to a new car” and a few test drives won’t cut it.

Steering: Honestly, i didn’t find much to complain about. Perhaps because i don’t have a bmw benchmark to compare against but i hear the f10 steering is “numb” and the e350 is even more “disconnected”…maybe it is, but nothing jumped out at me and screamed “alert! Bothersome issue”. I actually forgot all about the potential steering issues the first test drive and had to purposefully remind myself to pay attention the 2nd time – still couldn’t detect anything “woefully wrong”. Sure its different than my current car – expected, my current car is a lot bigger and heavier. I have 5 vehicles at the moment, four of them from different decades – talk about steering differences. Perhaps i’m used to getting comfortable with different steering systems or maybe my current daily driver is just as “disconnected” so it feels the same, i’ve no idea. All i do know is that nothing about the steering made me flinch. I will say that the steering has a different feel going from x-drive to non-x drive 535 – not bad or better, just a bit different. In terms of comparison, i can’t say i’d give the win to one car over the other.

Value

the best value will depend on what options you want, but in general terms, bmws decision to enable ala-cart optioning coupled with their complimentary 4-years, 50k free maintenance (which is better than the mercedes version, which isn’t free) makes for very good value for money.

You absolutely can option up a bmw to where the price exceeds even the most expensive mercedes, but generally only by adding options mercedes doesn’t offer. If you option the cars as close to the same as possible, i found you get more of what you want, with less of what you don’t, with the bmw. Naturally this depends on your wants and needs – my guess is most bmw buyers will go for the options mercedes doesn’t offer on the e350 (dynamic handling, for example) so the comparison isn’t really valid. In may case though, with the e350 i’d have been forced to pay for multiple options i didn’t want or have use for in order to get options i did, whereas my bmw build was tailored to those options i wanted and nothing more. Sure the e350 would have had more options overall, but i’d have paid an extra $4000 (msrp) for options i didn’t need, want or use.

You run the risk of building a “frankenstein” car that nobody will touch with a ten-foot pole when trade-in day comes along, but so long as you don’t ala-cart yourself into a lime green 535i with purple interior, one heated seat and a navigation system that only goes to walmart, you’ll probably be ok.

Conclusion –

buy the car you like. I did (jet black 535i)
+1
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  #3  
Old 05-31-2011, 06:08 PM
Quacker Quacker is offline
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Location: Colorado
 
Join Date: Feb 2011
Posts: 650
Mein Auto: 2012 535i xDrive
Brilliant!

(Thank you)
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2012 535ix Space Gray, Cinnamon, SAT, Premium, Prem sound, Cold W., Sunshades, Gloss Black Grille, Gloss Black Side Markers, RE970AS 245/45/19 non-run flats that run very smooth + quiet and also correct the otherwise optimistic speedo
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  #4  
Old 05-31-2011, 06:16 PM
highyo highyo is offline
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Location: manhattan
 
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,752
Mein Auto: X5 50i, M3
fantastic overview thanks so much for the time. now we need to see pics

re: hesitation, this has been an issue i believe with the n55 engine but i do believe that the transmission figures you out after awhile.

or you can always leave it in d/s
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Old 05-31-2011, 06:16 PM
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you should apply for staff position at car and driver or aoutomobile magazines, i like your style
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Old 05-31-2011, 07:50 PM
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Old 05-31-2011, 07:58 PM
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Very well written, non biased write up on the 2 cars. Compared as it should be, from the drivers perspective and not based on a bunch of numbers and charts from a brochure or a magazine. But as being a BMW loyalist, I'm glad you made the right choice.
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Old 05-31-2011, 08:10 PM
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One thing about BMW brakes: they stop you. Now.

If you ever do an emergency stop, they supposedly start charging the boost pressure before you can even step on the brakes (they also auto dry in the rain).

It doesn't really sound like much, but, the one time I had to really do an emergency brake to avoid getting into an accident, those brakes just stopped the car immediately, no muss, no fuss, no omigod, it just stopped. No accident.

Yeah, you have to pay attention to not slamming on the brakes unless you really want to slam on the brakes, but, isn't that what driving a car with high capabilities all about?

When I got the car back to the states from my ED, I had to set the speed warning at 80, just so I could get used to how it felt, after coming off of on-ramps at 90, not feeling that I really pushed the car too hard.

