Honestly, it feels like yesterday when I was in Spain for the global launch of the fifth-generation Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe, but it was actually back in 2017 when Benz got its styling mojo back on track with its two-door designs.
And not before time either, given it was Mercedes-Benz ahead of all other marques that wrote the book on stylish two-door coupes from the early ’60s and ’70s with cars like the gorgeous W111 and W114, as well as the W108.
These were style icons of their era, prized by the rich and famous not just for their designs but also for their robust build, advanced technology, and superb grand-touring status.
Latter Benz coupes didn’t turn heads in the same way, trading smooth flowing curves for sharp edges and angles. But it all came good when the W213 series cars launched a few years ago.
Three years on it’s hard to believe the E-Class demanded an update for 2021 – but that’s what Mercedes-Benz has done, adding more character to the exterior and some key technology updates inside.
Mind you, the E-Class has always delivered a decent dollop of on-road presence and, while the latest tweaks might appear subtle to the unfamiliar eye, when you stand back and take a moment it becomes clear the nip-and-tuck has added more assertiveness to the look without compromising the coupe’s free-flowing form.
In particular, it works a treat on less powerful versions like the E300 Coupe tested here. I mean, there’s no way punters would ever pick this as a four-pot E-Class. Not with the AMG Line exterior styling treatment now standard across all models – there’s genuine flagship-like status with this latest iteration.
While the entry E200 Coupe comes with 19-inch alloys, our E300 version gets more aggressive 20-inch multi-spoke rims in black/high-sheen that match up with well with the new diamond-look grille, front bumper, twin bonnet bulges, and revised front and rear lights that produce cooler light signatures with an added show when the car is unlocked or locked.
That’s before you climb aboard and experience one of the finest technology-rich interiors in the business, including Mercedes-Benz’s peerless MBUX infotainment system and a new three-spoke steering wheel design featuring new swipe controls.
They’re not massive changes in the scheme of things, but they’re enough to enhance the visual appeal of the E-Class Coupe which should earn it more favoured status amongst a wider audience. At least that’s what Benz will be hoping for.
Early signs are good. A good mate of mine was over for dinner recently and saw the car in the driveway, which immediately prompted him to ask about looking at a swap for his Porsche 997-generation 911 Carrera S, given the couple have grown-up kids and are looking at downsizing to one car.
That’s not something I’d entertain, but it’s clear this latest iteration of E-Class Coupe has instant appeal.
The choice is wide and varied with E-Class coupe with several trim variants and just as many powertrain choices, but the E300 tested here is priced from $117,900 before on-road costs.
If the Coupe body style doesn’t quite gel with your lifestyle, there’s always the sedan, cabriolet or the one of two AMG versions to choose from, with prices ranging from $96,900 before on-roads for the E200 Sedan to the range-topping AMG E63 S 4Matic+ Sedan priced at $250,400 before on-roads.
Interestingly, the E300 Coupe is $500 less than its $117,900 sedan sibling, and significantly cheaper than the AMG E53 ($162,400) – the entry-point into AMG E-Class Coupe ownership. It’s a massive step up from the E300 Coupe, and a real stretch for those lusting for V6 turbo power under the bonnet.
It’s always refreshing to look at the ‘as tested’ spec sheet car manufacturers provide and see almost no options, as is the case with our tester. To be honest, it’s a pleasant surprise given the host of standard features available right from the entry E200 Coupe and up.
But let’s face it, $117,400 before on-roads is no small sum and expectations for standard kit is understandably high, with big-ticket items including the latest three-spoke flat-bottom steering wheel complete with touch panels for almost all screen functions – and then some.
The updated dual screens with MBUX are impressive not just for their new touchscreen functionality, but for its benchmark clarity and configurability.
They’re neater in the E-Class thanks to proper integration into the dash, rather than the tablet-style units in the A-Class. The AMG seats are superb for their spine-friendly design and sumptuous leather upholstery, as is the sports pedal set in brushed stainless steel with rubber studs for grip.
