Car reviews - Mercedes-Benz - E-class - E400 coupe
Driving position, fuel economy, styling
Room for improvement
Heavy car handling, big blind-spot
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13 Jan 2014
Price and equipment
When asked to guess the price of the E400 Coupe, curious passers-by estimated a value higher than the sub $130,000 tag without exception, in some cases as high as $200,000, indicating the styling and build quality belie the asking price.
Our test car came with just one optional extra – the $7100 AMG Sport Package Plus, which added unique gloss-black and machined aluminium 19-inch wheels, AMG interior and exterior styling tweaks and a dynamic handling package.
At the front end, the battleaxe-like chromed lower front splitter, dinner-plate sized glossy three-point badge and flowing LED-accentuated headlights form a nose that was almost impossible to tear your gaze away from.
From the side view, the two-door profile stood out with a long bonnet, short overhangs at either end and, when all four electric windows were opened, the absence of a B-pillar emphasised the true coupe looks.
The rich ‘Obsidian Black’ painted Coupe had people stopping and staring virtually everywhere it went.
As you might expect from a Mercedes wearing an ‘E’ badge, the high-class looks were accompanied by a good list of equipment from active cruise control (which even operates in traffic), voice-controlled satellite navigation, keyless entry/start, leather sports seats, large sun-roof and a flurry of driver assistance technology.
The same sea of black exterior colour-scheme continued on the inside with luxuriously appointed AMG leather seats and dash throughout the interior. We particularly liked how the bright-red seatbelts and stitching provided a brilliant flash that stood-out on the darker understated tones of the cabin.
In the back, cup-holders, cubbies and supportive side-bolsters took up the space that a third central seat might have occupied and imparted a feel of coziness and exclusivity.
Headroom was limited in the back but not to the point that it became uncomfortable for taller passengers. On the contrary, spending time in the rear seats was snug and pleasant.
With 450 litres of boot-space available the load area is generous, but if that’s not enough the 60:40 split rear seats fold flat and boost the luggage area from big to huge.
Up front we were surprised to find the almost infinitely electrically adjustable seats lacked heaters, but the simply superb driving position more than compensated for a cold bum.
Taller drivers were very happily nestled in the firm but ergonomically excellent seats, with ample leg, head and elbow room without stealing too much legroom from the rear passenger.
The electric belt-handover assistant was a neat trick and saved front passengers from reaching over to grab the buckle, but we found it reacted a bit too slowly and it was quicker to retrieve it before the gadget had extended.
With the new CLA baby-sedan sporting an electric park-brake, it seems Mercedes are finally steering away from the frequently criticized foot operated variety, but the E-Class still has a pedal park-brake.
But the E-Class’ cavernous foot-well swallowed the little pedal so we didn’t find it an obstruction or problem at any point.
Engine and transmission
Many Mercedes V8 enthusiasts will be sorry to see the esteemed 500 badge has not returned on this E-Class, with the top performing version wearing a lesser 400, indicating the engine under the bonnet has just six cylinders.
The power hungry needn’t be too worried though. It may not quite develop the grunt of the previous 285kW/530Nm V8, but thanks to a brace of turbos, the 3.0-litre six produces a very handy 245kW/480Nm.
That power figure ensures the performance data matches the outgoing E500, with 100km/h coming up in just 5.1 seconds, but more impressively the smaller capacity forced induction donk smashes the thirsty V8 fuel economy by 3.5 litres per 100km – down to a reported 7.5l/100km.
The six-cylinder power delivery is silky smooth and comes with a bark that is just audible enough to be satisfying but without shattering the cabin serenity.
Torque was available from far down the rev-range with no noticeable turbo-lag and power remained abundant all the way up to the red-line.
It may not match BMW’s multi-award winning N44 twin turbo 3.0-litre straight six (as found in almost everything from a 3 Series to a 7 Series) for compactness, but the Mercedes engine certainly does deliver power and efficiency to match the competition.
Official figures state the combined fuel consumption at 7.5 l/100km but depending on the terrain and driving enthusiasm, we managed from 7.2 to 9.8 l/100km – not bad considering the size, weight and performance available on tap should you need it.
An impressive urban economy figure is thanks in part to the ECO idle-stop which cuts the engine while at a standstill.
The system was amongst the best we have tested, firing the engine very rapidly when the brake was released, but it could be cheated by only lightly prodding the brakes when stationary.
When the engine cuts-out during ECO mode the air-conditioning also ceases unless the outside temperature is greater than 37 degrees, which we found to be too high a threshold and the cabin warmed up rapidly when the temperature was above 30.
The 7G-Tronic Plus seven-speed automatic transmission provided a super-silky drive and gear shifts were only noticeable by the change in engine note.
Criticism has been aimed at the decision to locate the gear-selector lever on the steering column, where it can be mistaken for an indicator stalk, but its operation becomes second-nature after only a couple of days.
