Mercedes-Benz has been building jaw-dropping coupes for decades, or at least, for as long as I can remember.
From 1961-71 was a particularly creative period for the German luxury car manufacturer, which saw the likes of the 220SE, 250SE and 280SE coupes released. These were beautifully proportioned two-door luxury rides that quickly found favour with the rich and famous and became style icons of that era.
I’ve got first-hand experience here. My old man must have had a good year and bought himself a used 220SE, though he had to settle for the sedan, but even that was a seriously impressive car and very easy on the eye, particularly with its midnight blue paint job and ivory interior.
Later versions of the mid-size Benz coupes were still attractive, but they didn’t turn heads. They simply weren’t as graceful or anywhere near as desirable as their more coveted predecessors.
Thankfully, though, the iconic German luxury carmaker is back in the styling business, and again building beautiful big coupes for those that favour form over function, though there’s plenty of that too in the latest 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe.
Gone are the sharp angles and heavy creases of past models, replaced by smooth, flowing curves. Even the B-pillars have been ditched in favour of uninterrupted flow. You’d almost call it classic, but there’s just enough high-tech bling on the outside to make it pop.
Special mention goes to the tricky multibeam LED headlamps with 84 individually controllable LEDs, which not only project one of the brightest (and safest) beams available today, they also provide a stunning light show when unlocked – front and rear.
Those same curves also help make the Benz coupe the most aerodynamic car in the segment, earning a coefficient of drag of just 0.25. Even the low lift coefficient at the rear axle of 0.27 is exceptional as well as providing high-speed stability. Astonishing for a car of this size and proportions.
It’s a big car. Longer, wider and taller than the model it replaces. But that’s hardly a surprise, given the outgoing E-Class Coupe was actually built on the C-Class chassis, whereas this new-generation car is built on the latest E-Class sedan platform, though it sits 15mm lower.
Despite the absence of a single sharp line, there’s no hiding its 4.8-metre-plus length. It’s a fully-fledged four-seat coupe with class-leading leg and headroom for rear seat passengers.
It’s nice and wide, too, 74mm more than the old coupe, so even large adults won’t feel like they’re sitting on top of each other – front or back.
And while the boot lid looks to hide no more load space than for a single suitcase, the opposite is in fact true. If 558 litres of boot space mean little or nothing to you (understandably), we managed to squeeze in two full size suitcases as well as two sets of cabin bags into that area and have the pic to prove it.
Better still, the rear seat backs fold forward, allowing for longer objects like skis and boards to be carried for a weekend away. It’s more than just a coupe, really, this is a proper grand tourer in the truest sense of the term.
The cockpit is mighty impressive. Hop in, and you’re immediately greeted with two of the biggest high-res screens available today. They’re fully customisable and each measure 12.3 inches and appear to float in space. They’re also unique in this segment.
It feels less like a traditional automobile cockpit and more like a home cinema with a giant widescreen up front and enough Burmester speaker grilles for the full surround-sound experience from behind the wheel.
That said, the front buckets are superbly moulded with good levels of side bolster. The driving position is surprisingly low, at least for my shorter frame, but that’s the way we like it.
Gorden Wagener, Chief Design Officer Daimler AG calls it most intelligent car on the planet, and while the screens alone might suggest that point, there’s plenty of other kit to quantify that statement.
Drivers can access the screens via a rotary dial, touch pad on the centre console or via a pair of clever touch pads on the steering wheel. Using the left-hand pad, drivers can scroll through menus on the instrument display, while the right pad is used to scroll through the infotainment functions on the right-hand screen.
There’s also a super-bright head-up display, which displays multiple information including speed signs, actual speed and sat nav directions. Choose the ambient light option and you’ll get a choice of up to 64 colours.
The Magic Vision Control washer/wiper system is particularly innovative and useful. The wiper blades are lined with multiple jet washers which eliminate any vision-obscuring water on the windscreen when activated.
There’s also a raft of next-generation driving assistance systems on board the new E-Class Coupe like active lane change assist, evasive steering assist and steering pilot – which can effectively function as an autopilot system in certain situations. It’s very impressive technology.
It’s more than just the technology that excites. Inside, the styling team has also gone to work with a superb blend of curves, materials and innovative design cues, which set this car apart from any of its rivals.
