2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet First Drive
A Pretty New Face and a Punchy New Heart
Getting to Sylt -- a T-shaped resort island in the North Sea, just off the German coast -- is a pretty painless exercise. Show up at the station, pay your euros, enjoy a coffee and a schnitzel sandwich while waiting for the next departure, then get in line with the other Mercedes, Ferraris, Porsches, and Bentleys waiting to traverse the land bridge from mainland Germany atop the back of a car-ferrying train. The train ride takes perhaps 15 minutes, just enough time to contemplate the several-hundred-kilometer drive we've just had from the center of Hamburg behind the wheel of a 2014 Mercedes-Benz E550 Coupe.
It's a good-looking car, for sure. Unlike the sedan, the refreshed-for-2014 E-Class Coupe (and Cabriolet sibling) hasn't lost its Ponton-style rear fenders, though it has given up its quad headlamps for new LED units -- standard treatment when the car arrives in the U.S. this June. The front valance is also redesigned, with sporty, gaping air intakes on either side of the central grille that recall those of the Ferrari F360, oddly (and awesomely) enough. That new front spoiler protruding from just underneath the bottom of the nose also looks pretty sleek; it's especially flashy in the chrome-look finish.
Inside is a nicer place to be, too. The center console has been relieved of its shifter-holding duty by a column-mounted stalk, and there's plenty of new metallic-finish trim to brighten up the swaths of black leather and good-quality synthetic material that cover nearly everything else. There's even a new analog clock mounted prominently on the center stack, giving a touch of S-Class luxury to a car whose bones are a mutant mix of C- and E-Class bits.
And then there's the S-Class tech. Though the all-new 2014 flagship sedan has yet to launch, the E-Class Coupe and Cabriolet have already benefited from that vehicle's Distronic Plus with Steering Assist. The heart of the system is a twin-lens camera mounted high on the center of the windshield, giving a 50-meter, three-dimensional view in front of the car. The camera allows the E-Class to follow other vehicles in traffic jams more or less autonomously, and even steers the vehicle for up to 10 seconds if the driver's hands are not on the steering wheel. After 10 seconds, a warning is emitted and steering again becomes the driver's responsibility. The camera and a grille-mounted radar system provide data for other safety features, including cross traffic and pedestrian monitoring systems. This, friends, is the future.
Of course, while tech is cool, we're most concerned with how well the new two-door E-Class gets down a road. To that end, engines for the 2014 model year carry on from the current vehicle. That means an E350 (naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V-6 with 302 hp and 273 lb-ft) and an E550 (twin-turbo 4.6-liter V-8 with 402 hp and 443 lb-ft). But here's where things get tricky: The E550 will be replaced for the 2015 model year with the E400 (twin-turbo 3.0-liter V-6 with approximately 333 hp -- U.S. figures still to come).
We started with an E550 Coupe and were instantly reminded how good the car's V-8 really is. Not only is there instant lowdown torque (making less work for the car's seven-speed automatic -- a carryover from 2013) but the sound is intoxicating, with just enough of it piercing the Coupe's cabin to be satisfying, but not so much that it becomes intrusive or tiring. The car we drove was equipped with the optional Sport package, including a two-mode, user-selectable suspension. Even eschewing Sport for the Comfort setting, the E550 Coupe rode a touch on the firm side for our liking. Smaller autobahn imperfections made themselves known constantly, and tire noise was also an issue with the short 30-profile sidewall, 19-inch Continental ContiSport3 summer rubber. That said, the excellent harman/kardon stereo helped drown out the road noise, and wind noise was of little consequence. We'd like to try an E550 Coupe with just the standard Agility Control suspension and all-season tires (perhaps 18-inchers) to see if things improve.
Feeling just a touch let down by the E550 Coupe and noting the same Sports suspension/ContiSport3 tire combo on the E400 Cabriolet, we didn't have high hopes as we climbed behind the wheel. But the E400 Cab drove like a different beast altogether. And it wasn't just the bi-turbo V-6 -- an engine that seduced us with its smoothness and instant throttle response. Though it clearly lacks the all-out punch of the 550's V-8 (and the sound as well), we found ourselves wondering if we'd ever really need much more power as we executed yet another effortless pass on a section of two-lane highway. Suspiciously, the E400 Cab also suffered less from tire noise and seemed to ride much smoother than its big brother. We also appreciated that the E400's nose felt significantly lighter than the E550, and even moving the steering wheel off-center required less effort -- chalk it up to two fewer cylinders to carry around. Where the E550 hammers along, the E400 floats. Though there is a bit more wind noise in the cab, the multi-layer fabric roof does a good job of insulating occupants. Mercedes claims the car is the quietest convertible in its class. With the side windows up and the Aircap wind deflector activated, the cabin is also remarkably free of wind and buffeting at near-triple-digit speeds (on the autobahn, of course).
We're looking forward to running full tests on the 2014 E-Class Coupe and Cab shortly. The refreshed E350 and E550 launch in the U.S. in June.
|2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe/Cabriolet|
|BASE PRICE||$52,000-$67,000 (est)|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, RWD/AWD, 4-pass, 2-door coupe, convertible|
|ENGINES||3.5L/302-hp /273-lb-ft DOHC V-6, 4.6L/402-hp/443-lb-ft twin-turbo DOHC V-8, 3.0L/333-hp (est)/290 lb-ft (est) twin-turbo DOHC V-6 (MY2015)|
|CURB WEIGHT||4100-4350 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||185.1 x 70.3 x 55.0 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.7-5.2 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY FUEL ECON||17-19 / 27-28 mpg (est)|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||177-198 / 120-125 kW-hrs/100 miles (est)|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.87-0.95 lb/mile (est)|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||13-Jun|