There are coupes that come across as somewhat 'try-hard' and then there's the laid-back Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe. Jonathan Crouch drives the improved E220 CDI variant
Ten Second Review
The Mercedes E-Class Coupe has always been one of the most unsung cars to wear the three-pointed star. The latest model doesn't do much to change that but with smarter styling, greater efficiency and more generous equipment, it's an even more desirable package than ever for the buyer who wants discreet elegance.
For many, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe has always appeared a car in search of a point. After all, the purpose of a coupe is to turn heads with its sleek styling and to highlight the owner's raffish rejection of any overwhelming notion of practicality. The two-door E-Class was never like that. It was the plain Jane, sensible shoes coupe, the one that came as standard with travel rugs, a flat cap and a tin of Smith Kendons in the glove box. It was not without its charm, but there was always something fogeyish about it.
But Mercedes-Benz today is a company that's anything but old hat. It now features the most progressive model line up of all the big three German manufacturers and the E-Class Coupe was starting to look a bit of an anachronism. The latest model has come in for a proper wash and brush up and the result is something a good deal fresher and less self-effacing. Older buyers will still love the way it drives but it's now something you'd contemplate if you listen to something other than Radio 4.
The big news under the bonnet is that all of the big capacity thirsty engines that used to be the mainstay of the E-Class Coupe have been ditched, with a focus instead on high efficiency four-cylinder powerplants. The E200 and E250 petrol models get 2.0-litre fours that develop 184 and 211PS respectively and both get stellar economy figures and deliver decent acceleration. They're a long way removed from the rough Kompressor fours of the past. Diesel buyers choose between the 2.1-litre four-cylinder E200 CDI (136PS), E220 CDI (170PS) and E250 CDI (204PS) or else there's a 3.0-litre V6 E350 Bluetec with a healthy 252PS.
Mercedes also offers two transmissions for the E-Class Coupe: a six-speed manual transmission with short shift travel and the 7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission with gearchanging available either automatically or by using the wheel-mounted paddles. This latest version of the 7G-TRONIC box now features short-term M mode. If the driver has shifted up or down manually, after a set period of time the transmission independently switches back to the fuel-efficient automatic shift mode. As standard, the Coupe is fitted with the AGILITY CONTROL suspension with selective damping system. Buyers can choose firmer damping characteristics as part of the Dynamic Handling package. This offers a choice of driving mode settings for sportier accelerator pedal characteristics and gear shift points, as well as electronic damping control, allowing the driver to adjust the damping to their requirements at the touch of a button, depending on whether they want a comfortable or sporty ride.
Design and Build
Sleek one-piece headlamp units replace the old car's slightly gawky lights. Flowing light elements within the headlamps ensure that the "four-eyed" look which is typical of the E-Class has been retained. The light units are fitted with partial LED lights as standard, while full LED technology is available for the first time in this class as an option. You need this. It gives the car a light signature that's really striking.
The revised front bumpers with a more pronounced V-shape and large air intakes also serve to give the front end a more aggressive appearance, emphasising the close affinity between the Coupe and the latest E-Class Saloon. As a visible sign of this model's rear-wheel drive, the muscular-looking rear wing has been retained although the rather frumpy rear wheel arch treatment has been replaced by a much cleaner look. Updated tail lamps and a wide-effect rear bumper with "wing design" and chrome-look trim also feature.
The interior has been tastefully developed, with better quality upholstery, and a two-part trim which stretches across the entire dashboard. It can be selected in a wood or aluminium look, irrespective of the equipment line. You'll also notice a three-clock instrument cluster, the trapezoid-shaped high-gloss framed display in the head unit with flat-frame look, the design of the air vents as well as an analogue clock between the two central air vents. The centre console is extremely tidy with a small controller to operate the COMAND system and no gear lever.
Market and Model
As before, most E-Class Coupe models will be sold in the £35,000 to £55,000 bracket and the premium over the four-door saloon variant is small. One of the key pieces of technology in this latest E-Class Coupe is the Collision Prevention Assist, a radar-based warning system with adaptive brake-assist systems. The sheer amount of sensor technology that can be specified into the E-Class Coupe with both long and short range radars and stereo camera with smart software that recognises pedestrians at road intersections is quite astonishing. As, indeed, are the fully integrated social media functions that can be specified. Got an iPhone? You can integrate pretty seamlessly. On Android? No such luck. That's a surprising oversight from such a technologically-savvy company as Mercedes.
An improved Attention Assist system is also standard, which warns the driver when they are showing signs of fatigue. Optional safety gear includes Distronic Plus with Steering Assist, which can keep the car firmly in its lane at a safe distance from preceding traffic, while Pre-Safe Brake can detect pedestrians and brake to avoid a collision at up to 30mph. Pre-Safe Plus senses when a car is approaching too fast and first warns them by flashing the hazard warning lights, and then braces by applying the brakes and tensing the seatbelts to lessen whiplash.
Cost of Ownership
Switching to a range of largely four-cylinder models has meant that the average cost of running an E-Class Coupe has been slashed. Even when compared to the outgoing four-pot Coupe models, there are real improvements to be had thanks to the efficiency of the latest direct injection systems. Go for a four-cylinder unit and you're looking at around 48mpg from the petrol E200 and E250 models. Choose a diesel engine and economy ranges from around 60mpg for the E 220 CDI to around 51mpg for the E350 Bluetec V6. Residual values are some of the best in the sector, although you'll have to keep an eye on options pricing if you want to keep a cap on your pence per mile figures.
The Mercedes E-Class Coupe might just get our vote for most impressive improver of recent times. At first, Mercedes doesn't seem to have done a whole lot to this car but delve deeper and you'll discover that almost everything has been tweaked and fettled and the net result is that the Coupe does what any proper model update should - it makes the old version feel exactly that. The downsized engines are excellent, the styling updates spot-on, the interior is much improved and the overall look and feel of the car is that much more dynamic and, yes, younger.
Mercedes doesn't need to go too far in that direction as there's the C-Class Coupe that's tasked with that job, but the E-Class two door had just become a little too staid on its dotage. This latest version is right on the money and it's hard to see how any potential buyer would be alienated by a car that's so manifestly improved. Sometimes auto manufacturers fail quite dramatically when attempting to modify a model's demographic. I don't foresee Mercedes having any trouble with this one.