There’s ambient lighting with 64 colours on offer (purple being my favourite), an automatic belt feeder front passengers (luxurious and necessary in a coupe), heated front seats, memory function for all front seat adjustments and exterior mirrors, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, and multiple USB-C ports for both rows.
Unlike the E200 Coupe which uses a passive suspension system with fixed rates, the E300 gets adaptive air suspension as well as Multibeam LED headlights with 84 individually-controllable LEDs and adaptive high-beam assist plus for better long-range vision without dazzling oncoming drivers.
Additional creature comforts include an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, keyless entry and start, the Parking Package with active park assist (semi-autonomous parking), and velour floor mats – all the kit you might expect in a Mercedes-Benz coupe in this price range.
Even so, our tester was also equipped with the Vision Package ($6600) which adds a useful features including a panoramic sunroof with sun blind and heat-insulating glass, and a head-up display with virtual image windscreen projection. That’s about the extent of available options for the E300 Coupe.
The E-Class Sedan was last tested in 2016 and was awarded a five-star ANCAP rating – scoring 95 per cent for adult occupant protection, 90 per cent for child occupant protection, 77 per cent for pedestrian protection, and 62 per cent for safety assist.
Bear in mind the above scores relate to the pre-facelift sedan and not the coupe tested here, which has new features like a steering wheel with hands-on detection.
In fact, all E-Class variants come with nine airbags, and adaptive cruise control with stop/go that’s able to maintain a pre-set distance in even stop/start traffic where you might be stationary for up to 60 seconds.
Active safety systems include autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with cross-traffic detection, active lane change assist, blind-spot assist, evasive steering assist and route-based speed adaptation, which is effectively cruise control that allows for roundabouts by slowing down before entering and then accelerating back to the speed limit on exit.
If you’re impressed with the low-slung, swoopy silhouette, you’re probably going to drool over the cabin from the moment you first lay eyes inside.
It’s like B&H Photo in New York City meets a top-notch Danish design studio – the result of which is a dazzling array of high-resolution displays, vivid ambient lighting like no other, and a modern-take on natural timbers and brightwork second to none in the segment.
I’m a big fan of the open-pore black ash wood trim that spans the entire width of the dash, centre console and door cards which also encase the multiple jet turbine-inspired air vents up front that feature in the car’s spectacular after-hours light show. All of it is entirely tasteful.
For the record, there’s not a single material in this cockpit that doesn’t look or feel premium. Okay, perhaps under the seats – I forgot to scrutinise there. Soft-touch plastics are even used inside the boot on the trim that houses the automatic close buttons.
I’m also mesmerised by the new-generation Benz steering wheel. It’s a three multi-spoke design with touch and swipe panels on the horizontal sections in piano black with metal edges and a perfectly proportioned three-pointed star nicely set in the centre.
Despite the heavily-tapered roofline there’s also a surprisingly decent amount of rear passenger space, with leg- and headroom for my 173cm frame bordering on generous.
However, it’s definitely a four-seater and there’s no rear-seat armrest – though you can fold the folding ski portal cover down if you’re desperate. Boot space is good at 405 litres, at least as far as a coupe goes.
Here’s where it gets interesting. While you might expect E300 to pack a six-cylinder engine, that powertrain is exclusively reserved for the Mercedes-AMG E53.
Instead, you get same 2.0-litre turbocharged four-pot used in the entry-level E200, only for the E300 it’s tuned to deliver a not-unreasonable 190kW of power between 5500 and 6100rpm and 370Nm of torque from 1650-4000rpm, sent to the rear wheels through a nine-speed automatic transmission.
Out-of-the-blocks performance is in hot-hatch territory with the 0-100 sprint in 6.4 seconds. As a point of reference, the E200 Coupe makes 145kW and 320Nm and needs 7.5 seconds. Adequate, in my book.
