Road Tests

First Drive: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe U.S. Spec

A truly worthy baby S-Class Coupe

WHISTLER, Canada — “Grand touring” conjures pictures of driving through the south of France, across wine country, over the Pyrenees, politely wafting through ancient, picturesque towns, and then barreling down an autostrada at preposterous speeds toward the sapphire waters of the Mediterranean, arriving rested and ready for the day’s adventures. For less affluent mortals, these adventures are out of reach, yet with the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe, the German manufacturer has delivered what amounts to a downsized two-door S-Class, ready for the French Riviera — or a more affordable seven-hour trip through the seemingly endless emerald expanses of British Columbia.

Finally sitting on a chassis of its own, the new E-Class Coupe is placed strategically between the hyper-luxurious S-Class Coupe and the more pedestrian, but nevertheless well-appointed, C-Class Coupe. While the E-Class Coupe splits the difference in terms of price and exclusivity, engineers aimed higher than its station, bringing the long, muscular coupe closer to its S-Class sibling as it cossets its occupants and charges across continental divides.

The previous E-Class Coupe used an extended C-Class Coupe chassis merged with the E-Class sedan’s front chassis architecture. Given these Frankenstein’s monster-like beginnings, it wasn’t the super-lux automobile Mercedes-Benz had intended, nor was it what the brand’s reputation for lavish vehicles needed: a black spot.  Its status on the line, Mercedes-Benz delivered the 2018 E-Class coupe on a modified 2017 E-Class sedan chassis, which extended the wheelbase by 4.4” and widened the track by 2.9” from the previous generation.

With its overall increase in length and width, the cabin’s dimensions grew, ensuring comfort for occupants  especially those in the rear seats, which are no longer suitable just for hobbits and dwarves. Rear seat legroom is up by 1.8 inch, shoulder room by 1.3 inch, and headroom by 0.6 inch. These figures may not sound overly impressive, but it’s enough fit a 6’4″ individual without removing limbs with a bone saw. There’s still a need to scrunch down so as to not scrape the roof, but it’s minimal, and there’s more than ample room for average-sized humans.

A suite of safety and technological systems make the E-Class Coupe the smartest car in Mercedes-Benz’s lineup. Unlike previous decades where the S-Class was the trend-setter in terms of safety and tech, with the debut of the E-Class, Mercedes-Benz has apparently passed the torch. Coming either standard or as an option, the E-Class Coupe’s impressive technology suite includes car-to-car communication with other E-Class, Dynamic Select, Pre-Safe, Pre-Safe Sound (which, in the event of an accident, will emit a white noise to protect your eardrums), Drive Pilot with Distance Pilot (similar to Tesla’s AutoPilot system), Active Brake Assist, Active Distance Assist, Active Steering Assist, Active Emergency Stop Assist, Active Lane Change Assist, Active Speed Limit Assist, Active Brake Assist with Cross Traffic Function, Evasive Steering Assist, and Driver Attention Assist. Phew.

Besides the safety technology, which will assuredly be seen on more pedestrian automobiles soon, as demonstrated with the S-Class’s history of technological trickledown, the E-Class Coupe can also be had with inductive wireless charging, an intelligent LED light system that can greet you with the car’s tail lamps, and the car’s 12.3” COMAND Display infotainment center that allows the driver or passengers to change a host of variables throughout the car, including the accent colors and air freshener smell. If it wanted, it could probably do your children’s calculus homework as well.

Ahead, a day-long journey through British Columbia’s breathtaking gnarled-jade forests lay before us. We’d cross its meandering roads snaking through the countryside’s 1,000-foot granite cliffs, avalanche-distorted forests, alpine streams, soaring waterfalls and otherworldly cloud formations, all within the day. A perfect test for something designed to waft its passengers from Point A to Point B without fuss or exhaustion, all while breathing in this country’s spectacular majesty amid a continuous stream of music from the optional Burmester audio system.

Settling into the indulgent leather seats, the superb heat and massage functions were immediately turned to the max. Even in the beginning of summer, the morning air at this latitude is cold and there’s still more than enough hard-pack snow in the mountains to chill your bones. The air, however, never reached the cabin. The thick-walled glass insulates occupants from the world outside, encasing them in a cocoon of silence and warmth. The only wisp of NVH that travels through the cabin is some noise from the tires. On buttery-smooth roads, you can speak at a whisper. Add a bit of surface pitting and you’ll have to increase your volume ever so slightly.

The E400 Coupe is an excellent driver’s car, too, detailing the road’s imperfections and nuances along the winding back roads. Mercedes-Benz has done wonders with the electric power steering. There’s never a moment of mistrust between the driver and the car. Add Air Body Control and you’ll be amazed by how well this heavy, all-wheel drive coupe can maintain its composure just as well as a handful of today’s newest sports car. But while fast-paced directional changes are possible, they aren’t necessary or even wanted by the E-Class Coupe’s consumers. These aren’t AMG-fanatics.

Once the outside air warmed, we lowered all four windows and one of the best features on the E-Class Coupe came into view: its lack of B-pillars.

Without struts connecting the doors and roof, the E-Class Coupe resembles an ancient Roman arch connecting the front to the rear in an elegant bridge, and giving the driver and passengers a nearly 180-degree view outside. As an added benefit, because there are no B-Pillars, there’s no wind buffeting inside, giving the car a convertible-esque feel — a characteristic furthered by the standard retractable glass panoramic roof. Either closed or open, the E-Class Coupe feels special partially because of its use of glass.

Furthering the air of specialness is the coupe’s engine. Unlike its sedan sibling, which can be had with a rather unrefined four-cylinder, the twin-turbo V-6-powered E400 is the only version available, at least until AMG has its way with the car. The 3.0-liter engine makes 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque and feels quite potent, possibly stronger than its official numbers suggest. Zero to 60 is done in 5.2 seconds in the standard rear-wheel drive model, while the all-wheel drive 4MATIC-equipped car handles the dash to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds. Yet, when bombing down some of British Columbia’s straighter sections, the E400 feels as if it has 400 or more horsepower, with it continuing to pull past posted speeds.

Seven hours flew by, even though more often than not, we stopped to take pictures of Canada’s pristine beauty. When we finally reached our destination, we felt slightly dismayed as the E-Class Coupe engendered such a connection of comfort, the swanky digs of the hotel we stayed in almost didn’t feel up to par with the Mercedes — as well it shouldn’t with, given how much the car cost.

While the E-Class Coupe starts at a relatively reasonable $59,895 — especially when you consider that it offers nearly the same level of refinement as the $123,745 S-Class Coupe — our test car was almost $90,000 with a host of options checked off. Yet, that number doesn’t seem out of the realm of what this car should cost. Granted, it isn’t an S-Class, as Mercedes-Benz’s halo-coupe is still a fair distance more luxurious and pricier than its E-Class brethren. Yet, even for our detail-oriented eyes, it’s hard to spot the differences between the top and middle rungs of Mercedes-Benz’s coupe ladder. By giving the E-Class Coupe a chassis of its own and jamming it full of tech and comfort, Mercedes brought the E-Class Coupe closer to the brand’s motto of “The Best or Nothing.”

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe Specifications

ON SALE Now
PRICE $58,895/$89,000 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/329 hp @ 5,260-6,000 rpm, 354 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 9-speed automatic
LAYOUT 2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, RWD/AWD coupe
EPA MILEAGE 20/26 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 190.0 x 80.9 x 56.3 in
WHEELBASE 113.1 in
WEIGHT N/A
0-60 MPH 5.2-5.5 sec
TOP SPEED 130 mph

 

 

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