The Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe is now more desirable. Jonathan Crouch drives the revised version.
Ten Second Review
Mercedes' improved E-Class coupe has even sleeker looks and offers a whole series of dynamic driving aids but in reality is at its best when delivering a luxurious grand touring experience. There's a sense of class, quality and style here that makes this car unique at its price point and would normally be the preserve of a larger and much more expensive sports coupe.
The E-Class Coupe. It's the kind of car that Mercedes does very well: a luxury coupe with a prestigious badge that rewards you for a lifetime's endeavour without necessarily needing a lottery win.
No other brand can replicate this recipe in quite the same way - and no other brand has a car quite like this one. Yes, the same kind of budget would buy you a BMW 4 Series Coupe or an Audi A5 but these cars don't have the GT grandeur of this E-Class. And anyway, they're separately targeted by Mercedes' C-Class Coupe model.
The introduction of that car in 2011 has enabled this one to move up-market a little, which has brought us the revised model we're looking at here, launched four years into the product cycle in the early Summer of 2013. As you'd expect, it's smarter, more efficient and, most of all, still a very individual choice.
The comfortable front seats unique to this coupe model are positioned a touch lower than those in the E-Class saloon in an effort to provide a sportier driving atmosphere enhanced by the enclosed feeling you get from the comparatively high waistline, though this does restrict your sightlines a little when on the move. There are unique spring and damper rates too, reducing bodyroll that's also kept in check by the standard Agility Control suspension with Adaptive Damping. The relatively few potential customers who'll prioritise a more dynamic driving character can choose the AMG Sport trim I tried that gives you stiffer Agility Control sports suspension.
Under the bonnet, as you would expect, this Coupe E-Class picks and chooses from the nicest of the engines found in its saloon counterpart - and adds one you can't get on any four-door variant. I'm talking of the car aimed directly at Audi's S5, the 333bhp 3.0 V6 biturbo petrol-powered E400 model. This top version sits at the top of a slimmed-down petrol-powered E-Class Coupe range that's now otherwise limited to a single 184bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged E200 model - and rather a clever one too, with direct injection and twin scroll turbocharging. That might make you think twice about choosing one of the 2.1-litre diesels that almost all buyers tend to want - but probably not for very long. There's 30% more pulling power on offer from the two four cylinder CDI units, with the 400Nm available from the 170bhp E220CDI, enough to get it to 62mph in 8.5s on the way to 145mph. With 204bhp on tap, the pokier E250 CDI improves those figures to 7.3s and 153mph.
Design and Build
First to the feature I like most about this car. The absence of a central B-pillar together with a frameless window design means that you've only to open everything up to get a wonderful sense of airy freedom that's further enhanced if you've also selected the optional sunroof. None of that's changed in a revised model that retains its classic coupe proportions with a long bonnet, an elongated sideline, a flat roof profile and a powerful tail end now sporting smarter LED lamps and a 'wide effect' rear bumper. It's a design just as sleek as before and with a drag coefficient of just 0.24, is still one of the most aerodynamic production cars in the world, which is one of the reasons why it's so quiet at speed
Slip behind the wheel and if you're familiar with the original version of this car, the main change you'll notice is the way that the auto gearbox lever has migrated from the centre console to the steering column.
And in the back? Well this car's wheelbase is 116mm shorter than the four-door E-Class it's based upon, so you'd expect to have to compromise a little on practicality in pursuit of style. In the event, not too many compromises are necessary. Six-footers may grouse on longer journeys but for more ordinary folk, there's just about enough head, leg and shoulder room to justify the Mercedes claim that this car can be a proper four-seat if need be.
Market and Model
Mercedes thinks a Coupe should cost more than an ordinary saloon, so if you've a four-door E-Class and want this smarter two-door option, you'll have a premium of between £1,300 and £2,300 to find, assuming you're comparing like-for-like engines. All of that means that overall E-Class Coupe pricing starts at around £35,000 and in theory, reaches all the way up to almost £50,000. If you want to go further and feel the wind in your hair with the Cabriolet version of this car, there's a model-for-model premium of just over £3,000.
But let's assume that it's an E-Class Coupe you want. Before finally deciding, you might want to compare this model's value proposition with Mercedes' only slightly smaller C-Class Coupe: after all the two cars are virtually the same underneath. That's hard to do very accurately since a number of different engines are used in the two model line-ups. Both these Mercs do however, share the same four cylinder diesel engines: go for one of these and, depending on the variant you have in mind, there's a premium between £4,000 and £6,000 to go from a C-Class Coupe to an E-Class Coupe.
I can see many buyers being quite happy to pay that. There's a kind of 'junior Bentley' feel about this car that gives it a more up-market feel than you'd get in any C-Class. Yet the outlay needed for ownership shouldn't require too many potential owners to need a lottery win first.
Cost of Ownership
All E-Class Coupe models feature the Mercedes BlueEfficiency technology which includes a wide range of small modifications that together can deliver fuel consumption savings of up to 23%. Weight-saving measures, aerodynamic improvements, fuel-saving electronic Direct Steering and low rolling resistance tyres feature among the innovations, along with an ECO Start/Stop function to cut the engine when you don't need it, stuck in traffic or waiting at the lights. As a result, if you keep an eye on the optimum gearchange indicator, the volume E220 CDI diesel model's four-cylinder 2.1-litre engine can return a combined economy figure of 58.9mpg and 126g/km of CO2, even in automatic form.
From there on in the range, it's auto transmission only and the same 2.1-litre diesel in the pokier E250 CDI delivers 57.7mpg and 129g/km - in other words very similar returns to the lower-powered version of this engine. The desirable V6 BlueTEC diesel model doesn't do quite as well as that, but still manages 49.6mpg and 150g/km.
Low mileage buyers though, should also consider the 2.0-litre petrol turbo four cylinder BlueDIRECT unit that's been introduced in the E200 version of this improved E-Class model. This is, after all, a very efficient engine indeed, returning a very creditable 47.1mpg on the combined cycle and 140g/km of CO2. Even the 333bhp E400 petrol V6 isn't too pricey to run, managing 37.2mpg and 177g/km of CO2.
The improvements made to this E-Class Coupe - the more efficient engines, the smarter looks, the extra equipment - have certainly been welcome but the essence of its appeal has changed very little. It was first launched to fully restore the powerful, luxurious, Grand Touring sports coupe brand values that Mercedes had unwisely compromised with the cheaply underpinned CLK models that directly preceded the original introduction of this car. They didn't feel particularly special in the way that a Mercedes coupe always should. With this design, that's been put right.
In driving it, in owning it, you feel another more elegant level away from owners of the brand's less aspirational C-Class Coupe. And a cut above the sporting two-door models that car competes with, coupes like BMW's 4 Series and Audi's A5. There's a maturity and a class here that these sportier rivals lack. They could never be considered as a wise and cost-efficient alternative to spending £30,000-£40,000 more on a Maserati GranTurismo or Jaguar XK. This Mercedes could be. And that about sums it up.