The Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe Is a Sportscar for the Super-Polite
(Bloomberg) -- The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is a very demure sports car. With a long, fluted body and clean, uninterrupted lines, it doesn’t shred the road like the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, but it will still earn you nods of appreciation from the sidewalk.
Its 329-horsepower V6 biturbo engine is docile, though especially good around corners. The nine-speed automatic shifts quickly and smoothly, with immediate and firm stopping on the adaptive, antilock brakes.
And with active brake assist, congestion emergency braking, adaptive high beam assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and active steering assist, to name a few, it practically feels like a self-driving vehicle in how eager it is to take over every maneuver you might need—or not need.
What it will not do is let you rudely change lanes without notice, or practice any startling driving tactics at speed. “It won’t allow an aggressive New York lane change,” a public relations representative told me during the press drive on Sunday in Connecticut. (He meant that the car will literally resist changing lanes—until you force it over—if it senses that other vehicles are too close for a comfortable pass.)
In this car, you’ll be as crash-avoidant as in any car on today’s market.
The E400 is also slower than what will likely be its biggest competitors, the BMW 3-Series Sedan and 4-Series Coupe and the Audi S5 Coupe. It’s slower even when engaging the “Sport+” version of its five total drive modes, which alters throttle response, shifting, and the available air body control suspension.
You’ll still have plenty of power to work with: Zero to 60 miles per hour takes 5.2 seconds on automatic. For most drivers, that’s plenty. Anyway, the car is fun to drive. Around corners and in a straight line, the E400 is accurate and controlled. It justifies the middle-range $58,900 starting price for a performance coupe, and it looks like it costs more.
A Shining Star
The main selling point here, though, is how the car looks, inside and out. It’s really beautiful.
Why? The pillar-less sides (lacking the bars in the middle that help bolster a car’s roof) allow for a proper view toward and from the car. The fluid body line is offset by a sloping roof line. And the incredible three-dimensional grill, to name just a few things. Inside, the round vents finished in metal and the real, matte wood all around the dash and windowsills makes it feel like the inside of a yacht cabin. The four (relatively) massive seats are covered in supple leather and expert stitching. This isn’t even a Rolls-Royce.
Inside are 64 color variations for the ambient lighting, along with that famous “air balance” cabin fragrance-system vial of liquid that plugs into the climate control and lightly scents the air. Basically, you can adjust the interior to feel about as therapeutic as the lights and smells of an infrared sauna.
For the controls—and undoubtedly in response to criticism that Mercedes cars can be over-stuffed with confusing, unnecessary technologies—the Daimler AG brand has updated its command system with an easier-to-understand icon format that shows sidebar menus on a 12.3-inch LCD screen. It still feels weird that the drive/park/reverse/neutral shifter is located on the steering column, next to where you’d flip the windshield wipers on. The shoulder belts, too, can feel placed a little too low if you have a long torso.
Where Bayerische Motoren Werke AG excels on making driving machines but can feel minimal inside, Mercedes excels at making its cabin interiors feel like a splurge.
This is anecdotal. A moment after a friend told me, “I don’t like Mercedes,” the same person saw this thing emerge from the garage, and said: “I want that.” It’s funny but true. The car is on sale now, so you may soon find yourself in the same place.