Expert Reviews

First Drive: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Coupe

The two-door luxury coupe has always been an important part of the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, and while these trinkets don’t generate massive sales for the German automaker, they do sprinkle a dash of breezy glamour atop the C-, E- and S-Class model lines. Arriving early July in Canadian showrooms is the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Coupe with a starting price of $72,700.

First and foremost the 2018 E-Class 4Matic Coupe is a marvellous luxury conveyance with a dash of sport.

Unlike the previous E-Class Coupe that was in fact based on C-Class architecture, this new model rides on the recently launched E-Class’ bones, and bristles with all that mid-size sedan’s tech. Of course, coupes are all about the style, and this E falls nicely in line between the elegant C and S two-doors.

By snipping 66 mm (2.6 inches) out of the E sedan’s wheelbase, Mercedes design chief Gorden Wagener and team have fashioned a well-proportioned coupe that shows elemental purity and real presence. From the bold upright snout, it sweeps back to a steeply raked windshield that blends into the roofline, tapering down to a clean rear fascia adorned with slim LED taillights.

Call this an antidote to the recent spate of bizarrely over-styled creations coming from Japan. The E-Class Coupe embraces simple elegance and timeless proportions.

All Canadian cars get standard AMG styling (optional in the US) that bestows 18-inch alloys, a “Diamond Grille” with chrome pins, racy body bits, upgraded braking and Benz’s signature twin power ridges on the hood. The only off-putting feature is the small non-retractable rear quarter window that disrupts the greenhouse’s profile, but is apparently necessary to allow for the slim C-pillar.

Full LED lighting is standard, and there’s an optional Multibeam upgrade featuring 84 individual elements per side, that – among other things – bend the beam into corners. The rear lights get a new “crystal” treatment with an intriguing granular look.

Canadian cars gets standard 4Matic all-wheel drive and, for now, the E-Class coupe comes in one potency level. Under the hood is a 3.0L twin-turbo direct-injected V6 that makes 329 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 345 lb-ft of torque from a low 1,600 rpm. Transmission duties are handled by the 9G-Tronic nine-speed with a fuel-saving “sailing” feature wherein it shifts to neutral when coasting.

Working our way through downtown Vancouver in a gorgeous deep green metallic specimen on optional 19-inch alloys, Benz’s new coupe did garner its fair share of second glances. It glides through the mayhem with the expected smoothness, isolation and regency of a high-end Mercedes-Benz vehicle.

The coupe’s interior looks to be lifted right out of the S-Class, and indeed, the design, workmanship and material quality are stunning. The new-style air vents that mimic a turbine are fab. Standard fare includes swaths of dark ash open-pore wood, heated leather front seats with memory, navigation, panoramic sunroof, SiriusXM, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. If you’re truly bored one evening, there are 64 hues of interior ambient lighting to choose from.

Atop the centre stack is a pin-sharp 12.3-inch display; and while an analogue instrument cluster is standard, all cars at this launch event had the optional 12.3-inch Widescreen Cockpit with three selectable display styles: classic, sport and progressive. You will want this, and will probably get it, as Widescreen Cockpit is part of the $4,000 Premium Package that Mercedes-Benz product manager Mike Maduro says will have a 95 to 99 percent take rate. This package also adds Burmester audio, power trunk with foot activation, proximity key, enhanced heated front seats and armrests and illuminated kick plates. The Premium Package is also necessary if you want any of the other option packages.

But, gasp, you can’t get a heated steering wheel because the AMG flat-bottom units don’t come with that most fantastic feature.

We could write a whole book just on the safety tech and semi-autonomous capability of this 2018 E-Class Coupe. If you do opt for the Intelligent Drive Package, know that your fetching two-door sends out more radar and ultrasonic waves than the Pentagon. It gets 360-degree coverage, and the stereo camera at the top of the windshield can peer down the road for half a kilometre. The coupe will follow traffic; steer itself (for a bit) ; nudge you back in line if you stray from your lane; change lanes on its own when you signal; mitigate bad situations by assisting with braking and emergency steering maneuvres; park itself; and do its very best to protect you by closing the windows, cinching the seatbelts, adjusting the seats, and more, should a collision or crash be imminent. As yet, there is no upward pointing radar in the event of a drone or seagull attack.

From the “How did they think of that?” file, Pre-Safe Sound sends a high-volume blast of pink noise through the audio speakers in the milliseconds before a crash. This preconditions the ears to limit the damage done by high-pressure sound levels of an accident.

Phew. Let’s go for a drive to clear the head. Or, more specifically, a cruise, as that’s what this ritzy coupe is really all about. Yes, it will blast to 100 kilometres in 5.3 seconds, but first and foremost the 2018 E-Class 4Matic Coupe is a marvellous luxury conveyance with a dash of sport. It is not an edgy apex-hunting sport coupe with a few opulent lashings.

In other words, its on-road comportment is perfectly realized for its mission statement. Know there will be a hotter AMG-badged version of this coupe down the road.

Our first leg of the media driving event takes us north along the BC coast to Squamish, and then up the Sea-to-Sky Highway to Whistler. This is where the coupe shines, wafting along sweeping blacktop with the spectacular scenery all around. Grand Touring defined. You feel coddled and privileged in this cabin – more so when spec’ing Designo upgrades that include special Nappa upholstery, different woods and unique colour combos.

There are four driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Sport Plus) that alter throttle response, steering feel and shift mapping. If the car is equipped with the Sport Package (19-ich alloys, multi-contour front seats with massage and Dynamic Body Control), the damping also firms up accordingly. Our testers all were fitted with the base adaptive damping that did a marvellous job of smoothing out surfaces while keeping a check on any untoward body motion.

Some luxury car manufacturers have forgotten how to tune a quiet, compliant ride. Apparently Mercedes-Benz has not.

The multi-contour front seats hug in all the right places, and unlike the cramped rear quarters of the outgoing E-Class Coupe, this 2018 version provides adequate legroom and headroom for all but the tallest back-seat customers.

You can drive this coupe quickly, but it doesn’t encourage such behaviour. The steering is a tad numb and the 3.0L V6 is not particularly smooth or sonorous in the upper reaches of the tachometer. Dial it all back a notch, and car and driver are both happier. The nine-speed auto is all but unnoticeable in its operation, such is its smoothness.

All testers here were fitted with the top-spec $6,900 Burmester 3D Surround audio that, with 1,450 watts, 15 amplifiers and 23 speakers, is a true sonic wonder. Not merely loud (although it can be), the system is beautifully tuned to create clear and natural sound.

It was a long day in the saddle, but never did we feel stressed, sore or tired. Indeed, the 2018 reboot of the E-Class Coupe has, er… booted this two-door up a few notches in opulence, quality, style and content. Is the S-Class Coupe just too big? Consider the E 400 Coupe then. It need make no apologies, running as it does with its big brother in just about everything but size and silky V8 power.