Reclining in resplendent saddle-brown leather seats while scrolling through the glossy 12.3-inch touchscreen of the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E300 Coupe, you may well feel as though you’ve hit peak Mercedes.
The marriage of old-school luxury with modern-day technology is a hallmark of the German brand, and the facelifted E-Class exemplifies this blend.
The E300 on test is the midpoint in the E-Class two-door coupe range, with the entry-level E200 priced from $101,900 before on-road costs, while the top-spec E350 starts at $128,200 before on-road costs.
Meanwhile, the more potent AMG E53 is priced from $162,400 before on-road costs.
If you’re spending over $100,000 on a car, it’s safe to say you want it to feel a little bit special, and the E300 Coupe here certainly delivers on that front.
With sportier exterior styling courtesy of the AMG Line enhancement pack that’s now standard across the range, plus the caramel-hued leather interior (a no-cost option), huge digital displays and range of overachieving driver technology features, it can feel at times like a sexy spaceship.
It also delivers on the pricing front, with a hefty price tag that kicks off from $117,400 before on-road costs.
Our test vehicle, however, was fitted with the optional $1300 Innovation package (which adds an interior assistant and augmented reality navigation) and a $6600 Vision package (with sunroof, head-up display and 13-speaker sound system). That brings the grand total to $125,300 before on-road costs as tested.
If that’s just a little too high for you, it’s worth noting there’s not much separating the entry-level E200 and the E300 Coupe being tested here. Just one more inch of wheel size, 45kW of power, 50Nm of torque, multibeam LED lights, some metallic paintwork and the inclusion of adaptive air suspension.
To be fair, the E300 certainly looks the part of the expensive car you park in your driveway to impress the neighbours (“This old thing? Oh, it’s just the daily driver!”).
Plus, the Merc’s before-on-roads pricing ($101,900–$162,400) sits neatly in the middle of its key competitors, which include the Audi A5 Coupe ($71,900–$150,900), BMW 4 Series Coupe ($71,900–$159,990) and the Lexus LC500 Coupe ($194,757) – albeit with a slightly higher cost of entry than its BMW and Audi counterparts.
Hidden away under the car’s glossy bonnet is a 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine boasting 190kW of power and 370Nm of torque, which sends power to the rear wheels via a nine-speed automatic transmission.
|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||9.4L/100km|
|ANCAP safety rating||Five stars (awarded 2016)|
|Warranty||5 years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Audi A5 Coupe, BMW 4 Series Coupe, Lexus LC500 Coupe|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$125,300|
Behind the wheel, it’s a cockpit-style experience, with the bucket-style seats erring more on the side of supportive than supple, but offering plenty of configuration with their electronic adjustment. The fat, leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed steering wheel is incredibly satisfying to use and has a substantial, sporty feel that adds plenty of pleasure to freeway driving.
But despite plenty of AMG badging throughout the cabin and some racier design elements, the E300 is a somewhat subdued drive, from its engine note to its acceleration and steering.
The steering is nice and direct yet easily managed and with plenty of accuracy, but it can feel as though it’s lacking in feedback and engagement at times.
Additionally, some may expect the exhaust note to be a little racier – or more noticeable, at the very least. While it does a lovely job of masking any gruffness in the cabin (great for if you prefer your cars more demure), it can lack excitement.
Thankfully, there is the option of popping the car from Comfort mode and into Sport mode, which firms up the steering and makes the engine a little louder, but it still won’t be turning any heads on the street.
Acceleration is even-handed but entirely capable of swiftly and smoothly moving from 50km/h to 100km/h without hesitation.
The ride on the E300’s air suspension is certainly comfortable and well protected, but it’s not perfect. You can feel off-kilter in the cabin going over speed bumps or surfaces that aren’t level, but it is low to the ground so this is somewhat unavoidable.
Despite measuring over 4.8m long, the E300 feels a little more compact from behind the wheel thanks to the lovely direct steering and spritely engine. But the swooping roof line can mean it’s a little harder to gauge where the car starts and ends.
Still, the car’s 11.37m turning circle feels smaller than it is, and the rear-wheel-drive set-up never reveals itself to be incompetent, even when on full lock and in tight streets, dirt roads or wet weather.
Mercedes quotes 8.0L/100km of fuel consumption on a combined cycle, but after 10 days of regular city and freeway driving, punctuated by a four-day weekend touring the Great Ocean Road, the trip computer showed 9.4L/100km.
