When he penned the exquisitely styled CLS 500 four-door coupe, in 2004, Mercedes design director, Peter Pfeiffer, established a corporate "look" for Mercedes products that now covers everything from the ultra-luxurious Maybach saloon to the diminutive Smart fortwo…..and everything in between. Pfeiffer retired last year, but his legacy lives on and can be seen in almost every product coming out of Mercedes these days.
Including the new E-Class Coupe, which replaces the CLK 350 Coupe. Although it was conceived by a design committee headed by new design boss Gordon Wagener, Pfeiffer�s influences are unmistakeable. And, in this case, equally stunning. From its "arrowhead" front end to a back deck evocative of some of Mercedes� models of the 1950s, this is a looker. Maybe even prettier than its four-door counterpart. And with an unbelievably low drag coefficient, to boot. According to Mercedes, the new E-Class Coupe has a Cd of just 0.24. To put that into some kind of perspective, the new Toyota Prius slips through the wind with a 0.25 Cd, while a Formula One race car is down around 0.9, depending upon its bodywork. In short, the E-Class Coupe is slick.
"We see this car as a lifestyle object," explained Mercedes Canada manager of product planning, Christopher Goczan, at the Quebec City launch. "It�s something that you want but is more likely to be a primary vehicle because it carries four passengers."
Which is a good thing. The market for upscale two-door coupes in Canada isn�t exactly huge, and most people will opt for a four-door configuration when it comes to their primary form of transport. Goczan sees the Audi A5, Infiniti G37, and BMW 3-series as the major competitors to the E-Class coupe, with the Lexus IS and Saab 9-3 also in the mix. "Coupe buyers tend to be younger than typical Mercedes customers," he adds. "They are completely different creatures."
Sharing its platform and many components with the E-Class sedan, the new Coupe will be offered in Canada in two variants: E350 and E550. The former has Mercedes� ubiquitous 3.5 litre V6, while the latter is handily propelled by a lusty 380-horsepower V8. Both models are chock-a-block with mechanical and engineering features that cover everything from front-end accident avoidance to high-speed cornering stability.
Perhaps the most interesting feature is Mercedes� "Attention Assist" system, which basically monitors the driver, taking note of his/her driving, and evaluating it, with a view to providing a warning at the onset of fatigue or drowsiness. Apparently, a tired driver makes small errors in the way they steer, and the system keeps track of this over a certain period of time, with some 70 different parameters to draw on. Start to drift off and an audible warning will sound. Unlike Volvo�s system, which utilizes a small camera, Attention Assist keeps an eye on the driver via computer. A cute little coffee cup graphic on the instrument cluster lets you know that you are being observed.
This is one of a myriad of high-tech features found on the E-Class Coupe. A few other noteworthy goodies include:
– A dynamic handling package that, at the press of a dash-mounted button, allows the driver to choose from comfort or sport setting. Press the latter and you automatically get faster gearshift changes, increased engine response, tighter steering, and traction control. It�s immediate and noticeable.
– Distronic adaptive cruise control that will both maintain a certain distance from the vehicle in front of you and stop your car if an accident is imminent. It�s also keyed into the Attention Assist system.
– Adaptive High Beam headlights. Utilizing a front-mounted camera, this system will automatically adjust the headlights according to the prevailing driving conditions.
– Agility Control that will automatically increase or decrease the damping action of the shock absorbers during all driving conditions. Hit the corners hard at high speed and it firms everything up, but if you�re cruising through the neighbourhood, it�ll be comfort over speed.
Some of these items are optional, as are a Navi package, upgraded Nappa leather, and a 450-watt sound system. You can also get an AMG package, and this includes 18-inch alloy wheels, bigger rubber, upgraded brakes, different seats, and various interior bits and pieces.
In V6 trim, Mercedes is claiming a 0 – 100 km/h time of 6.4 seconds for the new E-Class Coupe, while the V8 does the same in about 5.6 seconds. Both models have an electronically governed top end of 210 km/h.
And, needless to say, both are an absolute pleasure to drive. This is one of those rare cars that I can find no fault with. It looks like a million Euros, is comfortable in every way, has all kinds of power and handling, stops on a pfennig, and has a presence about it that is beyond price. What�s more, it�s reasonably priced…..on the scale of things. The base V6 version has an MSRP of $58,600, while its V8 brethren starts at $68,200. I never thought I�d hear myself say this about any vehicle over fifty grand, but that�s a pretty good deal. And we can apparently expect a convertible version, probably by mid-2010.
AT A GLANCE
Type: Four-passenger, two-door coupe
Base Price: $58,600 & $68,200
Engine: 3.5 litre V6 & 5.5 litre V8
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Horsepower/Torque: 268 hp @ 6000 rpm/ 258 foot-pounds @ 2400 – 5000 rpm & 382 hp @ 6000 rpm / 391 ft. lb. @ 2800 – 4800 rpm
Fuel Economy (L/100 km): 11.9 city; 7.6 hwy (V6), premium gas.
Alternatives: Audi A5, BMW 3-Series, Infiniti G37 Coupe, Lexus IS, Saab 9-3.
Likes: Power, interior layout, comfort level, exterior styling….everything.
Dislikes: Needs premium gas.