2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe first drive

Sporty, comfortable, and elegant, Mercedes Benz' E400 Coupe is in a class of its own

The redesigned E-Class Coupe is both a logical graduation from the C-Class Coupe, and a sufficient deterrent to any potential rivals.
The redesigned E-Class Coupe is both a logical graduation from the C-Class Coupe, and a sufficient deterrent to any potential rivals.
The redesigned E-Class Coupe is both a logical graduation from the C-Class Coupe, and a sufficient deterrent to any potential rivals.

Highs

  • Stunning cabin design
  • Clean, elegant exterior
  • Polished ride with air suspension
  • Smooth, abundant power

Lows

  • Standard steel springs are rough
  • Options bring up the price tag quickly

Mercedes-Benz is on a new product tear as of late. In this year alone, the German automaker has added five new vehicles and 16 model variants. Among its lineup expansion, SUVs take a clear lead, accounting for 45 percent of the Mercedes-Benz portfolio. That trend will only continue as luxury shoppers seek out new and exciting forms of high-riding comfort.

Despite the market’s sport utility obsession, coupe buyers remain loyal to the inherent style of two-door transport, and Mercedes-Benz, in turn, remains loyal to these constituents. Joining the redesigned S- and C-Class coupes is the elegant E-Coupe. Entering its seventh generation, the E-Class Coupe complements the redesigned sedan’s comfort and technology with a dynamic edge.

What’s new

With the exception of its carry-over V6, the 2018 E400 Coupe is a top-down redesign. While its predecessor employed a stretched version of the C-Class platform, the 2018 E-Class Coupe rides on its own architecture. Larger in every dimension, the latest E-Coupe is a more justifiable graduation from the C-Class.

Though much of the new E-Coupe’s design is derived from the S-Class Coupe, the midsize two-door introduces styling simplicity that will characterize all future Mercedes-Benz products. Inside, the automaker’s latest convenience and safety features are baked into a charming cabin.

Trim levels & features

We’re a bit at odds with the current crop of Mercedes-Benz two-doors. The S-Class Coupe is one of the most beautiful vehicles on the road, however its design attributes play a losing game of “telephone” en route to the new C-Coupe (the Mercedes-AMG C63 being an exception – is a muscle-bound two-door ever a bad thing?). Therefore, the seventh generation E400 Coupe was equally likely to wow as it was to bore.

Miles Branman/Digital Trends

Much to our delight, the 2018 E400 Coupe is an outright stunner – perhaps even more so than its range-topping sibling. At the front, dual LED light signatures distinguish the E-Class from its triple-beam S-Class and single-beam C-Class stable mates. Like the S-Class, the redesigned E-Coupe features a diamond-studded grille (don’t get too excited, there aren’t actually diamonds in the front fascia) and large air intake cutouts. Twin domes in the hood set the two-door E-Class apart from the sedan.

As with previous E-Coupes, the redesigned model forgoes a B-pillar to accentuate its sloping roofline. Fresh 18- and 19-inch wheels underscore a sensual profile. Our favorite look is from the rear three-quarters, where the greenhouse tapers fluidly into a powerful stance. Without the clutter of a character line, the new E-Coupe is more graceful than it is aggressive.

Those in search of a fully flexed two-door will need to wait for the AMG derivative. At the rear, slender LED taillights twinkle in their ‘stardust’ casings. If there’s an unflattering side to the redesigned model, we aren’t the ones to find it.

If there’s an unflattering angle on the E400 Coupe, we aren’t the ones to find it.

Mercedes-Benz will offer four distinct E-Class body styles, including a sedan, wagon, coupe, and cabriolet. For the present moment, all two-door versions will wear the E400 badge and are available in both rear-wheel drive and all-wheel drive (4Matic) setups. Mercedes-Benz starts the bidding at $58,900, excluding a $995 destination and handling fee. Those who prefer four driven wheels will need to appropriate an additional $2,500.

All 2018 E-Class Coupe models come standard with a panoramic sunroof, leather seats, keyless ignition, dual-zone automatic climate control, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, ambient interior lighting, a rearview camera, rain-sensing wipers, power-folding side mirrors, a suite of active safety features, and oodles of technology.

Optional features and packages are too numerous to itemize, but notable add-ons include a Burmester® 3D sound system ($5,400), air body control suspension ($1,900), and AMG Line styling ($2,500).

Technology overview

Even in its most stripped-down form, the E-Class Coupe has a beautiful mind.Mercedes-Benz’s proprietary infotainment system was once a letdown, but these days it’s a sharp, speedy, and sophisticated interface. A massive 12.3-inch display is standard kit on every E400, and an available, equally large instrument monitor turns more than half of the dashboard into what Mercedes calls a digital “surfboard.”

closeup-of-drivers-side-facing-steering-wheel
Miles Branman/Digital Trends
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

Accessing climate control, media, radio, navigation, massaging seats, drive modes, and all other vehicle settings is a breeze via the console-mounted controller, voice commands, or touch control buttons on the steering wheel. If you’ve ever toyed with a smartphone, the steering wheel controls will feel second-nature to you — just swipe, scroll, and press-to-select. Intuitively, the left pad controls the driver display and the right operates the center monitor. If that’s too much to process, a number of physical buttons on the center dash bridge the tech literacy gap.