The car demands 95RON at a minimum, so a mostly urban-based lifestyle could see a few pricey visits to the petrol station.
Getting acquainted with the E300’s comprehensive driver assistance, safety and infotainment functions requires a full day sitting in a quiet spot with uninterrupted focus and plenty of patience. There’s plenty to explore – but there’s plenty to overwhelm you while you’re on the road, too.
The steering wheel controls are particularly challenging – they’re touch-controlled and finished in a glossy black plastic, which makes precision challenging. Getting them to register an increase to the radio volume is tricky, and you might often find yourself increasing the cruise-control speed by 10km rather than 1km.
Other times, the car is a little too smart for its own good. It’s indisputably impressive when the cabin lighting automatically illuminates if it detects movement in a passenger area – particularly handy when you’re rifling through a handbag on the floor while in a dark carpark. However, the central touchscreen has a lengthy list of menu options that aren’t intuitively grouped (at least, in this writer’s opinion), and the sensors all around the car seem to be activated by a gentle breeze, in lieu of an actual obstacle.
You’ll certainly never be left wanting for technology, though, and it’s delivered crisply and glitch-free by the two 12.3-inch screens – one mounted in the centre of the dash, the other directly in front of the driver.
Hidden away in the leather-wrapped centre console is a wireless phone charger, while you can access smartphone integration via a cable and any of the three USB-C points on offer (regular USB users will need an adapter).
Mercedes-Benz is a brand that typically performs well in safety tests, and the E-Class range scores five stars from ANCAP – although it was last tested back in 2016.
Still, all the modern safety features are present and accounted for, with an overhead view 360-degree camera, nine airbags, active cruise control with active lane-keep assist, and even some above-and-beyond features like crash-responsive emergency lighting (activated in an accident), central locking with crash sensor, and active brake assist with cross-traffic function (to prevent crashes at intersections).
The E300 does an excellent job of marrying its inherent spaceship-ness with old-school elegance.
The interior colour of the car on test is primo, and looks elevated when paired with the ash wood trim used as an accent on the centre console and dashboard. Upon entry, the seatbelt holders in the front will immediately launch forward to save you the indignity of scrabbling around behind you for your belt to buckle up.
On two-door, four-seat coupes, you’d expect the back seat to be more of a consolation prize than a properly hospitable environment, but the E300 does a solid job of offering a bit of incentive to ride in the rear.
To gain access to the rear row, you use a lever to move the backs of the front seats forward, prompting the car to kick in and do the rest – automatically driving the seat base forward to allow you to get in without sacrificing any dignity. It will then do the same in reverse once you’re safely in the back seat.
The rear bench is strictly a two-seater, with the space where the middle rear seat is meant to go dedicated to fixed cupholders, which means you’ve got a little more elbow room to play with.
Unfortunately, head room is limited because of the sloped roof, although the panoramic sunroof included as part of the Vision package provides the illusion of space. Knee and toe room aren’t generous but sufficient, although the hard seat-backs might become uncomfortable after a certain amount of time.
Still, there are air vents, storage bins on either side of the seats, and ISOFIX points for each of the rear seats.
While everything is beautifully put together, a slight squeak did emerge from somewhere unidentifiable in the rear right seat a little further into our loan period. Specifically, the noise cropped up after some necessary fiddling with the second row to accommodate some unusual cargo.
While it’s not immediately obvious that you can even fold the rear seats, let alone how to do it, a quick Google search (proof that owners manuals are now a last resort) reveals that they’re lowered with a 40:20:40 split via levers tucked away in the boot.
This substantially increases the breadth and depth of the already reasonable 425L boot. So much so that during the test we were able to fit two very large boxes in the car, despite immense doubts and seemingly insurmountable odds.
That boot space comes at the cost of a spare wheel or even a tyre repair kit, with the E300 riding on run-flat tyres instead.
Just as the 2021 Mercedes-Benz E300 Coupe manages to marry its futuristic technology with its old-school styling and refinement, it’s also able to serve as something of a genre-bender. A sports car erring on the subtle side due to its subdued driveline, and spacious enough to overcome its coupe limitations to serve as a functional grand tourer, it’s a lovely midpoint in the Mercedes range.
And not a bad way to make your neighbours jealous.