The E400 name may not mean much, but this car crosses swords with the BMW 435i sparring partner. That’s right – although the E-class saloon is a direct rival for BMW’s 5-series, the coupe sits on an amalgam of old C- and E-class components and is priced, powered and pitched against the six-pot two-door BMW.
What’s the spec of the 2014 Mercedes E400?
It’s the only petrol V6 in the range, with its twin-turbo 3.0-litre making 329bhp and a solid 354lb ft of torque at a low 1400rpm. There’s a seven-speed automatic gearbox and shift paddles on the back of the thick-brimmed leather steering wheel, sending power to the rear wheels, which are wrapped in sticky 19in Continental tyres.
Those wheels are part of the exterior AMG pack, which sees chunkier intakes in the front bumper and a mock diffuser at the rear, a bootlid spoiler and colour-coded door handles, plus the removal of the chrome strips you see on lower-spec models.
It’s fully loaded, too: keyless entry, classy inlays and a solidly put together cabin. Yes, against the new C-Class and S-Class interiors, it looks old, but in isolation there’s little wrong with it.
This AMG version only comes with a black interior, and while you might not notice the red stitching at first, you won’t miss the red seatbelts. One irksome point though is that the electric seat adjustment is a £1225 option – on a car that’s £46k! Seriously?
What’s the Merc E400 like to drive?
The E400 is a beautiful car to drive. Its sturdy, superbly finished cabin may be a hangover from the previous generation of Mercedes design, but it’s still luxurious, smart and generally pretty easy to use.
The visibility is excellent, thanks to the large mirrors and an excellent seating position – the seats being much harder than rivals’ but supportive on long drives.
The V6 sounds superb, too. It has a deep, throaty tone, but it’s super smooth regardless of how you treat it. On the motorway at 70mph, it’s just ticking over at 2000rpm, and it barely makes a sound. Snatch a shift-paddle, with a reasonably quick change and sharp throttle response, and it makes its delicious, deep tune.
In Sport mode, the throttle response is super-sharp – almost too sharp for around town, as it’s a bit stabby – but the separate suspension settings aren’t night and day apart. The slow-speed ride is plump, but in either setting, large bumps are handled clumsily, with a tad more crash-through.
Despite its sharp throttle there's a lack of noticable turbo lag, and even with the stiffer Sport suspension setting selected, the E400 isn’t quite reactive enough to be a true traffic carver.
How good is the handing, then?
The E400 is still a competent, well set up performer. Its change of direction, dive, squat and roll are all managed impressively. It’s not as sharp as an E63, of course, but it’s far from a bowl of custard, with corner carving ability in spades.
The Continental rubber provides loads of lateral grip, and in a straight line the Mercedes E400 is a beast – 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds for what’s a relatively anonymous-looking Merc.
It’s not cheap. The E400 starts at £46,265 and our test car – once you add the glass roof, electric seats, metallic paint and safety pack – will set you back a whopping £52,240. That’s a lot of cash, and £10k more than a BMW 435i M Sport.
If you’d prefer to stick with the AMG brand, the C63 Coupe is only £6k more than our test car, although that's a car that's about to be replaced and is not as spacious. There's no arguing with the theatre on offer, though...
The punch of the big Merc also comes at a cost – we averaged 28mpg on a run from the Midlands to London, at a brisk pace. So while the E400 is a supremely smooth, capable and classy machine, it’s a little pricey up against fresher competition.
>> Would you take a BMW 435i or a C63 AMG Coupe over the E400? Lets us know in the comments section below