Glückssträhne – a stroke of luck – is one of many German compound words that you could describe Stuttgart’s success with over the past twelve months of launches. “It must drive Audi and BMW crazy,” said a rival marketing chief recently about Mercedes-Benz’s seemingly effortless ability to create desirable new derivatives of existing models. Witness the new E-class Coupé, the sixth model to be spun off last year’s new E-class chassis and, coincidentally, the sixth-generation of elegant E-class coupés that started with the Paul Bracq-designed W114 version in 1968.
The latest model goes on sale this April, priced from £39,305 for the VED and Benefit-in-Kind tax-friendly 191bhp/295lb ft E220d model, which has a 2.0-litre diesel engine. It’s joined by the E300 with a 242bhp/273lb ft 2.0-litre petrol engine from £39,855, while £49,305 gets you the four-wheel-drive E400 with a 328bhp/354lb ft, twin-turbo V6 petrol engine. The Coupé is about £3,500 more than the equivalent E-class saloon and £665 more than the outgoing model.
You should note, however, that while the diesel E220d has a list price below the luxury-car tax threshold, its £160 road fund licence pushes it over £40,000, so you’ll still have to pay an extra £310 per year for the first five years of ownership.
It’s far more than a coupé-bodied E-class saloon, however, as its dimensions have little in common with the rest of the E-class range. It is longer and slightly wider than the E-class Saloon and has a shorter, unique wheelbase.
Peter Kolb, overall testing chief for the E-Coupé, explains that the underbody is in three parts, with the front and middle sections from the E-class saloon and the rear section from the smaller C-class – the previous E-Coupé was pretty much all C-class underneath.
In fact the new E-Coupé shares quite a lot with the forthcoming E-Cabriolet, one of the stars of the Geneva motor show. It’s 55kg heavier than the saloon mainly because of the additional body strengthening to make up for the pillar-less construction and also a higher standard specification, which includes LED headlamps.
Kolb says the changes over the saloon include a 68mm wider track, 15mm lower ride height and stiffer bounce and rebound damping. “We are looking for exclusive and sporty driving behaviour,” he says, “but with lower wind and tyre noise.”
It’s handsome, too, although the rearmost side window (a consequence of the longer and pushed-back roofline) jars and you’d probably want to opt for smoked rear windows to hide it. As well as new LED rear lamps, there’s one option that reinforces that this is a Mercedes-Benz.
Magic Vision Control is not, as might be expected, a set of X-ray glasses but water-fed and heated wiper blades, which ensure a clean sweep in all weathers thanks to software which measures the temperature to ensure the correct heat is applied to the water, while a calendar algorithm ensures the correct amount of water is delivered through the laser-cut ducts (one set for the upsweep, another for the down), according to the season.
The interior has received a heavy design upgrade over the saloon, with a wavy wooden dash panel that links into the doors. It’s dotted with ventilators with an attractive turbine design and Mercedes’s double-screen instrument panel and centre console display fit beautifully into the whole design.
Is it over-the-top naff? I thought so as I climbed aboard, but after half an hour it feels simply charming. As one journalist commented: “If this was a Thirties Packard, we’d be swooning over it.”
The seats, with their vertical stitching and heavily waisted shape, are also lovely to behold, but not quite as good to sit in as they lack some side support, but remained comfortable over a two-hour drive. And thanks in part to the extra wheelbase, the rear seats have plenty of leg room, although six-foot adults will find their scalps perilously close to the headlining.
The double dashboard is at the forefront of display technology, up there with Volvo, Tesla and Audi. It’s not a touchscreen, but there are enough control interfaces for it not to matter. The graphics are brilliant and the Garmin-based satnav is clear and fast.
The trouble is that you pay a lot for the pleasure. Comand (Cockpit Management and Data system) online, which increases the standard 8.4in satnav screen to 12.3in, costs £1,495 and the second 12.3in screen costs another £495.
As with most German luxury cars, it’s possible to spend a king’s ransom on options. The warmth pack, which provides all-round heated seats and armrests, costs £795. Driver assistance, which gives a kind of semi-autonomous piloted driving with steering assistance, plus speed and distance assistance, costs £1,695. Indeed, loaded with all the options, our base model diesel test car’s price shot from £40,135 to £48,890.
Mercedes’s new 2.0-litre diesel is at the forefront of what these oil-burners can do. You can feel some vibration through the steering wheel and pedals, but once up to cruising speed you’d want for little.
The peak torque is available from only 1,600rpm so the excellent nine-speed automatic gearbox isn’t forever changing down when you accelerate (though it’s little hardship if it does) and even if the EU Combined fuel economy of 70.6mpg is a bit pie-in-the-sky, we managed a solid 44mpg whizzing around the roads of Catalonia.
Compared with the slightly buzzy 2.0-litre petrol, the diesel would be the one to have, but the best choice is the E400 V6, which has a good turn of speed, four-wheel drive and a great engine note – plus it has the large-screen Comand system as standard. It’s £50,775’s worth of lovely, however, and that’s going to be a deal-breaker for most.
There are two suspension set-ups for UK-bound cars. So-called Agility Control has conventional steel springs with adjustable dampers, while air suspension is standard on the E400 and a £1,495 option on the other models.
On air suspension the Coupé behaves much as the sublime E-class Saloon, but there’s a new-found edginess to the ride and handling, not all of it in a good way. I applaud the absence of a lumpy, pitching ride, which dogs some saloon derivatives, while the turn-in to corners feels sharper and the body control more accurate.
However, the ride is (slightly) more unsettled than in the Saloon, and sharp-edged bumps are not traversed as smoothly as in the four-door car. The adjustable dampers bring a more direct feeling to the ride, but don’t add much to the handling. Variable-ratio steering is slightly tweaked for the Coupé, and feels marginally more direct, but hasn’t much more feedback.
To drive, it’s almost as if Mercedes engineering has decided what’s good for you and you don’t get to question it. That’s not to say the Coupé isn’t a brilliant drive, it is, especially the E400, which swoops through corners with as fine a chassis balance as you could wish for. It’s just that some rivals, while not quite as refined, offer a slightly purer connection between steering and road.
I don’t suppose that matters much to the average E-class Coupé owner, who’s enjoying one of the Ritziest facias in the business and an unrivalled mix of quality components and construction, human-machine interfaces and refinement, in an all-round great-looking car. Seems like job done for Mercedes.