First drive: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe [Review]
Mercedes-Benz comes one step closer to a full E-Class lineup.
These days, it's nearly impossible to attend an automotive media introduction without hearing some variation on the phrase "product release cadence." "Cadence" is a conveniently buzzy way to refer to the pace at which companies are introducing new models (usually crossovers, naturally), resonating the way the relentless beat of a drum once did on long-ago battlefields. Mercedes-Benz is more guilty than some, given the aggressive pace at which new variants of many of its core models have been introduced over the past 18 months.
Even if you set aside the borderline-innumerable AMG variants, this is already the third E-Class introduction we've seen in that time period. The sedan launched first, followed by the wagon. A fourth--the cabriolet--will be upon us before year's end. Beyond that, you can expect AMG 43 and 63 versions to follow soon enough.
E-volutionThe most noteworthy change for the 2018 E-Class Coupe is its underlying chassis. Previous versions of the midsize 'Benz coupe were based on the smaller C-Class chassis. No more. The coupe now rides on the E-Class platform, affording the company's engineers the opportunity to improve its practicality and comfort by leaps and bounds. Compared to the outgoing coupe, it's nearly five inches longer, and almost all of that is owed to an increase in wheelbase (4.4 inches). That said, it's still a little shorter (both between the axles and from nose to tail) than the four-door E-Class.
The new E-Class Coupe marks another significant milestone for Mercedes-Benz, this one in the realm of styling. You may remember that earlier this year the company made a pledge to abandon the crease as a styling element. It was promised as part of the company's new compact-class styling direction, but the company is already starting to tease out this new strategy. Aside from the more aggressively defined hood bulges (which are a nod to previous Mercedes-Benz coupe designs), the new E-Class Coupe is about as glass-smooth as Canadian lake on a calm day.
The longer wheelbase of the large platform gives the new E-Class Coupe a more distinct family resemblance when compared to its fellow midsizers. It has more natural presence and more suitable proportions for a large luxury coupe. If you ask us, this is the best-looking midsize coupe Mercedes-Benz has built since the W124 generation was discontinued.
E-leganceInside, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe feels like a proper luxury car. The most prominent feature--the standard 12.3-inch COMAND screen--is lifted straight out of the sedan, as is most of the rest of the interior styling. The key "look at me" feature of the Coupe is the set of air vents designed to resemble jet turbine intakes. And as cool as they look, they also work very intuitively, offering near-infinite adjustment without any finicky orientation issues.
The extra wheelbase was employed quite effectively to improve back-seat comfort. Even those exceeding the six-foot mark can find space in the rear, making this a coupe that can genuinely fit four adults so long as you're not picking up 3/5ths of an NBA starting lineup. If it weren't for the elongated doors and the missing b-pillars, you could easily delude yourself into believing you're behind the wheel of a sedan.
E-nough about the looksLike the new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Wagon, the base Coupe is being offered as an E400 model. E-ssentially (OK, we're done. Promise.), that means the base engine is a V6. The base-model E300 Sedan, on the other hand, makes do with just a four-pot. This generation of the E-Class is expected to be the last to be offered with a six-cylinder V, meaning the cabriolet model should be the last new midsizer delivered with this 329-horsepower biturbo engine. With the refresh, Mercedes-Benz will bring back the I6.
Mercedes-Benz has not finalized the curb weight of its U.S.-spec E400 Coupe, but we'd surmise that between the shortened wheelbase and added chassis reinforcement, it will probably come in right around that of the 4MATIC-equipped E43 Sedan (4,145 pounds). Adding all-wheel-drive to the coupe should bump the weight up roughly 100 pounds. No matter how many wheels you want driven, you're getting a nine-speed automatic transmission.
The V6's 354lb-ft of torque is more than up to the task of brisk acceleration and authoritative highway passing, and the numbers prove that out. Mercedes-Benz claims the rear-drive E400 will get to 60 in 5.5 seconds; the 4MATIC in 5.2. Both are a full second quicker than the last-generation car, its product people say, and they give all of the credit to the new transmission. EPA fuel economy figures have not yet been finalized.
Into the wildBritish Columbia once branded itself as the "Best Place on Earth." We found out rather quickly that the since-abandoned slogan certainly doesn't extend its superlative to the quality of the province's unmistakably west-coast roads--populated with curves and broken surfaces in equal proportion.
We tested both the AIR BODY CONTROL suspension and the standard two-mode steel-spring setup, and we found that the E-Class Coupe is far more content to serve as a means of observing beautiful mountain scenery at a reasonable pace than it is being hustled. It's not that it isn't competent and composed--both are entirely accurate descriptors--but its light, isolated steering lends itself more to a cruise through the countryside (or up the mountainside, in our case) than white-knuckle charge down a canyon road.
Perhaps most telling is the expected take rate for the air suspension (a re-tuned version of which becomes standard on Mercedes-AMG models). Just 10 percent of buyers will spring for it, meaning the typical E-Class Coupe on the road will be riding on steel. Its two-mode adaptive dampers offer a little bit of variety, but the Sport mode will likely be a bit too aggressive for the typical E400 buyer. You can bet all-wheel-drive will be the default choice for customers too. 11 of the 12 cars Mercedes-Benz brought to Vancouver were so-equipped.
Plus, with this much weight to lug around, the E400 Coupe doesn't exactly feel like a rocketship. That's to be expected. As respectable as a 5.5-second run to 60 miles per hour may be, it's fairly standard stuff for a midsize European sedan. It's more than enough to get a drive into trouble (deep trouble, as a member of the local constabulary politely--and generously--explained to us), but it's not earth-shattering by any means. Fear not; AMG variants will be along soon enough to quench the thirst of speed freaks.
MG's bottom lineThe 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe is finally the right size for the job, offering a true four-seat experience in a class often populated by 2+2 configurations fit for neither man nor beast. Enthusiasts should hold out for the AMG, but the standard V6 gives the E400 Coupe an undeniable (and welcome) performance edge over the four-cylinder sedan.
2018 Mercedes-Benz E-Class 4MATIC Coupe base price, $61,400; As-tested, $86,935Selenite Grey Metallic paint, $720; designo Magnolia Flowing Lines interior wood trim, $1,300; 19" AMG twin 5-spoke wheels, $500; rear side airbags, $420; special order fee, $250; Multicontour front seats with massage, $950; Air Body Control suspension, $1,900; Burmester premium 3D surround system, $5,400; heated/ventilated front seats, $450; Premium 3 package, $9,350; AMG Line, $2,500; Warmth & Comfort package with multi-function steering wheel, $800; destination, $995
Exterior photos by Byron Hurd. Interior photos courtesy of Mercedes-Benz USA.