So, yeah, you do have to train yourself to drive in the middle of the car's capabilities, rather than out on the edge, since that edge is so far out there.
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Old 05-31-2011, 08:43 PM
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Nice review. I think the observation of the exterior split personalities of the E class was spot on. Also the "leather" that you disliked in the Benz was MB-Tex, or more commonly known as vinyl. I am a big Merc fan, and I've owned more MB than BMW, but this one just basically sucked compared to the 535i. It wasn't even close.
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Old 06-01-2011, 07:16 AM
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I'd like to thank the second poster for quoting the ENTIRE first post. It really made reading this thread on my phone a lot easier. -.-
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Old 06-01-2011, 07:26 AM
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I found there to be virtually no foot space in the front passenger footwell of the E350 with 4Matic. For a car of its size I found the lack of interior front foot room utterly unacceptable. I hated the control layout, the myriad buttons all of which were entirely unintuitive and the nav screen provided very little useful information on the surroundings. As much as I know the E350 sells really well -- in fact better than the F10 -- I really think the natural competitor to the F10 is the 2012 A6 and not the E350. It's almost as if the body style of the E350 screams "I'm a bad-ass...watch what I can do" and then it rolls along like grandma's Buick while the F10 says "I'm not looking for too much unwanted attention" and then lets its driving dynamics do the talking for it. One might say that if they switched body styles it would have been a more natural fit. Thank goodness the F10 didn't go that overly angular, "in your face" route because it's way over the top and not at all appealing. With all that and its pathetically underpowered engine it's a wonder it sells as many units as it does. I believe M-B heavily subsidizes their leases and ends up with some very attractive lease prices as a result.
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Old 06-01-2011, 07:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kamdog View Post
One thing about BMW brakes: they stop you. Now.

If you ever do an emergency stop, they supposedly start charging the boost pressure before you can even step on the brakes (they also auto dry in the rain).

It doesn't really sound like much, but, the one time I had to really do an emergency brake to avoid getting into an accident, those brakes just stopped the car immediately, no muss, no fuss, no omigod, it just stopped. No accident.

Yeah, you have to pay attention to not slamming on the brakes unless you really want to slam on the brakes, but, isn't that what driving a car with high capabilities all about?

When I got the car back to the states from my ED, I had to set the speed warning at 80, just so I could get used to how it felt, after coming off of on-ramps at 90, not feeling that I really pushed the car too hard.

So, yeah, you do have to train yourself to drive in the middle of the car's capabilities, rather than out on the edge, since that edge is so far out there.

As far as brakes it's not my car I worry about it's all the others behind me that have crappy brakes I cringe when I make a sudden stop.
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Old 06-01-2011, 08:31 AM
nealh nealh is offline
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The comment on the hesitation after hitting accelerator was present on my 08 650 as well. I hated this. Still not sure why BMW does this unless it for MPG.

However, once the 6 got moving. Wow. Sport mode got rid of the hesitation but mpg as well
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Old 06-01-2011, 08:48 AM
Imothph Imothph is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alex md View Post
you should apply for staff position at car and driver or aoutomobile magazines, i like your style
if you bored go and test drive other vehicles and start writing we will follow

LOL - I do like testing cars - If i get bored enough maybe I'll do a monthly review and see how many dealers I can irritate in the process.
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Old 06-01-2011, 09:17 AM
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MileHiGolfer MileHiGolfer is offline
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Very nice writeup. I never even test drove the E because I didn't like the looks nor the engine. Well put regarding the E's "multi-faceted" exterior. If I see an E coming up to pass me, first I see the front end and think "oh well hello there handsome fella," then I see the side and think "well that's awfully plain, it looks a Ford has pulled up next to me," the rear haunches appear and say "oh my what is that bulge growing on the rear fender," finished by seeing the rear end and "dear Lord why would they chop a Hyundai rear end onto a Merc." Of course that's a rare occasion that the E would be passing an F10, and would require it to be traveling at dangerous speeds. Such a good looking car from the front with so much potential, ruined. The previous gen E was one of the best looking cars on the road I thought.
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Old 06-01-2011, 09:22 AM
Imothph Imothph is offline
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Originally Posted by PsychDoc1 View Post
I found there to be virtually no foot space in the front passenger footwell of the E350 with 4Matic. For a car of its size I found the lack of interior front foot room utterly unacceptable. I hated the control layout, the myriad buttons all of which were entirely unintuitive and the nav screen provided very little useful information on the surroundings. As much as I know the E350 sells really well -- in fact better than the F10 -- I really think the natural competitor to the F10 is the 2012 A6 and not the E350. It's almost as if the body style of the E350 screams "I'm a bad-ass...watch what I can do" and then it rolls along like grandma's Buick while the F10 says "I'm not looking for too much unwanted attention" and then lets its driving dynamics do the talking for it. One might say that if they switched body styles it would have been a more natural fit. Thank goodness the F10 didn't go that overly angular, "in your face" route because it's way over the top and not at all appealing. With all that and its pathetically underpowered engine it's a wonder it sells as many units as it does. I believe M-B heavily subsidizes their leases and ends up with some very attractive lease prices as a result.
I think a big part of the attraction for the E350, particularly when paired to the 535i, is that the Mercedes is easier to drive. Note that I didn't say more fun, just easier. Most people view their car as a means to get from A to B, sure they have styling likes and options they want but when all is said and done, its a thing that takes them places and little more. I found the general E350 drive to be sort of "underwhelming" - it didn't do anything bad necessarily, it just didn't do anything at all - there's really no engagement during the drive. The E350 does its job very well and doesn't really demand much of you to do it...which for me, equates a rather ho-hum commute. For most, this is probably ideal, I prefer a little less auto-pilot in my drive.

