Test Drive: The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC Coupe Is a Comfort Cannon
Tech upgrades and a new engine make the E-Class coupe a bit better, and still a great choice.
LOS ANGELES—You're forgiven if you missed the news that the Mercedes-Benz E-Class was getting an update this year. The Geneva auto show was canceled due to the pandemic, which meant Mercedes-Benz and a load of other automakers didn't get to show off their latest wares. Instead, though, we've now tested the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC, the German marque's midsize coupe, for the better part of a week.
I couldn't help but chuckle when I realized this E450 Coupe was optioned nearly identically to the first car I ever reviewed for Automobile, a 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4MATIC wearing AMG Line package equipment, Designo Cardinal Red paint, and twin five-spoke wheels. The color covering the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 I tested wasn't exactly the same, but with optional Designo Patagonia Red Metallic paint and 19-inch AMG twin five-spoke wheels with black accents ($500), it was close enough—especially with the $2,500 AMG Line package adding more muscular bodywork.
This 2021 E450 also featured the Night Package ($400), which blacks out the front splitter, rear diffuser, side mirrors, and window trim. One Instagram follower even asked if it was a Mercedes-AMG E53 two-door; nope, just a well-optioned E450 Coupe. Handsome and potent as it is, I wondered if the facelifted E-Class would deliver an equally impressive performance and experience to match its outward appearance.
2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Test: Performance in a Pretty Package
The inline-six engine is alive and well in 2020. Mercedes-Benz equipped the 2021 E450 with a buttery-smooth, turbocharged 3.0-liter powerplant. In this application, the engine makes 362 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque, whereas the twin-turbo V-6 in the outgoing model produced 329 hp and 354 lb-ft. With the addition of Mercedes-Benz's EQ Boost electric-motor system, the E450 Coupe can get another 21 hp and 184 lb-ft, which makes for impressive full-throttle launches from a standstill. For a luxury cruiser, it's damn quick; 0-60 mph takes 4.9 seconds, a smidge quicker than the E400 4MATIC's 5.2-second time.
The E450 Coupe has noticeably light steering, even in the Sport+ drive mode. Nonetheless, it's easy to pilot the car through twisty roads accurately, as the adaptive Air Body Control suspension ($1,900) keeps body movements in check, and in a very tidy manner. Driving the E450 Coupe in Sport or Sport+ is enjoyable thanks to the gearbox's snappier shifts and due to the way it will hold a given gear for longer to make excellent use of the engine. Sport+, however, tended to be too aggressive for normal roads ... but when there was no one in front of me and no one coming in the other direction in the hills, it was the perfect setting for keeping the suspension taut, the shifts quick, and the steering at its most direct.
Our test car came equipped with all-season tires, usually unnecessary for Los Angeles drivers, and they didn't do much to enhance the Mercedes-Benz E450 Coupe's performance. Nonetheless, the ride quality was quiet and cushy, while the standard brakes delivered plenty of unfussed stopping power. The E450 is not intended as a performance car, but it won't disappoint a driver looking for a willing luxury companion that doesn't mind having a bit of fun from time to time.
2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Test: Internal Beauty
As gorgeous as the bodywork is and as great as the Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC Coupe is to drive, the interior was really the highlight of my time spent with the car. The cabin is spacious and gorgeous; this test car had some beautiful wood paneling with pinstripe inlays, which Mercedes calls Designo Black Piano Flowing Lines ($1,300). The seats were upgraded over the standard chairs, wearing Deep White/Black Nappa Leather ($1,370), and the driver's footwell featured lovely, rubber-studded brushed aluminum sport pedals from the AMG Line package.
One minor disappointment: plastic, unpadded door pockets, and plastic, unpadded door-panel bottoms. Otherwise, the interior materials are fantastic, but reaching down to stow a water bottle or a face mask and feeling economy-car plastic is an odd experience in a pricey executive car. But even the trunk impresses with good lighting, cargo netting for storing loose items, and motorized access.
The interior lighting is customizable and it shifts depending on the selected drive mode. I also toggled the various instrument-cluster appearance settings on the 12.3-inch widescreen display. There's a standard, sporty, futuristic, and minimalistic way to configure the screen, and I settled on the sport-oriented gauges because they were the cleanest and easiest to read. The futuristic version is cool, but it spits out speed and engine rpm in numbers while deemphasizing a traditional needle look, which is arguably less useful. If you like head-up displays, you can get one of those as well ($1,100), and it provides a ton of useful information in real time.
One of my biggest complaints came from the optional Driver Assistance Package, which includes the invasive lane-keep assist. When configured as standard, this intervenes with steering and throttle inputs if you drift slightly from your lane. While it might help someone who is actually drifting from their lane, it becomes rather annoying for drivers who position the car for a more flowing driving line that's never going to actually depart the lane. In our view, this system (and plenty of similar ones from plenty of other manufacturers) is not worth the extra $1,700, or the irritation. And regardless, surround parking cameras are a standard feature of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450.
This 2021 E450 Coupe came with some other tech features I found unnecessary or not honed quite as well as they should be. The new steering wheel controls are primarily of the capacitive touch variety; the buttons are pretty far from where you put your hands, so the margin for error is slim. The virtual D-pad controllers are imprecise, even if you have dry fingertips. Mercedes-Benz suggested I try with perfectly dry fingers, which I did, but I still had a frustrating time operating the infotainment with the right touchpad, as did others who tested the car. Also, the standard keyless entry tended to not read my key when I tried to open the doors. Finally, the augmented-video-for-navigation option ($350) seems a bit moot, given the widespread use of more intuitive systems for navigation such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are standard.
2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 Test: A Car Worth Buying
In a market full of automakers trying to fill every niche possible, it never occurred to me until I read Mercedes' press release that this is the only 2+2 midsize luxury coupe on sale right now. So, if that's what you're looking for in a new car, look no further. For others, there's more to consider. The starting price is $68,500, including the $1,050 destination and delivery charge. The 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 is pretty feature-rich to start with, including big screens, phone projection, and surround-view cameras as standard.
Our test vehicle's additional, optional features brought its total MSRP to $85,849, a hefty price you probably don't need to pay in order to enjoy the model, but this particular car showcased the full extent of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4MATIC Coupe's capabilities. Indeed, you can easily configure one to a reasonable spec and knock $10,000 off of the sticker.
Overall, though, the Mercedes-Benz E-Class remains a practical, special car. It does everything you could want from a daily driver, and it delivers features that take it way beyond much more affordable choices. The E450 Coupe is fast, comfortable, and customizable thanks to a thorough array of lighting and infotainment technology, and in this mid-cycle update form, it's a force to be reckoned with in the luxury-car space.
2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic Coupe Highlights
- Potent inline-six engine with mild hybrid boost
- Attractive bodywork
- Great technology
- Mostly fantastic materials and interior design
|2021 Mercedes-Benz E450 4Matic Coupe Specifications|
|ON SALE||Winter 2020|
|PRICE||$68,500/$85,849 (base/as tested)|
|ENGINE||3.0L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve I-6/362 hp @ 5,500-6,100 rpm, 369 lb-ft @ 1,600-4,500 rpm|
|LAYOUT||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD coupe|
|L x W x H||190.0 x 80.9 x 56.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.9 sec|
|TOP SPEED||130 mph|