► Full review of the new E-class coupe
► We try V6 E400, and its 4-cyl siblings
► A convincing 4-seat large luxury coupe
This is the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe, which slots between C- and S-Class Coupe in the golf club car park.
It’s on sale now, and launches with three engine derivatives: the four-cylinder E220d turbodiesel, E300 four-cylinder petrol, and the range-topping E400 4Matic, which gets a V6 turbocharged petrol and all-wheel drive. Later, a six-cylinder E350d turbodiesel and an E200 petrol will follow, so too the V6-engined E43 AMG. There’ll be no full-blooded, V8-powered E63 AMG variant, however.
We’re driving the E400 4Matic. As a genuine four-seater, it finds itself in a bit of white space. While the BMW 6-series is very similar in concept, it isn’t available with four-cylinder derivatives, and the similarly powerful 640i is around £9k pricier, isn’t offered with all-wheel drive and, says the product-planning man from Merc, has 14mm less rear legroom.
Is the E-Coupe based on the E-class saloon?
It is, which isn’t as daft a question as it sounds, because its predecessor was based on Mercedes C-class underpinnings.
That explains why the dimensions are so much more generous, with a length of 4826mm (+123mm), width of 1860mm (+74mm) and a height of 1430mm (+33).
The larger footprint allows for an increase in track width of 67mm front, 68mm rear, and means there’s ample legroom in the two individual rear seats, even with four six footers aboard, although your hair might rub on the headlining.
The E-class coupe’s body is made of steel and aluminium, with the front wings, bonnet and boot aluminium. Despite its shorter overall length and a shorter wheelbase, the coupe is slightly heavier than the E-class saloon, something Mercedes insiders attribute to extra standard equipment plus stiffening that was applied to both the Coupe and Convertible version, the latter due to arrive in the UK this October.
Any suspension changes?
The E-class Coupe is lowered 15mm compared with the saloon, and a choice of three suspension set-ups are available: coil springs with fixed dampers (Direct Control) isn’t offered in the UK, but coil springs with adaptive dampers (Dynamic Body Control) and air suspension (Air Body Control) – using three air chambers in the rear air springs, two in the front – both make it over The Channel.
For now, all versions are fitted with a nine-speed automatic gearbox, but a six-speed manual will also be offered on the E200. Six-cylinder variants come as standard with 4Matic all-wheel drive, which will be offered optionally on four-cylinder models.
Do we have time for some chin-stroking design analysis?
Generally, the E400 looks highly desirable with its frameless windows, strong proportions and arcing roofline, especially with the standard-in-the-UK AMG Line design package and gorgeous optional 20-inch rims (19s are the smallest we get, though some markets are offered tiddly 17s).
It’s a shame the rear side window is broken up by a rear quarter light. It makes the E-class Coupe appear like a four-door with hidden rear door handles or, indeed, the CLS saloon. Get the rear tints to disguise it, part of the optional Night package.
Inside, the basic architecture is lifted from the saloon, but with some flashier air vents and fillets of trim (open-pore wood is available) to differentiate, and it looks and feels properly luxurious and as solidly put together as you’d expect from a manufacturer at the top of its interior game.
The widescreen dual screens remain optional (twin 12.3in screens merged together to form both the instrument binnacle and the infotainment screen), as they are in the saloon, and while they are crisp and clear and satisfying to use via capacitive buttons on the steering wheel or the Comand rotary controller, it is a little like walking in a medium-sized living room with a giant flatscreen television dominating the wall. It’s the reason people still buy Rolex when they can have a gold digital wristwatch from Apple.
What’s the E400 4Matic like to drive?
It’s very good, marrying the comfort and luxury you might expect with a dynamic capability you probably don’t.
Equipped with air suspension and riding on 20-inch rubber, our car had a gently absorbent lull to its ride in Comfort mode. Small ripples were perhaps a little more noticeable than expected, which may be more pronounced in the UK, but on Spanish test routes it felt a bit Princess And The Pea to complain. Despite its suppleness, body motions were well suppressed.
The 3.0-litre V6 – Mercedes will soon roll out straight sixes, remember – is smoothly refined and emits a muted if determined exhaust note under harder acceleration; it doesn’t feel hugely quick due to the 1770kg it’s towing, but neither does it feel undernourished or strained when extended.
