First DriveLuxury rear-drive coupé aims to appeal to keener drivers with a 329bhp twin-turbo petrol V6 and a host of AMG upgrades
First DriveMerc’s mid-sized two-door continues to stand out, and adds style, richness and refinement to its repertoire
What is it?
This is the new Mercedes E-class coupe. After just two iterations, Mercedes has killed off the CLK name, and has resurrected the E-class coupe moniker.
The E-class coupe has been conceived to occupy a larger and more lucrative section of the coupe market than the CLK. As such, it comes as no surprise to discover that it has grown. It’s almost 50mm longer and wider, but 22mm lower. It’s a more grown-up car, underpinned by a brand new chassis that borrows heavily from the E-class rather than from the C-class.
Inside there is a familiar theme, with the angular dashboard, switchgear and associated trims mirroring those of the new E-class saloon. Crucially, though, the thinly padded front seats, with integrated headrests, are unique to the coupe. They’re also mounted a touch lower, providing a more sporting driving position; the comparatively high waistline creates an enclosed feeling.
Safety kit reflects Merc’s determination to lead the class; you get seven airbags, including a knee device for the driver, and a drowsiness detector called Attention Assist. Pedestrian protection is addressed by an impact sensor which lifts the bonnet through a mechanical process, as opposed to the pyrotechnic set-up used by rivals.
The engines are a mix of old and new, but all are mated to BlueEfficiency measures such as brake energy recuperation, a water pump that only operates when required rather than being primed permanently, and low-resistance tyres.
The gearbox choices depend on the engine; we tried the mid-range 3.5-litre V6 petrol motor mated to Merc’s seven-speed 7G-tronic automatic, which gets remote paddles behind the steering wheel. Other engines get a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic.
What’s it like?
Fire up the V6, a direct-injection unit offered exclusively in the CLS350 CGI until now, and it’s wonderfully isolated from the cabin at idle. It’s also terrifically responsive and extremely smooth across a wide range of revs. Peak torque of 269lb ft doesn’t arrive until 3000rpm, which means you need to work it to unleash its full potential. Still, there’s sufficient shove to fire the 1670kg E350 CGI off the line with gusto; Mercedes-Benz claims 0-62mph in 6.5sec.
The problem is that it doesn’t possess much character, either aurally or mechanically, even if you explore the upper reaches of its range.
If the engine lacks charisma, the chassis is superbly sorted. We rate the new E-class saloon’s dynamics, and the coupe makes for an even more committed drive; unique spring and damper rates add a greater degree of body control without upsetting the maturity of its ride. All models come as standard with Agility Control, where the dampers are automatically optimised to the road conditions via a bypass valve that prevents the oil in each unit from surging.
The steering weights up well with speed to facilitate responsive and fluid progress over winding back roads. It’s backed up by excellent body control and a front end that, even on standard rubber, resists understeer well when pushed.
But it’s on the motorway where this car excels. Stability is superb and the lowest drag co-efficient of any current production car helps to take overall refinement well into the upper luxury league.
Should I buy one?
What Mercedes has achieved with the E-class coupe is to position it beyond the main perceived competition, namely the Audi A5 and BMW 3-series coupe. It’s a bigger, more mature and higher quality car than the one it replaces.
If history is any guide, then the V6 petrol E350 CGI will be sought after. But it’s not the pick of the range. That accolade rests with the four-cylinder common-rail diesel-engined E250 CDI, which offers similar levels of real-world performance and much better fuel economy to boot.
Whatever the engine, it’s the sophisticated and unruffled nature of the E-class coupe that really sets it apart. But can you fall in love with the looks?