Expert Reviews

Test Drive: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe

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For 2018, the E-Class Coupe has ditched its C-Class-based digs for a platform more closely related to its sedan brethren. It’s now got a 111 millimetre longer wheelbase, is 127 mm longer overall and is a tiny bit wider, too. On top of all that, the E Coupe now has one of the prettiest bodies in the luxury coupe game.

The E400 delivers dynamically to the point where you start thinking, “Hell no, I’m not going to keep letting the computers have all the fun.”

Deftly walking the line between the compact, lithe C-Class Coupe and the opulent S-Class Coupe in terms of styling, I never got tired of taking in the E400’s great lines. There’s no B-pillar, either, providing a wonderfully clean finish to the side windows and profile view. The diamond grille and LED headlamps that adorn the front fascia, meanwhile, combine to form a more cohesive and chiseled look than what’s seen on the S, a by-product of the E’s more compact dimensions. I like that. Not sure how I feel about the crystal-look taillamps, though. They seem a little gaudy, a somewhat-forced allusion to the Swarovski crystal headlamps on the S-Class.

Swing open one of those long doors on our tester, and you’re greeted with a wonderful contrasting interior; dark open-pore wood is complimented by silver detailing on the vent roundels, switchgear and speaker grilles. That last touch is one of my favourites in the cabin – I could stare at those gorgeous Burmester twin door speakers all day. You really get the sense you’re observing a rich, luxurious home speaker system when you take these in; running your fingers over those grilles makes for a nice 4D experience when it comes to the interior environs as they are truly an exercise in high-quality fit and finish. Lovely.

They form the perfect microcosm. All the surfaces frequented by fingers, palms, or errant forearms are finished so you almost want to spend more time running your hand over the materials than actually driving the car. The armrests (heated in my car – nice), the wonderfully chunky and leather-wrapped steering wheel, the leather used to coat the seats themselves – all top quality and befitting of a luxury coupe.

More so than just looking the part, the seats that come with our tester’s Sport Package are properly high-bolstered. The E 400 walks the line between performance and everyday motoring and these seats help it do so. They can also massage you, which is nice if a little on the gimmicky side, as seat massage systems often are. The seatback bolsters are the real standouts here, squeezing your ribcage in a leather-coated bear hug that is sure to keep your torso settled as the goings get a little more windy, a little more gnarly.

The rear seats aren’t quite as aggressive, of course – this is a two-door, after all and those seats don’t tend to get used all that much – but they are more bucket-like than what’s typically seen in this class, so those occupants do get the benefit of a little more support. The fact that they sit a little lower means there’s a touch more headroom back there, while the longer wheelbase means more rear legroom, as well. Still wouldn’t ask any adult friends to spend too much time back there, of course, and it’s not easy to get back there in the first place.

The other big add when it comes to the interior environs is the tech on-hand. A traditional gauge cluster comes standard, but can be upgraded to a modifiable 12.4-inch display to compliment a standard infotainment display of equal length. Both are installed under a single pane of glass to make it look like the dash is just one big, long screen. It’s very slick and – happily – not quite as reflective as I thought it would be. Add my car’s optional head-up display, and you’ve got more displays than the Millennium Falcon.

The standard central display is where you’ll find your back-up cam (upgraded with a 360-degree view on my car) and of course your infotainment, which has support for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As usual, those are nice services to have but I do wish they were just a little less finicky. CarPlay, which should be plug-and-play, often wasn’t, causing me to employ numerous combinations of re-starting my phone, unplugging it, or re-starting the car. One day, CarPlay will work without a hitch. With the E400, however, that day is not today. The central screen is also where you get to choose the ambient colours for your interior – I prefer neon purple – from an entire colour swatch, because pre-set ambient colour choices are so 2016. It’s all controlled via either a touchpad or scroll-wheel, mounted in tandem where the shift lever would normally reside.

Your in-gauge display, meanwhile, is controlled via wheel-mounted buttons… but not entirely. The main button on each spoke is actually a touchpad/button combination, and it took me a while to get used to that directional touchpad as it is quite sensitive. Once you do get the hang of it, it does its part to demonstrate how luxurious and technologically advanced the car is overall. Good luck operating it with gloves on, though.

Speaking of advanced technology: this being a modern luxury car, all manner of driver aids are on-hand, thanks in part to my tester’s Intelligent Drive Package. That adds a number of things, but the big one is Mercedes’ Distronic with Steering Pilot cruise control system.