Like "Mans best Friend" the E350 would be your loyal Bulldog - it will happily plod along, a stalwart companion that never fails you and every once in a while puts on enough speed to make you laugh at its antics. Its always ready and wants to do its job well for you - "where are we off to today boss"? The 535i however, is more like a Jack Russel Terrier. Its still loyal, still willing to please but its also a little naughty, a little mischievous - Its going to rip up your favorite slipper, but do so in a way that makes you smile. Let it get away from you, and it will get way, fast. You can just about image its cheesy grin as it tempts you to go "the scenic route" to work because "just think of the fun we can have on that back road...mate, buddy, owner-old pal...huh...huh...can we......PULEEEEASE?"
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Old 06-01-2011, 10:09 AM
que syrah syrah que syrah syrah is offline
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Great write up, thank you. And please do test drive a few more cars (maybe the '12 A6 next) and post away.

And as you noted each of us has our own opinion but it's always useful to see the perspective of others as well. For me, I thought the same way about the MB styling except for the conclusion. Every time I see one I think, what an ugly car. As you can see from my signature, I have an '03 MB 320 and had a '94 before it so it's not that I don't like the cars, I just don't like this particular design.
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Old 06-01-2011, 10:21 AM
PsychDoc1 PsychDoc1 is offline
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I think a big part of the attraction for the E350, particularly when paired to the 535i, is that the Mercedes is easier to drive. Note that I didn't say more fun, just easier. Most people view their car as a means to get from A to B, sure they have styling likes and options they want but when all is said and done, its a thing that takes them places and little more. I found the general E350 drive to be sort of "underwhelming" - it didn't do anything bad necessarily, it just didn't do anything at all - there's really no engagement during the drive. The E350 does its job very well and doesn't really demand much of you to do it...which for me, equates a rather ho-hum commute. For most, this is probably ideal, I prefer a little less auto-pilot in my drive.

Like "Mans best Friend" the E350 would be your loyal Bulldog - it will happily plod along, a stalwart companion that never fails you and every once in a while puts on enough speed to make you laugh at its antics. Its always ready and wants to do its job well for you - "where are we off to today boss"? The 535i however, is more like a Jack Russel Terrier. Its still loyal, still willing to please but its also a little naughty, a little mischievous - Its going to rip up your favorite slipper, but do so in a way that makes you smile. Let it get away from you, and it will get way, fast. You can just about image its cheesy grin as it tempts you to go "the scenic route" to work because "just think of the fun we can have on that back road...mate, buddy, owner-old pal...huh...huh...can we......PULEEEEASE?"
Well stated. If I wanted a lap dog for a car I would have called Paris Hilton.
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Old 06-01-2011, 12:13 PM
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As far as brakes it's not my car I worry about it's all the others behind me that have crappy brakes I cringe when I make a sudden stop.
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Old 06-01-2011, 12:21 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Imothph View Post
I think a big part of the attraction for the E350, particularly when paired to the 535i, is that the Mercedes is easier to drive. Note that I didn't say more fun, just easier. Most people view their car as a means to get from A to B, sure they have styling likes and options they want but when all is said and done, its a thing that takes them places and little more. I found the general E350 drive to be sort of "underwhelming" - it didn't do anything bad necessarily, it just didn't do anything at all - there's really no engagement during the drive. The E350 does its job very well and doesn't really demand much of you to do it...which for me, equates a rather ho-hum commute. For most, this is probably ideal, I prefer a little less auto-pilot in my drive.

