When you think of Mercedes-Benz, you think of the E-Class. Sure, Merc’s big limo-like S-Class remains the flagship of the brand, but it’s the E-Class that most people identify with when thinking of Mercedes-Benz. Or maybe that’s just me.
One thing is certain, the E-Class remains one of Merc’s biggest-selling cars globally, with worldwide sales in 2019 of 418,000. That’s from a total of 2,385,000 cars and SUVs, meaning the E-Class alone represents around 17.5 per cent of total sales for the three-pointed star. Important car in its portfolio, then.
Which is why a new, or in this case facelifted, model is so important for the German brand.
Mercedes says E-Class buyers are among its most loyal customers, typically turning their current E-Class over for a new one every 3.5 years. And that means Merc’ has to get any new – or facelifted – E-Class right.
The good news is the new-for-2021 E-Class has hit a lot of right notes, with a simplified range and a raft of updates that keep the large Benz fresh.
The range has been slimmed down locally, most notably Mercedes-Benz Australia no longer offering any diesel variants.
Instead, the trimmed-down range of sedans, coupes and cabriolets gets underway with the entry-level E200 sedan starting at $96,900 plus on-road costs. That’s a mild price hike ($1365) over the outgoing model. Similarly, the E300 sedan now asks for $117,900 plus on-road costs, an increase of $3965.
|2021 Mercedes-Benz E300 Coupe|
|Engine||2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||190kW at 5800–6100rpm, 370Nm at 1800–4000rpm|
|Drive type||Rear-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||8.0L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.4L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||Five stars (awarded 2016)|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mercedes-Benz C-Class Coupe, Audi A5 Coupe, BMW 4 Series|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$124,000|
The halo car in the range, the Mercedes-AMG E63 S sedan, is now $250,400 plus on-roads, an increase of $2165. The good news, though, is the Mercedes-AMG E53 sedan has plummeted in price, now at $159,900 (plus on-roads), some $13,535 cheaper than previously.
The reason for this dramatic drop? No doubt to plug a gap in the range with the axing of the E450 from local dealerships.
But, thanks to the effects of the global pandemic and disrupted shipping, the new 2021 range of E-Class sedans haven’t made it to Merc’s local press fleet yet, leaving the Coupe to serve as the launch model.
Like the sedan range, the Coupe and Cabriolet ranges have been trimmed down.
The two-door range starts with the E200 priced at $101,900 (plus on-roads), moves up to the E300 Coupe starting at $117,400 and tops out with the Merc-AMG E53 at $162,400. The soft-top range is down to just two, the E300 ($130,900) and the AMG E53 ($170,900). Missing from the two-door line-up are the diesel E220d Coupe and the E450 Coupe and Cabrio.
For the local launch, we were handed the keys to a 2021 Mercedes-Benz E300 Coupe which, when fitted with the optional $6600 Vision pack, is priced at $124,000 plus on-road costs.
From first glance, it’s apparent the 2021 range has received a significant facelift. With the AMG Line body-enhancement pack now standard across the range, the E-Class Coupe offers a sportier countenance thanks to its AMG-spec grille sandwiched between a new headlight design, bulging wheel arches and that long bonnet with its ‘powerdomes’. An aggressive front splitter completes the look.
Out back, it’s a similar story with a new split tail-light design and a sporty-looking diffuser. Sitting on standard 20-inch alloys only adds to the sporty vibe.
As you’d expect, any E-Class is brimming with standard features. The E300 Coupe is no different with a swathe of luxury appointments befitting the nameplate.
Inside, genuine leather greets occupants in a cabin that’s at once typically Mercedes and filled with technology. A 12.3-inch infotainment screen can be operated myriad ways – as a touchscreen, through the touchpad located in the centre console, Hey Mercedes voice commands or via the capacitive pads on the newly designed steering wheel.
The MBUX infotainment system offers native satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring, as well as a host of in-car comfort options such as ambient lighting.
Flanking the infotainment screen is a digital driver's display that can be configured any number of ways to provide the information you want, such as trip status or navigation. It’s all simple enough to navigate and control, especially with the capacitive buttons and switches on the new-look wheel.
Other key standard highlights include a 360-degree camera, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, 64-colour ambient cabin lighting package, heated electrically adjustable front seats, privacy glass, keyless entry and start, a hands-free boot, multibeam LED headlights, adaptive air suspension and metallic paint.
Our test car was fitted with the $6600 Vision Package that adds a premium 13-speaker Burmester sound system, electric sunroof, and a head-up display.
Safety smarts standard across the E-Class range are taken care of via Merc’s Driving Assistance Package that bundles adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go, active brake assist with cross-traffic detection, lane-change assist, blind-spot assist, and steering assist. The airbag count sits at nine covering both rows.