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth are standard smartphone connectivity tools. Other highlights include ambient interior lighting with 64 color choices (may we suggest a calming Cerulean during the day and daring Magenta at night?), heated armrests, and a rockin’ Burmester sound system.

Interior fit & finish

With the introduction of the 2018 E-Class Coupe, all of Mercedes-Benz’s two-doors now employ the automaker’s best interior design of the 21st century. A delicate mix of style and sophistication, the E400’s cabin offers first-class accommodations for four full-size adults.

A delicate mix of style and sophistication, the E400’s cabin offers first-class accommodations for four full-size adults.

The 2018 E-Class Coupe is 2.9 inches wider, 4.8 inches longer (with 4.4 inches added to the wheelbase), and over an inch taller. Significant, multi-dimensional growth means interior volume has blossomed. Rear occupants enjoy an additional 1.8 inches of legroom, 0.6 inches of headroom, and 1.3 inches of shoulder. Front passengers benefit from 1.9 inches of extra shoulder room. Pillar-less and panoramic windows only encourage the sense of sprawl.

A curved, wrap-around dashboard can be outfitted with duo-tone, accent-stitched leather, or in a more uniform arrangement. Glossy, pinstriped paneling gives the cabin an intriguing glitz, but we prefer the textured wood inlets. A set of new turbine air vents layer on the cool (pun intended). Premium design impresses, but not nearly as much as the E-Coupe’s plush leather chairs. If you can devise a better test for seating ergonomics than a seven-hour sojourn along British Columbia’s weather-worn roads, do let us know.

Driving performance & MPG

This time last year, we were cruising the California coast in Mercedes-Benz’s fresh E-Class sedan. In just about every category, the luxury four-door earned top marks – save one. Due in large part to an anemic four-cylinder, the E300 failed to excite as a driver’s car. We’re pleased to report that the E400 Coupe is a very different beast indeed.

A 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 producing 329 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque is paired with a new nine-speed automatic transmission. Fuel economy figures are still pending, but the 9G-tronic gearbox isn’t merely an efficiency play; faster, more intelligent shifts cut the all-wheel drive version’s 0 to 60 mph sprint to 5.2 seconds — a full second quicker than its predecessor.

engine-at-an-angle
Miles Branman/Digital Trends
Miles Branman/Digital Trends

Each curve of BC’s Sea-to-Sky Highway reveals a stunning vista, giving us numerous opportunities to test the E400’s fade-resistant brakes and snappy acceleration. At what feels like every pullout, we haul the car to a stop, hop out, snap some photos, ponder life’s meaning, pile back in, and gun it up to speed.

For a break from the chilling air, we engage Dynamic Select’s Sport mode and tackle a series of corners. The coupe’s aluminum-steel hybrid platform stays planted while 4Matic parcels power to each wheel.

Steering directives reach the front tires in no time, but we yearn for clearer communication through the nicely weighted wheel. The new E-Coupe may look docile, but it’s never been more charismatic in corners.

At any velocity, Mercedes-Benz’s Air Body Control creates a velvety layer between the chewed up road surface and the E400’s cabin. Given the massive difference in ride quality compared to the standard steel springs and the marginal cost delta, air suspension is a must-have.

Safety

Every 2018 E-Class Coupe comes standard with a backup camera, electronic stability control, active braking assist, and two Pre-Safe® technologies that activate before an impending crash.

When the vehicle senses it will be T-boned, the front seats automatically push driver and passenger three inches towards the center of the cabin. Mercedes says this not only moves the occupants away from the impact point, but also reduces injury related to abrupt force by jump-starting momentum. Meanwhile, the vehicle emits a “pink noise” through the stereo that initiates the body’s natural reaction to protect the inner ear canal. This noise can save a passenger’s eardrums from permanent damage.

Beyond these features, Mercedes-Benz offers lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, lane change assist, rear cross-traffic and blind spot alerts, a surround-view camera, rear-end collision protection, and speed limit assist (which automatically adjusts vehicle speed to match posted speeds).

Conclusion

One could argue the E-Class Coupe is without direct competition because the market doesn’t need a midsize luxury two-door. Indeed, the previous generation E-coupe was difficult to justify, being little more than a re-styled C-Class Coupe with a dash of extra legroom.

The 2018 E400 Coupe is far more compelling. Sensual styling, ample cabin volume, and sporty dynamics put the E-Coupe in a category all its own. The redesigned model is both a logical graduation from the C-Class Coupe, and a sufficient deterrent to any potential rivals.

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