Like "Mans best Friend" the E350 would be your loyal Bulldog - it will happily plod along, a stalwart companion that never fails you and every once in a while puts on enough speed to make you laugh at its antics. Its always ready and wants to do its job well for you - "where are we off to today boss"? The 535i however, is more like a Jack Russel Terrier. Its still loyal, still willing to please but its also a little naughty, a little mischievous - Its going to rip up your favorite slipper, but do so in a way that makes you smile. Let it get away from you, and it will get way, fast. You can just about image its cheesy grin as it tempts you to go "the scenic route" to work because "just think of the fun we can have on that back road...mate, buddy, owner-old pal...huh...huh...can we......PULEEEEASE?"

Different people definitely look for different things in a car. I was at a friend's son's wedding, and my friend asked me about my car. Well, another of his friends at the table, one more 'comfortable' than I, listened in, and said he had been considering the 535 too. But, he went on, when he brought his E320 in for maintenance, they gave his such a good deal on his lease buy out and renewal, that he just left his old car there and drove home in his new E350.

I am saying to myself WTF? Is this how someone buys a car? That older model E was a real POS compared to the 535. It couldn't get out of its own way, it handled like crap, and was, IMO, not in the same league driver-wise.

But, he went around in a new, 'luxury' car, and that was enough for him.

Me, I could never pick a new car that way.
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Old 06-01-2011, 02:08 PM
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Great review, well written. Do more.
Funny, I like how the 350 looks, angles and all. Everyone says the back end looks like a Hyundai or something but I think it looks great.
I almost bought one.

But then I drove the 5 Series and that was it.
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Old 06-01-2011, 02:38 PM
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Very good review.

I will say that what interests me in the E-Class over the F10 mainly lies in the cars exterior styling, which I find to be more soulful and alluring personally, the more comfortable and solid ride and ambiance, certain engineering elements that I'm partial to- being used to M-B now, the safety (which I've concluded via my own research using the different data at hand) and the M-B heritage (I've always like M-B, although BMW's have been in my family for longer, and I've driven about every BMW out there). Note that performance is very low on my need-list, so it was kind of a non factor to me personally, if anything, I want my Luxury Sedan to take me away from the outside world as much as possible.

Yesterday I actually checked out an F10 again, in depth, while my car was getting serviced, and I do think that the interior provides a more luxurious and coddling environment. While the M-B goes back to its roots in its approach: Logical, confident and solid, exceptional fit & finish, a bit sparse, not to soft, and hard-edged. I like it, but the F10's is certainly a bit warmer, and sumptuous (speaking of the Nappa car VS an M-B Tex E, which is kind of an unfair comparison, but the M-B Tex I feel is about just as good feeling as the E's optional Leather anyway).

What's interesting, regarding many of the viewpoints here that the E seemed like it was designed by many different designers who didn't communicate with one-another, is that the E was actually a VERY rare case, being a car that was actually penned TOTALLY by one man, inside and out.
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Last edited by K-A; 06-01-2011 at 02:40 PM.
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Old 06-01-2011, 04:06 PM
Imothph Imothph is offline
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Very good review.

I will say that what interests me in the E-Class over the F10 mainly lies in the cars exterior styling, which I find to be more soulful and alluring personally, the more comfortable and solid ride and ambiance, certain engineering elements that I'm partial to- being used to M-B now, the safety (which I've concluded via my own research using the different data at hand) and the M-B heritage (I've always like M-B, although BMW's have been in my family for longer, and I've driven about every BMW out there). Note that performance is very low on my need-list, so it was kind of a non factor to me personally, if anything, I want my Luxury Sedan to take me away from the outside world as much as possible.

Yesterday I actually checked out an F10 again, in depth, while my car was getting serviced, and I do think that the interior provides a more luxurious and coddling environment. While the M-B goes back to its roots in its approach: Logical, confident and solid, exceptional fit & finish, a bit sparse, not to soft, and hard-edged. I like it, but the F10's is certainly a bit warmer, and sumptuous (speaking of the Nappa car VS an M-B Tex E, which is kind of an unfair comparison, but the M-B Tex I feel is about just as good feeling as the E's optional Leather anyway).

