I don’t know whether having your mum and dad pine over a car makes it more desirable or not. My initial thought would be no, unless you’ve got particularly groovy parents. But that’s exactly what happened when I rolled up in the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe.
It’s easy to see why they would – this thing is stunning to look at. It appears, at least on face value, to be a luxury sports cruiser, the type of car that would look right at home parked out the front of the Radisson Plaza as it would in front of the holiday house down the coast.
You’d want to be readily able to afford those sorts of indulgences to get into this range-topping E-Class Coupe from Mercedes-Benz, the E400 4Matic, which is priced at $145,900 plus on-road costs. And that’s the price of the one you see here, which, refreshingly for a premium maker, had no options fitted at all. And, to my eye at least, it looks that sum of money every day of the week, both inside and out.
“Opulent” was the descriptor dolled out by one CarAdvice employee, Mat McNay, who reckoned this was the type of car that “has all the bells and whistles you could ever want including those you don’t want and will never need”.
He’s about bang-on with that. This thing is packed with kit, including some cool-but-questionable items like the configurable colour ambient lighting that allow you to choose from 64 colours for your dash and door illumination.
Other standard fare includes 20-inch AMG wheels with run-flat tyres and a tyre pressure monitoring system, a Burmester sound system with 19 speakers, a panoramic sunroof, tinted rear glass, a head-up display, heated front seats, a sports exhaust system, and full LED headlights with auto high-beam.
The safety situation is extensive, too, with autonomous emergency braking, active lane-keeping assist, adaptive cruise control with Drive Pilot semi-autonomous tech, rear cross-traffic alert with auto-brake, a 360-degree camera system with front and rear parking sensors, and nine airbags (dual front, front side, rear side, curtain and driver's knee).
That sum also buys you the most potent E-Class Coupe engine on offer, a 3.0-litre bi-turbo V6 petrol engine with a stonking 245kW of power and 480Nm of torque. The engine is mated to a nine-speed automatic transmission, driving power to Benz’s 4Matic all-wheel-drive system.
It is an epic engine, one that will launch you down the road at silly speeds without a sense of strain. It is the older generation V6, to be replaced by a new-gen in-line six in the future, but that doesn’t mean it is behind the times in its performance offering.
Mercedes-Benz claims 5.2 seconds from 0-100km/h, and it seems totally plausible based on the tried-and-tested seat-of-the-pants feel, with linear response across the rev range. The automatic is brilliant, shuffling through gears with rapid shifts and hanging on when you think it should when you’re pushing it. In more sedate driving, the drivetrain is delightful – smooth, but punchy when you need it. The fuel use claim is 8.5 litres per 100 kilometres, and we saw 9.9L/100km across a mix of situations.
Indeed, the powerplant is somewhat at odds with the rest of the drive experience – because, theoretically, it could be at home in a more performance-oriented application. But, the E400 is much more a grand tourer, definitely a cruiser rather than a bruiser. With that high-tech driver assist tech on board, it makes sense more as the type of car that can kill kilometres, though we found that the steering assist can ping-pong you in your lane a little.
That comes down to the fact it is so refined, and so much more about being an executive express than a thug’s hammer. The all-wheel-drive allows immense traction, even on slippery surfaces, and the adaptive suspension is aimed more at ride comfort than outright body control, even in the sportiest drive mode (Sport+).
It is assured, fleet-footed and predictable, no doubt, though as we’ve found with other fast Benzes in the past, there’s a touch of a floaty feeling to its air suspension setup, and it can feel a little heavy in the bends, not quite tucking in to corners like you might want, or expect.
Indeed, we noted some suspension wallow and wobble over mid-corner bumps, which upset the body of the car where other, similar vehicles have tracked true. Over consistent pockmarks the body doesn’t settle as it should, either, with some side-to-side jostle making it feel a little uncertain of itself.
The brakes are soft, too, lacking response or feel, and while the steering is totally fine, it is light and doesn’t push the boundaries for involvement.
Each to their own, but for a sleek and stylish coupe with those sorts of outputs, some of us were left wanting a bit more drama – you feel a little removed from the experience, as though you’re floating along with the car rather than living the drive.
I mean, you could get a far more sporting option for a lot less money in the form of the Audi S5 Coupe, which is also an all-wheel-drive coupe, and it just so happens to have more power (250kW/500Nm) and costs $105,800. Or perhaps you might like to consider a BMW 440i Coupe, at $99,900, with similar power (240kW/450Nm). Nonetheless, both are noticeably smaller and being one class size down, offer far less in terms of technological innovations inside and out.
On the flipside, the hushed nature of the E400 makes it an ideal car for a long weekend away. You certainly don’t feel fatigued after spending a few hours at the wheel, and that partly comes down to its gracious and glorious interior.
It is plush, there is no argument, with its dual 12.3-inch high-definition screens dominating the technical yet tasteful cabin. The one in front of the driver is configurable to show different instrument cluster designs, and you control the appearance using the buttons on the steering wheel – which can take a little bit of getting used to.
The middle screen is the Comand Online infotainment system control centre. You control it with the strange codpiece controller between the front seats, which is something I still struggle to accustom to even after extensive exposure. The menu system is complicated, too – I find myself wishing it were simpler to navigate, with menus upon menus making it a little distracting to use on the move.
There are terrific design features, such as the array of vents, that ambient lighting setup, and the black ash dash finish. There’s good storage, including a large centre bin with twin USB ports, and large door pockets up front.
The seat comfort is very good in the front, while at the rear it is roomy, but not perfect.
The back seat is easy to access, even for bigger than average adults, although there are only two rear seats able to be used, and while toe-room and legroom is good, headroom is a bit tight. There are no rear grab handles, which is a pain, and while the rear seat is a 40:20:40 setup, the middle bit isn’t an arm-rest – it’s more of a ski port.
So, what do we make of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic? It’s hard to say, definitively. It is, as we said, an eye-catching and undeniably luxurious offering, something that certainly has heaps of punch and makes a strong argument as a primo cruiser.
An out-and-out performance coupe, it ain’t – but an appealing car for mums and dads? One hundred per cent.
But, I’ve got to say, the smarter money may be spent at one of the other German brand’s showrooms. I know that’s what I’d be doing.
Click the Gallery tab above for more images by Sam Venn.