It’s very nautical and the grained wood finish on our test car is simply stunning. It’s unmistakably premium, but the standout feature are the jet turbine-inspired air vents. These truly are wonderful, with even the starter button adopting the turbine-look theme
It seems Mercedes-Benz has applied the same level of design and detail to the engineering of this car, because the E-Class Coupe is an outstanding driver’s car to boot, regardless of whether you choose the E 300 with 2.0-litre turbo-four petrol or the top-shelf E 400 4Matic version with 3.0-litre turbocharged V6 petrol engine.
Australia is also taking the 220d with a new four-cylinder diesel engine, which we weren’t able to sample at the launch in Spain recently.
The journey kicked off from Barcelona Airport and onto a high-speed freeway, where we could wind it up – and that we did.
Right from the outset, the level of refinement in the V6 drivetrain is most noticeable. It’s paired with Benz’s own nine-speed automatic transmission, and the shifts are all but seamless in all modes except Sport+, which we found too manic even for twisty mountain roads.
The bi-turbo six develops 245kW of power and a not too shabby 480Nm of torque, and frankly we were expecting more punch out of the gate, but it tips the scales at relatively hefty 1845kg (160kg more than the E300).
But it's deceptive, because keep your right foot pinned and the big coupe can scoot from standstill to 100km/h in a brisk 5.3 seconds. It soon gets going, though, because all 480Nm comes on song between 1600-4000rpm, and before you know it, you’re hitting two-hundred.
The thing is, even at those speeds, there’s so much more in reserve. Top speed is 250km/h, and I’m convinced it could sit at that speed all day, and never miss a beat. Mid-range acceleration is strong, but never scintillating. But again, it’s the perfectly linear power delivery and general refinement of this powertrain that will excite the market most.
Naturally, the E300 is less fun, but with 180kW and 370Nm it’s not exactly lacking. Especially given its significant weight advantage over its more powerful sibling. This time, Sport and Sport + become the favoured drive modes.
It’s not exactly slow, either. Mercedes-Benz claims it will go from 0-100km/h in a brisk 6.4 seconds, while top speed is the same as the E 400 Coupe. The advantage comes from under the bonnet – the turbo-four weighs a lot less than the V6, so turn-in is even sharper.
Drivers can toggle through various drive modes, too, including Comfort, Eco, Sport, Sport+, as well as an individual setting. The response times for the change in mode are instantaneous, so like us, you’ll find yourself cycling through the settings multiple times on different roads.
We found the Comfort setting perfect for anything other than when we had a good crack on the never-ending twisty-sections above the seaside area of Girona. For these roads, you want a sharper throttle response and a slightly firmer suspension setting. It helps keep the car flat in the bends. Not that the car ever leans, much.
The E-Class’ air suspension system is seemingly able to deal up any level of bump, and the ride can only ever be described comfortable, even over rougher surfaces (in comfort). Switch to Sport mode, and immediately firm’s things up, but even then, there’s still plenty of travel in the dampers.
Handling and body control is exceptional for car in this class. Even in the really tight stuff, travelling at a fair lick, the E400 is a joy to pedal enthusiastically. It still feels like a large car, but the steering, balance and chassis control means you can have some real fun.
The all-electric steering is quick and precise. It’s also relatively light at normal speeds, but weights up nicely whenever you lean on it. It’s also deceptively quick changing direction, too, providing a big confidence boost. I’m truly surprised at how much fun we had in this big coupe on such tight, twisty roads.
Coupes this big aren’t supposed to do this, at least not without an AMG badge.
It comes down to the car’s level of exceptional agility, though I’m certain the low-profile Pirelli P Zero tyres had a lot to do with keeping the Benz so poised. Even when pressed, it was difficult to induce tyre squeal, no matter how sharp you cared to turn the car in.
Of course, the real acid test will come when the car arrives in Australia and we treat it to a good ol' Aussie B-road bashing. But I have a strong feeling the all-new Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe will perform at the same high level as it did in Spain.
And even if you’re not the slightest bit interested in proving its dynamic talents (and it’s got stacks), it’s got plenty going for it in the design department. This is truly a world class effort by Mercedes-Benz.