If you like the idea of more go in your coupe, the E53 pumps out a more robust 320kW at 6100rpm and 520Nm from 1800-5800rpm with the added advantage of another 16kW and 250Nm from its 48V mild-hybrid system dubbed ‘EQ Boost’. It’s quick, with just 4.4 seconds required for the 0-100km/h dash.
Firstly, the driver’s seat and its position is superb. It’s low-set (naturally you can raise and adjust if you wish) and beautifully contoured for endless pain-free hours behind the wheel, with just the right amount of bolster allowing you to enjoy the drive.
Again, this new steering wheel has me obsessed. It looks a bit old-school but with some of the most advanced tech available today for sublime functionality and form. I love it.
I get the fact most folks will find the cutting-edge four-pot turbo under the bonnet of their stylish new Benz coupe adequate enough for the daily drive, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
At idle or even with a light throttle, it’s quiet and reasonably refined (if a bit doughy). But when you need to give it a good solid prod, the hullabaloo arrives immediately.
Strong but Gruff
The E300's turbo four pulls hard but gets a little unrefined under load
I’d describe it as coarse-chip gravel in a cement mixer. It’s just not pleasant, and given I mostly drove the car in Sport and Sport+ for more immediate response there was quite a lot of that hullabaloo going on.
Don’t get me wrong, for a big coupe tipping the scales at 1775kg it pulls from down low with solid determination and keeps on pulling – even up the lofty mountain of a street that is Awaba Rd in Mosman.
There’s no issue with performance, it’s just the commotion that comes with it. But then, with entry to the six-cylinder coupe club requiring no less than a $45,000 top-up over the E300, most folks will have to live with the four-pot. I’m just not sure it’s the most suitable pairing with such a regal-looking car.
All is not lost, though, because this latest-generation E-Class is endowed with a truly excellent chassis that affords it superb handling and ride comfort on any surface. Nothing has changed from my driving impressions at the original launch in that regard.
Standard in our E300 Coupe test car is adaptive air suspension that makes a zillion-and-one calculations every split-second and it’s up there with the best when it comes to compliance over broken roads and speed bumps – you don’t feel them even from the back seat.
At least, that’s the experience if you’re cruising in the Comfort. Dial it up a notch to Sport and Sport+ and body control is properly kept in check but with minor compromise to ride comfort.
Push on when you come across some nicely cambered bends and the big coupe corners with confidence and real poise with slightly-meaty steering. Mid-corner bumps don’t upset the car’s progress either, despite rolling on 20-inch wheels shod with relatively wide low-profile Pirelli rubber (245/35 front, 275/30 rear). It’s impressive as are the internally ventilated and drilled brakes.
The specifications for fuel consumption cite 8.0L/100km but we didn’t get anywhere near that, instead, clocking up closer to 12.8L/100km.
That’s likely got to do with my driving in the sportier drive settings, but most of the time the speeds were relatively low. Again, that can be the issue with four-pot power in larger cars – you tend to ride the throttle more than you might with a six just to get going.
It’s a far cry from the plug-in hybrid powertrain in the E300e Sedan, which has a total out of 235kW/700Nm and a combined fuel consumption of just 2.2L/100km – yours for $121,400 plus on-roads.
As with all Mercedes-Benz vehicles, the E-Class Coupe is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with upfront service plans available over the same period.
The E-Class range (non-AMG models) asks for $2450 over three years, and $4800 over five – same as the pre-facelift range.
AMG E53 models cost $2500 and $5100 over three and five-year terms, whereas the full-strength AMG E63 S Sedan costs $4300 over three years and $7050 over five.
The latest Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe is a beautifully-made car with refinement at its very core – except for the engine. That part is not so refined, at least when its climbing up into the rev range. It’s not pleasant, not at all.
That said, everything else about the car is first-rate. Looks alone will likely be enough to convince most prospective buyers, but if that doesn’t get them over the line, the cabin itself should clinch the deal.
And, that’s before they experience the ride and handling. It’s top notch.