If you think too hard about how many models Mercedes-Benz makes these days, you might start to feel a little lightheaded. Totaling up every variant of sedan, coupe, convertible, SUV and hybrid or EV that the German giant makes yields a staggering 27 models and that is not even including the engine and drivetrain options that lie within, or the increasingly popular AMG variants, which are up in sales by 53,2% in the last year. But despite how confusing things can get, this approach has paid off, as Mercedes managed to take back the number one spot in luxury car sales from BMW after the Bavarian brand rode a surge in popularity over the last decade to the top of the charts. Now, BMW is scrambling to make up the difference, churning out new variants of basically everything they make, including a head scratching 6 Series Gran Turismo model that I am pretty sure nobody was asking for.
This year will yield 5 new products, 2 major facelifts, and 16 cars variants for Mercedes and the company shows no sign of slowing down, but despite the onslaught of SUVs that at this point is old news to anyone in the know, 55% of cars on the road wearing a three-pointed star (not including Kias with fake badges on them) are not sport utilities. Obviously, that number is shrinking, but it is clear that coupes, convertibles and sedans still have massive importance to Mercedes, so there’s no reason to stop offering them just yet. The latest entry into the foray is the E-Class Coupe and this time around, it is a proper effort, as the last generation seemed haphazardly designed and featured the skeleton of a C-Class underneath. To see just how much better they have made the E-Class Coupe for 2018, Mercedes-Benz invited us to Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia for a 2 day test drive of the new model, a bold location choice, for lesser cars would be completely eclipsed by the majesty of the scenery.
Third design’s a charm
The E-Class is the third coupe model to wear Mercedes’ new design language and it looks like the designers have finally found their stride. While the S-Class coupe is undeniably gorgeous, it is also unbelievably large and wears some fussy details, including overwrought character lines on the sides and a chrome unibrow out back that frankly throws the whole thing off for me. The C-Class Coupe, on the other hand, is an exercise in minimalism, with none of the kitsch that comes with the S-Class, but unfortunately, not much character either. The rear end is a bit too tall and front might as well have just been lifted straight from the sedan.
Third designs truly must be a charm, because the E-Class Coupe absolutely nails it, sporting just enough of a family resemblance without the blandness of the C or the heavy hand of the S. Gone are the side profile character lines in favor of a smooth, single line from front to rear and without that chrome strip out back, the rear end tapers perfectly and features a wide, squat stance. The interior is arguably pinnacle of modern Mercedes design with the same “virtual surfboard” inset screen that ties two 12,3 inch information displays together. Even in black the E-Class Coupe’s cabin is undeniably impressive, though the pinstriped piano black surface on dashboard is a nightmare in terms of glare and being prone to fingerprints. I adore the turbine style vents, which were lifted straight off a recent concept vehicle because they were so popular among focus groups.
A class of one, but easily a valedictorian
I would say that the E-Class Coupe is easily the best looking midsize luxury coupe, but that would be a bit misleading. In fact, the E-Class is the only midsize luxury coupe for sale right now, since BMW took the proverbial axe to its 6 Series coupe. All other big coupes fall in the compact class, so if you’re looking for more space and size but don’t want to give up that sexy coupe style, the E-Class is it. You could do much worse, though, as my nearly 10h 2 day loop from Vancouver to Whistler and across the Coast Mountains to Lillooet and back is perhaps the most beautiful drive route I have ever embarked on, but given the chance to do it again, I may opt for the E-Class Coupe every single time.
While I found the sedan version to feel a bit hollow and unfinished, not to mention under powered with just a turbo 4 cylinder, the more powerful and refined E400 Coupe is a breath of fresh air. Featuring a 3,0 liter biturbo V6 that makes 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque routed to the rear or all four wheels via a 9 speed automatic transmission, the E400 is more than adequately quick and whisks you along to extra legal speeds with minimal fuss. Fans of more power will remain empty-handed, as the E400 is the only model that the company plans to build for now. Shifts are nigh imperceptible and turning the drive select mode from Comfort to Sport makes the transition from winding highways to tight canyon roads a delight, but not a white-knuckle affair. My test car was equipped with Mercedes’ popular 4Matic all wheel drive system and the level of grip this big coupe achieves is immense, with basically no hint of understeer even on corners taken with a bit too much enthusiasm.
Body roll is noticeable, but merely adds to the experience of driving a big luxury coupe and while the steering is clearly assisted, there is enough resistance to feel like you are in control when the going gets twisty. You are likely to have a bit more fun in the BMW 6 Series, but the E-Class nicely splits the balance between grand touring and back road bombing. It is usable for more than two people, with back seats suitable for average-size adults in terms of headroom and legroom, thanks to 4,8 more inches of length over the last generation, translating to 1,8 inches more rear legroom.
Plenty of standard features to celebrate, but pricier than ever
Mercedes has decided to give the E400 Coupe plenty of standard features for choosing to eschew rear doors, including LED headlights, a panoramic glass sunroof, leather upholstery, satellite navigation, 64 color ambient lighting, active brake assist and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone projection capability. The E400 also comes with a 5 year subscription to the brand’s “mbrace” suite of connectivity services, including the ability to lock, track via GPS and start or stop your car from a smartphone app. As with any Mercedes-Benz model, getting the other features you really want involves shelling out massively, as the model I tested rang in at around $91,000 including a $995 destination charge. Optional extras included every driver assistance technology Mercedes has to offer, falling under their “Distronic Plus” system which includes adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist and active steering assist that can keep you right in the lane on highway. It is best suited to well-marked freeways without too many curves and while some bugs are still present, system works better than equivalent programs from the likes of Volvo or BMW.
A gorgeous 12,3 inch digital information display is also optional. But well worth the extra cash to get navigation, media, phone, and more right in front of you. If you only shell out for a couple of options make sure one of them is the air suspension, which will set you back $1,900. The standard E400 rides on steel springs with adaptive dampers, but the ride is stiffer than you would expect to find and the air suspension perfectly splits the balance between waft-y and sporty. The E400 Coupe reaches dealerships this fall and starts at $58,900 before the nearly $1,000 destination charge. Models equipped with 4Matic all wheel drive start at $61,400 and if you would rather have the wind in your hair, the Cabriolet model will be available later this summer and features optional all wheel drive for the first time ever on an E-Class convertible.
When the E is this good, who needs an S?
2 days of seemingly endless driving left me completely in awe of the beauty of British Columbia and thoroughly impressed with E-Class Coupe. A heaping helping of style and poise turned what was a bit of a disappointment in base sedan into thorough appreciation of the roll that Mercedes seems to be on at moment. The E400 Coupe makes me wonder why you would ever spend over 6 figures for S-Class Coupe when its little sibling is arguably just as good. Sure, the S-Class is faster and more prestigious, but the E400 feels plenty quick enough and features just about every luxury amenity you can get on larger two door, including heated, ventilated and massaging seats that I think I kept running for 2 days straight. Coupes are slowly dying off, especially ones that are geared more towards comfort than performance and so automakers have to try harder than ever to set theirs apart. In the case of the E-Class Coupe, it seems Mercedes has done so by making one of the best Benzes I have driven in years.