REVIEW DATE: 25 Jun 2010
Mercedes does sporty in a typically understated way with its E-Class Coupe. June Neary reports.
I like a bit of sportiness in a car as much as the next person but too much can become tiresome. What with the roaring engine, the snappy responses and the jiggly suspension, it's enough to bring on a migraine. There's obviously plus side to sporty cars as well and following a short lie down in a darkened room, you can appreciate the low-slung shape and the nimble handling. The trick is to find the car with just the right about of sportiness for your personal tastes and I may have just located mine. It's the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe. We all know that the E-Class is a large Mercedes-Benz executive saloon and if we didn't, we do now. The Coupe version is a two-door model, as coupes tend to be, but it's also a good deal more compact and aesthetically pleasing than the four-door, or the estate for that matter. This isn't a small car mind. It's noticeably bigger than the old CLK that it replaced and there are four usable seats inside but the low suspension and the curving roofline contribute to a sporty ground-hugging look.
The interior design is largely carried over from the saloon and so is much of the advanced technology that defines the E-Class model line. The control system with its rotary dial on the centre console marshals the various functions of the infotainment system which can be upgraded via the options list to offer the full array of navigation and entertainment features. What's different is the lower seating position which manages to make you feel part of the car without making entries and exits undignified. It's perfectly possible for a couple of adults to sit in the back, even if they won't be over furnished with leg or headroom, and there's also a usefully large boot. This is my kind of sportscar. A vast array of safety equipment is included on the E-Class Coupe with Mercedes employing sensors, cameras and radar systems to turn the E-Class into an 'intelligent partner' for its driver. Many of the more advanced features are restricted to the options list but to give you an idea of the car's potential for keeping its occupants out of trouble, here's a rundown of the cleverest systems. Attention Assist monitors 70 different parameters to identify driver drowsiness and warn if it is detected. Pre-Safe detects an imminent collision and primes the seatbelts and airbags so that they can work more effectively in the event. Distronic Plus is the radar-guided cruise control system but on the E-Class is can detect a sudden reduction in distance to the car in front and brake to a standstill using the Brake Assist Plus technology. Finally, the Adaptive Main Beam Assist function takes adaptive headlamps to the next level by continuously adjusting the direction of the beam to give the best possible illumination of the road ahead.
The kind of driving experience you can expect rather depends on which engine you decide to go for. Pick one of the V8 petrol options and the E-Class Coupe will take on the air of an intercontinental missile when lower the pedal towards the carpet. A little more sedate and affordable to run are the E350 six-cylinder options in CGI petrol or CDI diesel guise. Both are powerful engines, with the petrol creamy smooth and high revving, the diesel barely any harsher but specialising in low-end torque for wafting about on. Even the four-cylinder engines in the E-Class Coupe turn in impressive performances. The E250 CDI twin turbo diesel is a particularly fine unit with a 204bhp output and a huge 500Nm maximum torque. The Agility Control suspension system is standard on all E-Class Coupe models. It's an electronic system that adjusts the damping force applied according to the prevailing driving conditions. It works a treat, providing comfortable cruising when you want it and firming things up when you feel like taking to the back lanes. You feel quite insulated from the outside world in the E-Class Coupe but it's still a fun car to drive with quick steering, little body roll and plenty of grip. Agility Control sports suspension is an option that firms up the car's ride and on the Sport and high performance models, there's the Dynamic Handling Package which electronically controls the suspension set-up allowing the driver to switch between comfort and sport modes. It works in tandem with the speed-sensitive sports steering that also features on Sport models. The four-cylinder cars get a six-speed manual gearbox while the larger engines are mated to a seven-speed auto.
If you're put off the prospect of owning a coupe by the lack of refinement and comfort that's often prevalent in sporty cars, the E-Class Coupe from Mercedes-Benz could be the answer. It has the sporty feel of a coupe but it's not too overbearing and doesn't come at the expense of the ride quality and hushed cabin you expect in a big Mercedes. It's an elegant looking car and very well finished inside with more space than the majority of coupe models. I certainly enjoyed my time at the wheel.
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