The electrically assisted steering isn’t much of a talker, and the variable ratio can feel a little too noticeable on first acquaintance in the way it speeds up as you apply lock, but it quickly disappears into the background, and you come to appreciate its consistent weighting and speed of response.
Bravely – or confidently – Mercedes packed us off on a test route with a constant stream of off-camber left and rights that flicked across coastal hillsides. At speed on these challenging roads, the Comfort setting did feel a little wayward, but switching to Sport – and, unusually – even the normally rock-hard Sport Plus introduced some welcome composure (though it also turns the throttle into a cattle prod – luckily you can mix and match settings). In fact, the E Coupe contains its mass well, and is fun to punt along the twisting roads.
The 4Matic all-wheel drive works well too; it feels like there’s significantly more power going to the front end than in an xDrive BMW, but it’s still generally rear-biased, and when you find the limits of the front tyres pushing into understeer, you can feed in the throttle and keep to your line as you ping out of the corner.
The E400 is no AMG and it doesn’t need nor intend to be, but there’s enjoyment to be had when the mood takes you. Our only qualms were that wind noise was higher than expected in our test car, and the generally silky transmission could occasionally thunk.
Did you drive any other models?
Yes, we also drove both the E220d and E300. Instinctively, six-cylinder propulsion feels right in this segment, and both these four cylinder models were disappointing.
The E220d is a bit of a rattler at idle, and you’re never really allowed to forget that lack of refinement on the road. It does boost eagerly from 1800rpm, which brings a certain energy, but the performance feels thin and strained when you put your foot to the floor on a motorway sliproad; it’s unseemly.
We tested the E220d on 18-inch wheels and the entry-level coil suspension with fixed dampers, which we won’t get. The roads were relatively smooth, and while the ride wasn’t harsh, it certainly lacked the plush composure of the air suspension car. There was also a little lull between making a steering input and the weight settling over the wheels. It felt a little uncertain.
The E300 has a deep idle note and certainly sounds better than the diesel, but its composure falters beyond 3000rpm. The note sounds synthetic and a little gruff, not dissimilar to the widely criticised Porsche 718 Cayman and Boxster. Accelerate hard and you’re struck by both the racket and the lack of momentum; it feels like a hot-hatch engine stuck in a car two sizes too big.
Tested on 20-inch alloys with adaptive dampers, the ride felt noticeably harder-edged than the air suspension car, even in Comfort mode. Considering our brief test route on the return to the airport took in mostly smooth autoroutes, this combination will probably feel quite fidgety in the UK.
What if I’m an absolute menace and shouldn’t really be allowed on the roads at all?
Ah yes, you, Mercedes has that covered. There’s emergency braking as standard if you’re likely to plough into the back of things, and optional Distance Pilot Distronic with Steering Pilot is basically active cruise control that’ll follow the car ahead, steer for short periods when you need your coffee (but flashes a warning and refuses to after a short while) and can come to a complete stop in traffic and move off again.
There’s also Active Lane Change Assist, which automatically moves the car into the next lane if you indicate and all is clear. But come on, how hard is it?
The Mercedes E400 4Matic is a very satisfying luxury coupe. Not only is it plush and comfortable and generally refined for four large adults (wind noise in our early car notwithstanding… and not unbearable), it also looks and feels special inside and out, offers cutting-edge tech (mostly at a cost…) and even delivers a surprising level of dynamism for a car most owners would excuse if it were a wallowy wafter. That it undercuts a BMW 640i by £9k yet offers more interior room in less space only adds to the appeal.
The four-cylinder versions might be tempting, and they do bring the E-class Coupe’s price down to an even more alluring £40-41k with up to 70mpg, compared with the E400’s £50,775 and 50% fall in efficiency, but to drive they’re underpowered and coarse and feel like a mathematical equation to get you behind the wheel, rather than a good idea in their own right. A fleet-spec saloon gets away with the same spec, but something as luxurious and special-looking as the coupe deserves six cylinders and a £51k budget.
Call us old-fashioned – and we haven’t driven the six-cylinder E350d yet – but we’d want our E-class with six-cylinder petrol power. Do the same and you won’t be disappointed by the E-class Coupe.