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Mercedes E500 Coupé (2009) review

Published:21 July 2009

Mercedes E500 Coupé (2009) review
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 3 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

It’s a two-door E-class – or is it? It’s a 5.0-litre – or is it? Well, E500’s a bit of a misnomer, because this is actually a 5.5-litre V8, and the underpinnings come from the C-class. Should make for an agile, powerful mile-eater then. Let’s see how the new E-class Coupé stacks up on the road.

Er, 382bhp and the Mercedes E500 Coupé only has four stars for performance?

Factor a couple of other figures too: 0-62mph in 5.4sec, and a top speed limited to 155mph. Pretty impressive, though probably no more so than you’d expect. And there’s no doubt that the E500 is an enormously fast car, capable of swallowing massive distances and digesting them in an instant.

But it’s not a five-star performer because it doesn’t quite provide the sense of occasion you might have expected, and much of that is down to tardy step-off. Blame the stodgy long-travel throttle or the reluctant auto 'box, but even in Sport mode (press the little button on the dash and you’ll feel dampers and throttle tauten) that initial moment when you hit the gas, that first burst that really ought to make you swear out loud, it just doesn’t. 

Sounds like a disappointment already...

Don’t worry, it’s not. But if you’re expecting an M3 rival, look elsewhere. Sure, this thing is doorstepping £50k, and it’s only 5in longer than the BMW but, remember, Merc plays that game with C63 AMG. Here you’ve got a suave, amply powerful coupé that’s aimed more at cruisers and autobahn-stormers than tail-happy B-road freaks.

Get that in your head, get used to the, er, more refined nature of the Merc’s standing start and you’ll begin to revel in its sheer effortlessness. That long-travel throttle comes into its own when you’re up to speed, allowing you to modulate your attack on the horizon with millimetric precision. And with the torque convertor all wound up, sudden bursts of acceleration will result in profanity. Because then the E500 starts to live up to its name, however disingenuous that might be.

It’s all accompanied by a fabulously opulent V8 growl that grows to thunderous proportions as you round the clock. But back off and it’s as refined as a limo.

Does the new E-class Coupé handle?

Not surprisingly, it handles like a big V8 Merc. Much of that statement is good. Other stuff first. The steering is way too light to be proper fun. It’s quick and decently accurate but completely mute, the kind of steering that goes with cruising one-handed while ruffling your mullet with the other. And fans of massive, smoky tail-slides better stick to that M3 or C63 (see our video test of hotrod performance saloons here).

Good stuff: this car is massively stable and confident, yet it feels pretty compact – more C- than E-size, appropriately.

 

Wind it up on a B-road and it’ll be crinkling a smile from your chops at every corner, thanks to keen turn-in, great poise, massive grip and (just) enough understeer to keep you comfortably short of white knuckles. It’s got the cruising speed thing all stitched up too, doing motorways virtually in silence, plotting a true course in crosswinds and remaining thoroughly calm across corrugated surfaces. And it rides well too, firm for sure, but deftly controlled and never harsh.

>> Click 'Next' below to read more of our Mercedes E500 Coupé first drive review

Merc’s found build quality again, hasn’t it?

Let us run one for 100,000 miles and we’ll tell you definitively! There’s certainly more trad Merc heft about the latest E than we’ve been used to for a while. The doors, for instance, feel as heavy as girders and are held open by proper sprung checks rather than little plastic straps. Its solidity is tangible, particularly over broken surfaces that would have lesser cars rattling: the Merc shrugs them off with disdain. And, like older (pre-1990s) Mercs, the interior is honest about the materials of its construction. That means there’s plenty of plastic that looks like plastic, and it’s styled with hard edges and angular surfaces. Not pretty, but I reckon it won’t look much different in 20 years’ time.

Is that C-class base ever a bad thing?

There used to be a time when an E-class coupé was literally that, although you’d be going back far enough for it not to be so simply named. This car really follows in the footsteps of the CLK and its compact looks do not deceive. It’s as small inside as it must necessarily be, which could be taken as a disappointment or actually an inconvenience. Certainly if you’re more than 6ft tall you’re going to struggle for headroom, and the footwell is annoyingly tight even for short-arses.

The back seat is shaped for two and is adequate for kids (or, while on test, the wife and my mum) but the cabin is tight rather than generous in every aspect.

So the E-class Coupé is uncomfortable, then?

Once you’re over the surprise at squeezing in, certainly not. The seats are broad and supportive (I didn’t ache after a three-hour stint), levels of noise and vibration are impressively low (you only hear a little rustle around the mirrors at speed because there’s so little else to hear), and the suspension keeps shocks at bay. Yep, it’s £50,000 worth of refinement.

Verdict

Hmm, tricky one. You want more hardcore performance and handling? Buy a C63. You want greater practicality? Er, buy a C63.

But if you’re after something a bit more effortless, less harsh of ride yet still impressively quick, this is for you. I can’t help feeling that it’s aimed at the more mature end of the market. If you’re about to thrash across France to a holiday home with a set of golf clubs, this could well be the way to do it.

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Specs

Price when new: £48,360
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 5461cc 32v V8, 382bhp @ 6000rpm, 391lb ft @ 2800-4800rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 5.4sec 0-62mph, 155mph, 26mpg, 254g/km CO2
Weight / material: 1715kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4698/1786/1397

Rivals

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  • Mercedes E500 Coupé (2009) review
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