2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe
3.0-liter, twin-turbo DOHC V6 (329 horsepower @ 5,250 rpm; 354 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm)
Nine-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
20 city / 26 highway / 22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
11.8 city / 8.9 highway / 10.5 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)
22.0 mpg [10.7 L/100 km] (Observed)
Base Price: $59,895 (U.S) / $75,095 (Canada)
As Tested: $76,210(U.S.) / $89,595 (Canada)
Prices include $995 destination charge in the United States and $2,395 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe’s high beams unfurl like a curtain, quickly and progressively spreading light across the forests on either side of the road. And that’s only the Benz lighting system’s third act.
It’s a late summer evening and you open the E400 Coupe’s vast door, welcomed by ambient lighting that swirls around the cabin, hued to your liking, with a glow bright enough to be useful but soft enough to be easily ignored. The turbocharged V6 ignites and a light show is instantly projected onto the house in front of you with radiant beams and excitable flashes.
With the auto industry well into its second century, it’s increasingly difficult for a luxury automaker to set itself apart. Equipment alone doesn’t do the trick, particularly when a car as costly as this heavily optioned 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Coupe lacks, for example, the ventilated seats of a $29,190 Kia Optima.
No, it’s the special stuff that makes the difference; it’s the memorable moments that distinguish the extraordinary from the ordinary. Heated seats must also warm the accompanying door panel and center console. A variety of dramatic light exhibitions must always attract your attention. The central infotainment display must seamlessly merge with the gauge cluster to create a vast screen stretching 28 inches across.
And the windows must roll down to reveal a pillarless structure, a redolent whiff of classic coupes long since expired.
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe doesn’t have the sort of obscene quickness that can set a $76,210 car apart. It’s surprisingly balanced in action, yet it isn’t an AMG sports coupe that pummels the road into submission. Undeniably feature-laden, an optioned-up E400 is still not much more of a technical powerhouse than many cars costing many thousands of dollars less.
The Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is sufficiently quick, adequately athletic, and suitably equipped, yes, but it’s a car that succeeds by seeking out your feelings in order to toy with them. It is, after all, a purposeless four-seat coupe in an E-Class range that includes a more practical five-seat sedan that costs $5,950 less. No matter how much you try to convince yourself that you’re buying this coupe because the rear seat is useable and all four wheels are driven, it’s not a sensible purchase.
It’s an emotional acquisition.You buy an E400 Coupe because you want to. You desire it. It ignites a craving within you. The Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe wants you to react with raised eyebrows and a gratified, “Mmm-hmmm.” If the E400 Coupe fails on these counts, well, you were already planning to lease a Lexus RX350, weren’t you?
With brown leather, stunning HVAC vents, and blissful front seats, the 2018 E400 Coupe’s interior feels less antiseptic than comparable Audis and BMWs; less clinical than the cabins of Lexus and Porsche. The air suspension’s waftability in comfort mode reveals a car that isn’t trying so hard to impress you. It’s the smooth-skating defenseman rather than the frenetic left winger. The exterior’s me-too Mercedes-Benz profile and refrigerator white paint provide an air of mature simplicity in an era of melodramatic design.
But what happens when you remove the emotion of the E400 experience? Trade impressions of elegance for an investigative objectivity and detach what should be trivial gimmickry from vital componentry.
You’re then left with a classic grand touring coupe, albeit modernized.The E400 Coupe’s on-paper case starts with the 329-horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6, a powerplant that’s fortunately married to a consistently cooperative nine-speed automatic. Opt out of the dynamic selector’s laggardly Eco mode for Comfort or Sport (Sport+ isn’t suited for routine driving) and you’ll discover abundant straight-line urgency. Nought to sixty takes little more than five seconds. But it’s the engine’s flexibility — the torque across the entire rev range, the quiet and smooth operation — that makes the E400 so suited to gobbling up long distances.
We averaged 22 miles per gallon over two weeks of rural driving despite frequent encounters with far higher speeds than intended. When not under load, the engine is hushed. Tire hum and wind noise are largely kept at bay, and the ride quality when the suspension is not in sportier modes is so serene that you’d never guess just how fast you’re crossing the countryside.Only in those sportier drive modes does the E-Class Coupe’s suspension deserve criticism. While never guilty of too busily working, firmer settings do cause some dreadful rough-road impacts that seem decidedly out of character for a car that otherwise focuses on composure. The long 113.1-inch wheelbase, porky 4,200-pound curb weight, and light steering do not a sports car make, and the E400 Coupe is all the better for it. There’s ample evidence of underpinnings that could turn the E400 into more of a point-and-shoot kind of car, but Mercedes-Benz wisely leaves overt athleticism to AMG-fettled E-Classes.
Again, the E400 is still a car that wants to make rapid progress, and there’s enough grip from 4Matic all-wheel drive and 245/40R19 Goodyear Eagle Sports to stick to, and then pull through, a long sweeper. But the E400 Coupe displays its best work when driven at six-tenths, not nine-tenths, when the massaging seats (high intensity, classic mode, bolsters fully inflated for hugs) erase some of the day’s tensions, as the Burmester audio system delivers a Neil Young guitar solo straight into your most inner recesses, with four windows down for all of that fresh Prince Edward Island air to flow through the cabin.It sounds almost perfect, the 2018 E400 4Matic Coupe. It isn’t, of course.
Mercedes-Benz continues to install a chintzy little shifter on the column. After a presentation I delivered on a career in writing and working from home — it’s what you want your kids to do, right? — high schoolers in Charlottetown were impressed by every facet of the Benz, but laughed at the shabby shifter.
Second, the infotainment unit is relatively easy to conduct through an array of central controllers, but it was often dreadfully tardy starting up and sometimes refused to do little things like adjust the volume upon request.
Third, the near absence of wind noise announces the presence of excessive whistling where the B-pillar would be. The Benz’s fourth key fault, its handsome Benz profile, caused some acquaintances to assume it was just another C-Class two-door like I’d already driven a couple of times. Finally, the Magic Vision Control wipers, which “emit a highly precise spray of washer fluid directly in front of the moving wipers,” weren’t up to the job of actually cleaning the windshield. A salty winter test would be enlightening.More problematic for many potential buyers is the fact that their status as potential buyers disappears after they examine the price tag. Starting just a few ticks under $60,000, all-wheel drive adds $2,500. Blind spot monitoring and proximity access are part of a $3,700 Premium Package. Those wonderful massaging seats add another $950. This car’s broad screen requires a larger $6,600 Premium 2 Package. For advanced safety gear such as lane keeping assist and the surround view system, you’ll need to select the $10,300 Premium 3 Package. Even then, another $1,900 is required for air suspension.
Money can’t buy love, but it can certainly buy an awful lot of Mercedes-Benz. Pragmatists will avoid the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic Coupe like the plague, but we knew that already. The self-indulgent, on the other hand, will surely be sucked in.
[Images: © Timothy Cain]