Mercedes-Benz’s current product range is immense. With no fewer than 13 distinct Mercedes-Benz model lines in the U.S. alone for 2017, ranging from diminutive roadsters to giant SUVs—to say nothing of the Maybach and AMG spinoffs—there’s no premium-automobile customer Mercedes won’t attempt to woo. Among them are traditional luxury-coupe buyers, a small but influential group that has proved valuable to Benz for decades. Of late, Mercedes-Benz has tripled down on two-doors, offering coupe versions of its primary C-, E-, and S-class car lines. Mercedes clearly appreciates these customers, who should, in turn, appreciate the 2018 E-class coupe.
As we stated when Mercedes-Benz unveiled the new E coupe, the car is considerably larger than its predecessor. The new W213-generation E-class platform has grown 4.4 inches between the axles, 4.8 inches in length, 2.9 inches in width, and 1.5 inches in height, thus placing the new mid-size two-door neatly between the C- and S-class coupes. Compared with the E-class sedan, it is 1.5-inches lower on a 2.6-inch-shorter wheelbase.It also now has real presence. Despite the new E coupe sharing most of its styling DNA with those other Benz two-doors, design chief Gorden Wagener desired to simplify the aesthetic, resulting in the removal of the upper contour line found on nearly every other Mercedes. While some aesthetes (including your author) feared this might cheapen the car’s look, we needn’t have fretted. Other new elements have added substance back in, including the broad and rather shovel-like front apron; the long, straked hood; and the supersleek windshield that visually connects with the standard panoramic sunroof. The arcing roofline and the lack of a B-pillar remain hallmarks of the E-class coupe—as does the loathsome sliver of rear side glass mucking up what we wish was a full-length opening as on the S-class coupe. But that piece of glass was a necessary evil as designers sought to reduce the thickness of the C-pillars, a key contributor to the car’s breezy elegance. The result is a delicate greenhouse set atop a substantial yet clean lower body, an artful balance of visual strength and lightness that only a windswept two-door like this could pull off. So we’ll deal with the piece of glass.
Unlike its two-door brand brethren and the E-class sedan, the E coupe is offered in only one potency—badged E400—with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6 tuned to provide a respectable 329 horsepower and 354 lb-ft of torque. Mated to Mercedes’ ubiquitous nine-speed automatic and a choice of rear- or all-wheel drive, the engine proves plenty capable of motivating the car, but we find little inspiration in its character. There’s no joy to be found in the upper reaches of the rev range, only a muzzled growl. The shift response of the nine-speed, even in Sport mode, is more silken than snappy. That said, Mercedes claims that the all-wheel-drive car can accelerate to 60 mph in 5.2 seconds; we expect to beat that by a tenth or two.
The E400 coupe is not at its best being driven hard, but when treated less aggressively it feels strident and robust. It suits the character of the car, while we expect those hankering for a little more sizzle will be served by an eventual AMG-tuned E50 coupe powered by its new turbocharged inline-six, called M256 internally, a powerplant that Mercedes has said will produce in excess of 400 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. But that’ll be as burly as this car gets, as we’ve already been told that an E63 coupe will not happen.
The powertrain may be chill, but the chassis certainly is capable. For U.S. buyers, coil springs with driver-adjustable dampers will come standard, but the car we drove had the optional Air Body Control air springs, which only amplify the plush dynamic quality by minimizing body motions and ironing out much of the road’s texture. Our car also was an Edition 1 model wearing 20-inch AMG wheels, Pirelli rubber, and cross-drilled brake rotors. The aggressive wheel-and-tire combo (which won’t be offered in America in a size this large) and pneumatic springs did their job, delivering impressive grip, a planted feel, and precious little squirming or tire squeal, even as benign understeer crept in close to the limit. The Sport and Sport+ driving modes for the chassis add satisfying weight to the steering and some tactility to the ride, and these combine with the steering’s crisp initial turn-in and linear response to allow for easy placement of the car, whether that’s while clipping an apex, floating through a corner, or holding the center of a freeway lane. The E400 could use more steering feel, but what it lacks in engagement, it makes up in precision. We’ll be interested to see if U.S.-spec cars equipped with the base 18-inch or optional 19-inch rolling stock feel different, but we can vouch for this Benz’s competency when shod with 20s.
It’s likely that E-class coupe buyers will be less interested in going quickly as going stylishly and comfortably. And this car has a lot to offer such drivers, starting with size and space. Whereas the C-class coupe can feel snug, this new W213 coupe—with its extra width, thin roof pillars, and vast expanses of glass—has a definite sense of spaciousness, even when considered alongside the S-class coupe. The E’s sweet dual-screen dashboard looks and functions just as well as it does in the sedan, but certain details, most notably the jet-turbine-looking air vents, are specific to the two-door. The coupe also offers a few additional color and trim options, including dressy, light-colored wood accents in high-gloss or open-pore finishes. Unfortunately, our car was trimmed with the same stuff found in the E43, which attempts to simultaneously evoke both metal and carbon fiber with little success at either. The black and white front seats in our car, however, looked good and felt even better, incorporating optional massage elements along with adjustable lumbar support and headrests, cooling fans, and heating. All that somehow is packaged within a remarkably thin seatback, too, thus preserving rear-seat legroom.
Mercedes is proud of the E-class coupe’s rear accommodations, and indeed the space is perhaps the best of any coupe this side of a Rolls-Royce Wraith. Although we didn’t spend too many miles riding back there, the rear seat is inviting and spacious, and it can handle real adult humans and their heads, legs, and shoulders. The example we drove used the same high-quality materials as up front, and each of the two seats were heated.
As with most Mercedes coupes over the decades—the lovely W114/W115, W123, and W124 editions come to mind—the 2018 E400 coupe is intended to coddle and not cajole, and in that way it is a worthy successor to its ancestors. The coupe market may be shrinking overall, but this car proves the body style remains very much alive at Mercedes-Benz.