The German firm sacrifices more than doors with its cut-down E-class
Coupés are curious things. Smaller and more cramped than the saloons on which they are based, they are rarely any quicker or better to drive and usually cost more. By any objective measure, they are just plain worse. This coupé version of the otherwise class-leading Mercedes-Benz E-class is a classic example. Tested here in top-of-the-range AMG Line specification (which in no way means it’s a proper AMG model), it feels derivative and superfluous.
To be fair, there is no direct equivalent E-class saloon, the nearest being the E43 with the same turbocharged 3-litre motor but producing 395bhp instead of the rather less punchy 328bhp of this coupé. As a result the saloon is not only much quicker, but also £6655 more expensive. But I still hoped the coupé might have the full complement of E-class strengths that have made it such a fearsomely able presence in the marketplace.
But it doesn’t quite get there. To me a Mercedes coupé costing the wrong side of 50 grand should be a languid, effortless device, but its V6 motor isn’t particularly characterful and needs to be pushed hard to do its best work. One reason for this is that despite its abbreviated dimensions, halved door count and smaller boot, the coupé is actually a few kilos heavier than the more powerful E43 saloon.
And it doesn’t ride like an E-class saloon either, despite air suspension as standard. Something in the suspension tune and the shorter wheelbase robs it
of that ability to appear to resurface the road you find in even the cheapest, coil-sprung E-class saloon. It doesn’t ride badly, but it is no longer exceptional.
Which would have been fine if there was a commensurate improvement in the car’s handling, but again something is missing. Make no mistake, the E400 coupé offers a fast, accurate and exceptionally stable route from one place to the next, but will it leave you with a grin splitting your face? A hint
of a smile playing on your lips perhaps, but not much more.
Its strength lies in its static appeal. I think it looks terrific, particularly from the back. There’s room for four adults on board and the cabin design – from the excellent seats to a dashboard of wide screens – is better than anything else this kind of money can buy.
But when I first drove an E-class saloon I was aware of new standards being set not just in the showroom but also on the road. I never got that, nor even close to it, with the coupé.
The E-class coupé is a well-engineered, capable car and more reasonably priced than you might expect given the equipment it has as standard. But there’s no magic here and it squanders the raw material upon which it is based. It is, in other words, a coupé. And it can add its name to the long list of other coupés that have failed to set the same standards as their less glamorous but more effective four-door brethren.