The transmission behaviour can be altered with comfort, sport and manual modes but such was the seamlessness of operation in comfort mode, we spent very little time in any other setting.
Ride and handling
With such a comprehensive list of equipment aimed at enthusiastic driving we couldn’t wait to get the coupe out on to some open roads to stretch its legs, and it was on straight high-speed roads that the E400 came in to its own.
At a cruising speed of 100km/h the cabin serenity was truly class-leading and the long hand of the dash mounted analogue clock could actually be heard ticking as each minute passed.
Even with the relatively stiff suspension and low-profile tyres, very little road noise was transmitted to the interior space, and a long journey flew by with excellent comfort for all occupants.
A very slippery drag-coefficient of just 0.25 ensured wind noise was negligible and also contributed to the miserly fuel consumption (under 7.0l/100km).
Massive cross-drilled and ventilated brakes scrubbed speed as easily as the coupe cruised and inspired the confidence to push on at speed, but a little firmer pedal feel would have boosted the sporty credentials.
When the going did get a bit twisty however, some of the excellent ride characteristics evaporated.
On perfectly smooth roads fast cornering was no problem for the Mercedes, with plenty of grip on all corners and lots of feedback through the electric power steering, but the firm suspension wasn’t a fan of surface imperfections and the back-end had a tendency to skip over lumps and bumps.
Despite very little body-roll and sharp steering, the big coupe’s 1725kg of mass manifested itself in tighter corners, with a hint of understeer as the weight shifted to the offside front wheel.
The lightening reactions of the ESC always intervened before anything became unstuck but the handling was certainly more akin to a mile-munching GT rather than a tarmac-tearing sportscar.
Safety and servicing
In addition to all the safety features you would expect in a modern car such as ESC, ABS and seven airbags, the E400 is packed with technology to help keep you on the straight and narrow.
The lane departure warning system worked well vibrating the steering wheel if a lane marker was crossed without indicating, and if the warning was not acknowledged by a steering input, the system corrected the vehicle direction.
A separate system that monitors the speed of approaching objects can apply the brakes if it senses a collision, but it was a little overly enthusiastic and occasionally warned of stationary objects in corners.
The Attention Assist system assesses driver behaviour and apparently sounds a warning if it detects the driver getting drowsy, but we were well rested over the Christmas period so it never had to intervene.
Cameras on every side of the E400 provide images for various safety features too. When reversing the monitor displays the rearward view, while waiting at a junction different cameras provide the view left and right, and during all low speed maneuvers all cameras combine to give an artificial ‘birds eye’ view.
The 360-degree view worked very well and left nothing to guesswork when parking, which was particularly welcome given the long coupe proportions and high window-line.
With relatively small rear windows and door mirrors, the E400’s blind spot could be a little unnerving, but the warning light in each side mirror provided a visual alert, which was backed up with an audible warning if a dangerous lane change was attempted.
Somewhat unsurprisingly the Mercedes E400 scores a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
All new Mercedes vehicles are covered by a three-year unlimited kilometer warranty and, for an additional cost, a choice of either ‘Silver’ or ‘Platinum’ service plans can be optioned to cover all servicing for a period of either two or five years.
For all its sporty appearance, the Mercedes E400 coupe probably isn’t in reality much sportier to drive than the identically priced sedan but, as with any coupe, its styling is the main focus.
We loved how the big black coupe turned heads wherever it went and for that fact alone the absence of one rear seat and two doors is entirely justified.
A magic-carpet ride, excellent fuel economy, torquey motor and surprisingly low price-tag are all incidental bonuses.
The coupe version of Mercedes’ E-Class can be enjoyed just as much from the outside as it can from the inside.
In terms of performance there is very little difference between the Mercedes and the other big-hitting coupes from Audi and BMW, so it simply comes down to a matter of taste. Beauty is in the eye (or wallet) of the beholder.
Audi S5 ($135,400 plus on-road costs).
The priciest of the mid-sized German coupes, Audi’s S5 Coupe also has a 3.0-litre six cylinder supercharged engine producing exactly the same power as the Mercedes, but with a little less torque (440Nm). It does have a distinct traction advantage with the super-grippy quattro four-wheel drive system.
BMW 435i ($108,500 plus on-road costs).
The freshly launched 4 Series has bags of beat-your-neighbour appeal with performance and economy to match the Mercedes. Its marginally shorter length might make it less comfortable for rear passengers but it is a whopping $20,000 cheaper.
MAKE/MODEL: Mercedes-Benz E400 coupe
ENGINE: 3.0-litre V6 turbo
LAYOUT: longitudinal front engine, rear drive
TORQUE: 480Nm between1400 – 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic
0-100km/h: 5.1 seconds
TOP SPEED: 210km/h (limited)
EMISSIONS: 174g/km CO2
STEERING: Electric variable PAS
BRAKES: drilled ventilated disc(f)/ ventilated disc(r)
PRICE: From $128,545 before on-roads
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