What is it?:
The revised Mercedes E-class coupé – which may be the most distinctive model that Mercedes-Benz makes. A controversial statement given the amount of money and effort expended by Germany’s big three of late to expand into untapped niches. But perhaps more importantly, it’s a lesson to those German brands that sometimes, if you just stick to what you’re good at rather than jumping on every new bandwagon going, the waves may just part in front of you and opportunities open up where’d you never have believed it possible.
Merc’s been making big graceful coupés forever, after all. And yet somehow, in 2013, this quietly grand, genuine four-seater finds itself with little proper competition within its own particular niche. Both the Audi A5 and the new BMW 4-series lack the size and status to represent a serious challenge, meanwhile the 6-series has become much too expensive.
What's it like?:
A bit of a discerning choice, really – and more so after Mercedes’ 2013 update for the E-class, which has refined its exterior styling, cabin fittings and the contents of the engine bay. New headlights, a new radiator grille and fresh bumper panels are the most obvious changes, all of which add visual appeal and modernity, without detracting from the elegance that a big Benz like this absolutely relies on.
On the inside, the main change is the movement of the gear selector, which has migrated from the centre console to the steering column. That makes extra space for cabin decoration, increasing the richness of the ambience, as well as for useful storage. Our test car had pale leathers and an attractive, tactile fascia with aluminium accents. It didn’t represent high, avant-garde design in any sense, but certainly had remarkably plush comfort and excellent perceived quality.
The engine offering includes two four-cylinder diesels, a V6 diesel, and two petrols. The petrols actually represent the real departures, the lesser being a new 181bhp 2.0-litre four-pot with stratified direct injection, and the greater a new force-fed V6 replacing the old V8. Our test car, however, was a 2.1-litre 168bhp E220 CDI turbodiesel – likely to account for a bigger chunk of UK sales mix than either petrol.
There’s nothing very special about Mercedes’ four-pot diesel; it’s not outstanding for its size on either performance or economy. Pains have clearly been taken, though, to improve its mechanical refinement, because the engine’s noticeably more quiet and smooth here than we’ve found it in other Mercedes models, even quite recently. There’s still a bit of coarseness to its voice at high revs, but if you respect the relaxed gait that this car naturally tends towards, the automatic gearbox works away so well that you just won’t encounter it.
Should I buy one?:
Yes – with one caveat. UK roads reveal how much care should be taken when you order your E-class coupé that you end up with a chassis that mirrors the relaxing character of that powertrain.
The better part of the UK model range of this car comes exclusively in AMG Sport trim, which packages with a lowered sports suspension tune. Our test car had it, and while it handled and steered quite well, it also fussed at times when riding poorer surfaces.
Unlike on other models, your Mercedes dealer won’t offer you the option of a Comfort chassis setup – but there is the chance to upgrade to a Dynamic Handling Package with programmable adaptive dampers that have a ‘Comfort’ mode. And we strongly suspect that’d be £510 well spent.
Because a pillowy ride was the only thing that our test car lacked. Otherwise, the E-class coupé seems graceful, practical, luxurious and genuinely appealing – and all the more so for having so few imitators.
Mercedes E220 CDI AMG Sport coupé 7G-Tronic Plus
Price £39,110; 0-62mph 8.3sec; Top speed 145mph; Economy 58.9mpg; CO2 129g/km; Kerb weight 1715kg; Engine 4 cyls, 2143cc, turbodiesel; Power 168bhp at 4200rpm; Torque 295lb ft at 1400-2800rpm; Gearbox 7-speed automatic