There goes my theory. I thought that a coupe that so closely resembles the E-Class sedan would not be recognised on the streets. I mean, yes, you can see that it has only two doors, but you know, the people on the streets... they wouldn’t be able to make out the difference at first glance, right?
Wrong. Kids duly lined up to be photographed against the car. Others enquired whether it had been launched yet. Pillion riders on bikes whipped out their cellphone cameras and urged the riders to get closer to the car. Heads inside other cars turned and followed the Star car’s progress. And the superstar inside? Well, he was suitably chastened for having assumed a lack of awareness on the part of others around. The moral of the story is that the Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe cannot be mistaken for the E-Class.
The Coupe has all the elements that distinguish the sedan version and then some. But the main difference is that it looks much sharper and sportier. There was a collective intake of breath that accompanied its unveiling in Geneva in March last year. It was yet another example of Mercedes-Benz’s new design language that was finding expression under a new design director. There’s no doubt about it, it’s a good-looking car. So it’s indeed worth spending some time on its looks. The upright grille is offset by the sleek and raked headlamps. There is a visible longitudinal central crease that runs from the tip of the car’s nose and goes all the way down to the rear bumper, and that only serves to accentuate its wedgy look. The discreet application of the L-shaped LED lamps is much more elegant compared to the excess that’s seen in cars from Munich and Ingolstadt. The rear end is dominated by the tail-lamps; funnily, the tail-lamps, which looked as if they were borrowed from the Hyundai Sonata Embera in the sedan, don’t look that Embera-ish over here. The reason is that the width of the coupe is less than that of the sedan. The highlight of the design of the E-Class Coupe is of course its profile — owners of this car should park it in the evenings and dwell on it over a cup of Earl Grey. That’s because its form has a function. According to the manufacturer, the E-Class Coupe is the world’s most aerodynamic mass production car. With a drag coefficient of 0.24, it’s even more slippery than the Toyota Prius. The net effect, to you and me, is a car that’s low-slung and wonderfully proportioned without losing on the dynamism. A beautifully subtle detail is the leading edge of the boot, which tips just so slightly upwards to function as a rear spoiler. That prevents an air swirl from forming at this area, as this can increase drag.
The absence of a B-pillar is crisply delineated by the chrome surround of the greenhouse in a graceful manner. The rear windows go all the way down — well, most of it, as there are two tiny quarter-glass bits that won’t go down. Well, it’s because of them that most of the glass area can slide inside the body of the car. Borrowing cues from the pontoon models of the 1950s, the new E-Class and the Coupe have those muscular rear haunches over the wheels. It is, to me, the only thing that is forced in both the cars — it is retro needlessly. The overall appearance of the E-Class Coupe is that of a graceful automobile rather than youthful. I mean, if it was a car that was designed to be youthful, it would be all edgy and sharp, right?
Anyway, there is a new C-Class coupe which is expected to be added to the lineup sometime late next year, which will target younger buyers. The sedan theme is carried over on the insides as well. It is all neat, well-marked, ergonomic and assuredly Mercedes-Benz. That only means that there are no surprises in this department. But I really wish Mercedes-Benz would go one step further by getting new materials to upholster their interiors with, innovate on their instrument cluster displays and design the dash a little bit differently. I want to be surprised. In the case of the E-Class Coupe, I understand that it has to look as if it’s a sporty two-door version of the sedan, but why inside-out? Okay, the sedan has a steering column mounted gearshift lever while it’s conventionally placed in the coupe — that’s the biggest difference between the two when it comes to the dash. The E Coupe gets sporty seats that hold you well and there are two seats with integrated headrests at the rear as well. Entry and exit to the rear seats can be done quite gracefully and there is adequate space for the two rear passengers too. The car’s quite practical, that way. A vast panoramic sunroof helps as a party conversation trick, but considering our summers, it simply makes the AC work harder. Enough now, let’s get on with the driving, shall we? Strap yourself in those fantastic seats (a belt feeder virtually hands over the belt to you, so you don’t have to twist your torso to reach out to it), turn the key, slot the stubby gear lever of the 7G-Tronic into D and go. The 3,498cc V6 petrol featuring a second-generation direct injection system develops 272 bhp at 6,000 revs and almost 36 kgm of turning force between 2,400 and 5,000 rpm. The combination of the engine and the gearbox plus the application in the coupe is really all you need, unless you are extremely power hungry. The engine is remarkable for its smoothness and offers wonderfully flexible power delivery. Whether you are crawling behind a belching truck or sizzling up the highway at 200 kph, the engine offers a linear delivery of power, perfectly measured in the right doses. When subjected to the test, 100 kph comes up in 7.6 seconds while the mid-range (80-120 kph/100-140 kph is under 5 seconds) is equally stunning. There is no drama in the cabin when it’s firing happily on all cylinders; the bass notes from the twin sports exhausts are left for those who are outside the car. As is the case with all these Mercs, you barely realise the speeds until you glance at the speedo. Stomping on the accelerator pedal makes the gearbox downshift quickly by skipping gears, but I preferred to manually downshift to make the drive more involving. The drivetrain and the interior refinement can make you pretty lazy, actually.
What I liked best was the steering feel. It offers you feedback without losing out on the classic Mercedes trait of comfort and effortlessness. The steering feedback makes the car more involving to drive as the handling borders on the safe. You can always switch the ESP off if you want to use the power going to the rear wheels for some cornering action. But it’s a Mercedes and it is intelligent, so it will use its brains to overrule the laws of physics. Riding on AMG wheels and wide rubber, the Coupe grips the road well and sudden directional changes hardly upset its equilibrium. The ride is as good as you’d expect from a Mercedes — it features the Direct Control suspension that essentially uses its brains to decide the damping required. It is still no match for some potholed sections of our roads, though.
The E 350 Coupe makes for a good weekend car for the S-Class owner and it’s priced close to that of the E-Class sedan. It’s reassuringly every inch a Mercedes and has the looks to draw everyone’s attention.
Psst... not everyone knows the Coupe borrows heavily from the C-Class underpinnings though it looks like, well, a two-door E.