What's interesting, regarding many of the viewpoints here that the E seemed like it was designed by many different designers who didn't communicate with one-another, is that the E was actually a VERY rare case, being a car that was actually penned TOTALLY by one man, inside and out.
I actually went into this process set on either a E350 or Jaguar XF - I had never considered a BMW and thought the prior 5-series design was "OK" but not me. I really wanted an E350 and considered the Jag a far 2nd choice. It wasn't until I drove the E350 had had some general misgivings (as stated in my review) that someone suggested I look at the new 5 series, and once I did, it was a real horse race to the finish. I really, really wanted a Mercedes and I fought against the draw of the 5 for a long time. Ultimately, the 535i just kept giving me reasons to go back to it instead. Quite honestly, had I never driven the 535i, I'd be in a new E350 and happier than a clam.


In terms of the BMW Dakota (not the upgrade Nappa) versus MB-Tex versus Mercedes Leather - I tested all three. I thought the MB-tex was actually pretty good and if I hadn't have known before hand, I’m not sure I'd have realized it wasn't leather. The rock hard - "get me an arse pillow" seat was actually the Mercedes leather option. I only drove one E350 with leather so it could have been just that car, but I stepped out of a 535i and within 2 minutes stepped into a leather-optioned E350 and just about had to replace my right buttock. Seriously - it was that much of a difference. On the actual drive it seemed ok, but I was literally taken aback by the difference.
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Old 06-01-2011, 10:05 PM
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Interesting. Yeah, I prefer M-B Tex to M-B's non-Nappa Leather option. Not to mention, I think M-B Tex is the best vinyl in the business, and I appreciate the fact that it needs little to know maintenance, and won't start aging like Leather inevitably will, especially if not treated.

Two things that surprised me about the 5'er yesterday was that the rear seat had more headroom than the E for a 6'4 person (me), which is a non issue to me, but interesting, and the iDrive REALLY is that much better than M-B's Command. I'm not a tech-car freak, so the Command is fine, but the iDrive is just on a whole different level, however, a bit complicated and overwhelming (at least initially).
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Old 08-29-2011, 10:24 AM
Imothph Imothph is offline
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An update to the review....


So I'm posting an addendum now that I have some more driving time under my belt. but there's a twist....

Remember I ordered a BMW 535i? Well.....I'm driving an E350.


Long story short - the BMW dealer ordered the wrong car and were completely unable (read unwilling) to do much of anything to fix it.

SO, the addendum....

I still stand by everything I wrote originally, except about the E350 Transmission - You'll recall I was very wary of this "clunky" issue - my car has no such issues at all and neither did any of the other E350s I drove more recently, so.... I still think the BMW 8-speed auto is smoother overall, but marginally so.

I can now confidently state the E350 is comfort personified in a automobile. (can you personify something in something that's not a person? ....who cares). Point here is that I originally stated the E350 was more comfortable overall and I confirm that view.

Nothing changes in the engine department - the BMW still stomps on the E350 (at least until the 2012s arrive) but I just reiterate, the current E350 is no slouch. The car continues to impress me the more I drive it and its yet to leave me wishing for more grunt.

The E350 has yet to present me with any "irritating issues" - the only thing I'd point to (and I'm reaching here) is that I can't see the signal lights blinking on the dash because I have the steering wheel low. That steering wheel setting also blocks the speedo - fortunately, Mercedes lets you have a digital read out (YAY) BMW makes you either wait for some wiz-kid to crack the F10 code, or buy the $1300 HUD ....so for me this is a huge win for Mercedes - may not be for others.


I also pointed to value and the relative "awesomeness" of BMWs ala-cart optioning. Well, nothing changes here - BMW is still the better value in terms of only having to pay for those options you actually want and use.........usually......Mercedes has their 4K conquest cash right now and it turned out my 1966 Cadillac qualified me for the incentive.....(who'd have thought) so it least in my case, the "value" balance was re-set to favor Mercedes.

So conclusion to the Addendum goes like this: I still say the BMW is the better car for those looking for performance / handling and under "normal" conditions you'll likely still get a better return on your options investment via BMWs ala-cart menu. I still think BMW did a better job on the interior (though the E350 interior is growing on me more and more).

Perhaps the biggest take-away though is that (for those trying to decide) you have here someone that tested both cars extensively, ordered one but ended up buying the other, and I'm quite happy about it. I've never had cause to sit in my E350 and gripe about how the BMW would have been better.

They're both great, so again, buy the the car you like, I did (Iridium Silver 2011 E350).

Last edited by Imothph; 08-29-2011 at 10:27 AM.
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