Forget separate settings for adaptive cruise, active lane-keep assist and blind spot system – once you flip the (somewhat short and a bit tough to reach) cruise stalk twice, the system is active, and it covers all of that. Through a number of advanced radar sensors and cameras, everything from speed limit signs, to traffic ahead, to lane markings are detected and responded to, without the driver having to do much at all. Even lane changes are handled semi-autonomously: simply flip the indicator as you normally would, and the car goes ahead and switches as soon as it’s deemed safe to do so by automatically monitoring your blind spots. It’s a weird feeling at first, but once you get comfortable with it you can see why pundit after pundit is heralding the arrival of autonomous driving as if it’s right around the corner.

Thing is, when you decide that all this semi-autonomous is just a little, well, boring and you start to drive in a more traditional manner – that is to say, with your hands on the wheel and your feet on the pedals – the E400 delivers dynamically to the point where you start thinking, “Hell no, I’m not going to keep letting the computers have all the fun.”

Power from the bi-turbo V6 (your only choice in Canada on the E Coupe; you have to think it would have been wise to at least offer the choice of the E Sedan’s four-cylinder turbo) is rated at 329 hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, meaning the E400 gets up and running in an unabashedly sprightly manner. The E Coupe’s available only with AWD in Canada, where it gets 4Matic permanent AWD that can split power 45:55 or 50:50 between the front and rear axles, with available power then being sent to any wheel that needs it. You can pick from four pre-set drive modes, though the throttle and steering sensitivity can be individually set; I spent most of my time in Sport steering with Comfort throttle. Even though Sport is actually the second-most aggressive throttle setting behind Sport+, I found it just a little too aggressive for most everyday driving. Plus, it’s not like Comfort is the tamest setting, either; there’s an Eco setting below that, so even in Comfort you’re still getting a very responsive throttle.

In short, this is a very fast car. The E53 that was unveiled in Detroit will be even faster. Indeed, there were times, with all the drive settings maxed out, that I found myself thinking I was still at the wheel of the E43 sedan version I tested earlier this year, so responsive was the throttle and well-weighted the steering. It’s strange – looking at the E-Class Coupe, I wouldn’t say it jumps out at you as a performance car. Once you’re sat behind the wheel in that deep, cushioned seat on your favourite b-road however, it brings some genuine performance credentials to the table. Add the quick-acting and paddle-operated nine-speed transmission (your only choice), and you’ve got quite the recipe for some real driving fun.

The power is well and good, but I think the most impressive bit for me was the handling. The steering is an electronically assisted set-up (because of course it is), but when left in the Sport setting, there’s enough feel there to do it justice and provide some proper response through your palms and fingertips. The optional adjustable dampers our car had are the icing on the cake; there are three levels available but much like the throttle settings, I took things down a notch and settled on Sport setting as Sport+ is just too firm for everyday use. Even a spirited jaunt on one of my favourite driving roads proved a little too gnarly for my back when in Sport+. It seems that’s a setting that should only really be used on a track or a road you know to be glassy-smooth.

In addition to the dampers, our car also had the optional air suspension system, on-hand to keep the E400 as flat as possible through the corners as well as during braking and acceleration manoeuvres. While it’s a nice feature to have, I’ve driven modern Mercedes without it and I don’t know how much I actually missed it in those cars. Sure, an S-Class buyer would likely never go without it, but if I were given the choice for my nicely tossable E400 between only having the air suspension or only having the adjustable dampers, I think I would have opted for the latter. It is a bit of a shame, though, that the two features are separate. It would have been nice to see the air suspension wrapped up with the dampers in the latter’s Sport Package.

Overall, however, as much as I enjoyed the E43 sedan, the E400 Coupe left me nearly equally impressed. Sure; you don’t get quite the drama of the more powerful engine and various go-fast exterior bits, but with the E400 Coupe, you’re still getting a bi-turbo V6 engine, nine-speed automatic transmission and world-class interior, plus that great coupe styling. That’s a mighty fine alternative, in my book.

Engine Displacement 3.0L
Engine Cylinders V6
Peak Horsepower 329 hp @ 5,250–6,000 rpm
Peak Torque 354 lb-ft @ 1,600–4,000 rpm
Fuel Economy 11.9/9.0/10.6 L/100 km city/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space 425 L
Model Tested 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe
Base Price $72,700
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $2,495
Price as Tested $88,195
Optional Equipment
$12,900 – Air Suspension $900; Technology Package (heads-up display, 360-degree camera, active multi-beam LED headlights, adaptive high beam assist) $2,600; Sport Package (multicontour front seats with massage, dynamic body control, 19-inch AMG twin-spoke wheels) $2,700; Intelligent Drive Package (advanced driving assist, distronic plus with steering assist, drive pilot, traffic sign assist, active lane-change assist) $2,700; Premium Package (heated front armrests, power trunk, warmth comfort package, hands-free access, digital gauge cluster, Burmester surround sound, illuminated door sills, keyless-go, enhanced heated front seats) $4,000