It’s a cabin to luxuriate in, the quality of materials and fit-and-finish all top notch. Swathes of leather and yielding surfaces offer a plush environment, while the newly designed, flat-bottom steering wheel looks smart.
Gone is the brushed-aluminium look that adorned the spokes of the previous model, and in its place is a gloss-black set-up that looks and feels special. There’s a nice heft to the tiller as well, feeling solid in hand.
There’s the usual array of storage options – central bin, a cubby ahead of the centre console that also houses the wireless charging pad, door pockets with bottle holders, and a pair of cupholders.
Connectivity comes in the form of three USB-C points at the front, so you’ll need the latest smartphones or an adapter. There are no regular USB points.
The front seats are well bolstered and comfortable, electrically adjustable, and covered in premium-looking and feeling real leather. Nice.
The second row is strictly for two, the space between the outboard seats taken up by a solid armrest with a pair of cupholders. This is a four-seater, so if your needs stretch to five, consider the sedan, maybe.
There is a surprising amount of room in the second row – not something that can be said of all coupes. The seats are plush, too, and you sink into them comfortably. A long-haul drive in the back wouldn’t be unreasonable. ISOFIX mounts on the seats are there for those needing to carry little ones.
There are air vents in the second row, and two more USB-C charging points to top up your devices.
The seats fold in 40:20:40 split fashion to free up some cargo space, although Mercedes-Benz doesn’t quote a figure for the larger capacity. With the back seats in use by humans, there’s a decent 425L accessed via an electric boot lid.
Look for a spare tyre of any kind, and you’ll be disappointed. There isn’t one. Nor is there a repair kit. Nope, the E300 rides on runflat tyres measuring 275/30R20 at the rear and 245/35R20 up front.
Push the starter button and there’s a quiet thrum from the 2.0-litre (1991cc) turbocharged four-cylinder petrol found under the bonnet. It’s good for a meaty 190kW at 5800–6100rpm and 370Nm between a very usable 1800–4000rpm.
Mated to Merc’s nine-speed automatic transmission sending drive to the rear wheels, the E300 can complete the benchmark sprint from 0–100km/h in 6.4 seconds.
It’s a nice combination, without ever being thrilling. There’s definitely plenty of poke from the 2.0-litre four, especially with all that torque available quite low in the rev band and then staying on song even as the needle climbs high on the tachometer. That makes for urgent getaways, should you need them, and perhaps more importantly, a good dose of acceleration when already on the move.
Around town, the E300 doesn’t feel its 1780kg kerb weight – light on its wheels and navigating even tight city streets with ease. A turning circle of 11.37m (very precise measurement there, MB) certainly helps. This is a big car, remember, at 4841mm long and 1860mm wide.
On the highway, the big Benz two-door gobbles up the clicks with ease, the 2.0-litre purring away quietly, perhaps a little too quietly. There are drive modes to toggle through, from Comfort to Sport and Sport+ (as well as Individual mode where you can choose your own settings). Certainly, both Sport and Sport+ add some gruffness to the engine note, lending it the tone of a hot hatch, somewhat incongruously.
Sport and Sport+ also sharpen up throttle response and let the transmission off its leash, willing the engine to hold onto revs a little longer. There’s noticeable added heft to the steering, too, which provides nice feedback from the road.
I did find the Sport modes a little annoying after a while, primarily down to the E300 sounding a little too hatchback-like for my liking. This is a large luxury coupe, remember, not a lightweight pocket rocket. Comfort mode is your friend, especially for long loping highway runs.
The E300 rides on adaptive air suspension, and that translates to a lovely cushioning ride in its softest setting. Around town, the big coupe lazily gobbles up below-par road surfaces, while out on the highway, noise intrusion into the cabin is acceptable.
Road joins are dispatched with barely a ripple. Even in the more performance-focussed drive modes, the ride remains composed and compliant – not something we’ve said of every Merc we’ve tested.
Mercedes claims the big coupe will use 8.0L/100km on the combined cycle, and we came close to that claim over our time with the E300. Three days of pure-urban driving netted a return of 10.0L/100km, but that dropped to 8.4L/100km by the time we spent a good fourth day out on the freeway racking up kilometres effortlessly. A 66L fuel tank requires 95RON premium unleaded as a minimum.
Servicing is required every 12 months or a very generous 25,000km, whichever comes first, while Mercedes-Benz now covers the E-Class with its standard five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, bringing it into line with most mainstream manufacturers. Servicing can be prepaid at the time of purchase and will set you back $2450 for three years of scheduled maintenance, $3200 for four years or $4800 for five.
The Mercedes-Benz E-Class continues to define the luxury segment, as it has done through successive generations. While the E-Class sedan might steal the limelight – and the bulk of the money – the E-Class Coupe remains a playful member of the range, and every bit the grand tourer without actually being called that.
If being a grand tourer equates to carrying people over long distances in comfort and style, then the E300 Coupe nails the brief.