Mercedes Benz is firmly in touch with its past
Words by: Adam Allen
Life is about enjoying simple pleasures.
A perfectly cooked steak, an ice-cold beer on a hot day, driving with the windows down on a picture-perfect summer evening as the sun slips below the horizon- these are among life’s simple pleasures. Sometimes it’s an entire experience that makes a joyfully indelible mark on our memories, like spending the day relaxing on a beach, enjoying a delicious meal and then lowering oneself into a comfortable bed outfitted with freshly washed sheets. No, this isn’t the opening enticer for the newest resort on the shores of Lake Muskoka; we’re merely setting the stage with a slight flair for the dramatic in telling you what it’s like to drive the Mercedes Benz E400 Coupe.
Make Mercedes Benz Great Again.
That’s a bit misleading, because it implies that Mercedes isn’t great. Like every automotive manufacturer on the planet, they aren’t immune to the odd blunder here and there- The first-generation M-Class, the W220 S-Class (1999-2006), the W203 C Class Coupe (2000-2007) are all good recent examples of the excellence of the three-pointed star falling by the wayside. If you look closely at the current lineup, you’ll see somewhat of a mixed bag meant to capture the hearts and wallets of an increasingly diverse group of demographics. You have the entry level CLA (which doesn’t feel very Mercedes-ish at all), a pickup truck (for European customers only- for now) topped off by hugely expensive twin-turbo V12 exercises in hedonism like the S65 executive sedan. Landing nicely in the middle of this wildly varying gamut is the E400 which you can have in sedan, wagon or coupe form. It isn’t a cost cutting measure meant to lure drivers into the brand, nor is it something like the over-the-top, but still cool, G-Class. It serves as an undeniable link to Mercedes’ past where cars were built with the solidity of bank vaults, offered uncompromising and effortless comfort and were a joy to behold. Not that we don’t swoon uncontrollably over say, an E63 Wagon, but we rediscovered how much we enjoy driving a Benz that is firmly in touch with what makes a Benz a Benz.
You just said ‘Benz’ a lot.
Guilty as charged. Allow us to explain- during our test of the E400 Coupe, we felt pampered and coddled and therefore more important than usual, which imbued us with the confidence to use the English language in any way we so please. It’s hard to explain how effortless the car feels as it pours itself down the road in a wonderfully languid manner. The whole experience begins when you shut the heavy doors behind you with an aristocratic whump. You settle into comfortable seats swathed in soft leather and the opulence of the interior is striking. Thumb the start button and the turbocharged V6 settles into a gentle, almost imperceptible idle; select Drive and glide forward on a wave of creamy torque. Once underway you notice how quiet and serene the E400 is, and the word ‘waft’ keeps coming to mind as the only adequate way to describe how it gathers momentum as you effortlessly move down the road.
The interior feels almost therapeutic.
And it feels expensive, too. Mercedes has been on point when it comes to interiors lately and the deftly executed contrast of black and brown leather hides looks spectacular as does contrasting brown stitching that discreetly runs the length of the dash. The restrained use of open pore wood and metallic bits further add to the proceedings, and we’re including the intricate speaker grates for the Burmester sound system (which sounds fantastic.) Two large 12.3” digital displays- one in the driver’s line of sight which acts as the instrument panel, one perched inside the dash for climate, navigation and audio functions offer crisp graphics and customizable layouts that allow you to tailor all functions according to your whim. Only the COMMAND infotainment system which offers a learning curve that takes some time to master the layers of menus and the use of the mouse-like controller mar the proceedings slightly. As usual it’s the small details that make piloting the E400 such a pleasure. The way the seatbelts are nudged forward so you don’t have to reach back too far when you start it up. The power function of the front seats engaging automatically to move them out of your way so you can more easily access whatever you’ve got in the rear seats (which will actually accommodate people- smaller ones, but they can function as seats for people.) The way the ambient lighting comes on at night that isn’t annoying like it is in so many other cars that offer it. After a long day, the E400’s cockpit is like a cool hand running gently across a fevered brow.
Laying it on a but thick, aren’t we?
We apologize if it seems like we’re getting carried away, yet it’s hard not to get excited about a car that actually delivers on what it’s meant to. Like the unparalleled W123 model Mercedes from the 1980’s every inch of the car feels as though someone was sweating the minutiae with the end result being something that exists singularly to provide comfort to its driver and passengers. Pilot the E400 but a few meters and that feeling permeates the driving experience. The structure is resolutely solid, so much so that Mercedes does away with the B-Pillar so you can let more of that fresh summer air inside as you glide along. Our tester was equipped with AIRMATIC Air Suspension (frankly, a screaming deal at $900) which turned our usual commute of gnarled tarmac into a carpeted corridor. The 3.0 litre turbo bent six and accompanying 9-speed automatic gearbox work in a whispering tandem, only getting pointier when you select Sport Mode or really put your foot down. The E400 will get up and dance if that’s what you ask it to do, but doing that feels wrong. The car’s prevailing attitude is trying to make you feel relaxed when you’re behind the wheel, and anything more that driving at 7/10ths would be analogous to shoveling that beautiful steak dinner into your mouth as quickly as possible without savoring it. It’s as much a proficient mile muncher as any of the best Grand Touring cars on sale today, and will even do the driving for you for limited periods of time- it has one of the most sorted autonomous driving systems out there (although we MUCH prefer to let ourselves handle driving duties.)
What might go wrong?
You’d think with the way we’ve been prattling on that we would be free of any complaints. Regular readers know that when we really take a liking to a car, we aren’t shy about it. Our meticulous evaluation of everything we drive always yields a few criticisms- nothing you wouldn’t expect from those who embrace their OCD with open arms. We’ll start with the sticker price. At $87,200 the E400 has a no insignificant $14,500 in options added to its base price- and that number could get even higher if you lack restraint. The only problem with that complaint is that it really does feel worth it. We might ask for the option to have rear-wheel drive on the menu for those who’d prefer to avoid the added weight, cost and complexity of AWD. The thought of complaining the E400 Coupe’s laid back persona did cross our minds- sometimes we found ourselves pining for more aggression- but those who crave a little more edginess will want to wait for the E43 or even an E63 variant, neither of which have been confirmed but are likely to appear in the lineup at a later date. Last gripe- all this kit and no heated steering wheel?
Should I buy an E400 Coupe?
Normally, at this point we would mention how the car under our microscope fares against its competitors. Problem is, the E400 Coupe doesn’t really have any, at least not directly. You might make a case for the BMW 4 and 6 series respectively although the former would normally be compared to a C-Class Coupe, the other to the S-Class two door. That means the E400 Coupe is in a class of one and it’s a car that embodies the founding ideals that make Mercedes Benz such a coveted brand. Putting one in your driveway is treating yourself to some of life’s simple motoring pleasures no matter the journey.
2018 Mercedes Benz E400 4MATIC Coupe– Specifications
- Price as tested: $87,200
- Body Type: 2-door, 4 passenger Coupe
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Transmission: 9-speed automatic
- Engine: 3.0 litre twin-turbo V6, DOHC, 24 valves
- Horsepower: 329 @ 6,000 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 354 @ 1,600 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,957 kg (4,314 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 12.2L/100km (19 mpg)