2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe — A stunner


By Dan Scanlan –

Call it AMG Lite, or maybe an S-Class Coupe that shrunk in the rain. No matter how you slice it, the 2018 Mercedes-Benz E-400 Coupe is a supple, sensuous stunner that had lots of people saying one word when they saw it – “ Beautiful!” And with a gently snarling turbocharged V-6 powering all four wheels when needed, it offers a fairly quick flight into the world of grand touring coupes.

• Coupe curves — Done in a deep emerald green metallic that looks black until sun gleams on its soft corners, the 2018 E-400 Coupe is almost four inches shorter than its sedan counterpart, atop a wheelbase chopped a 2.5 inches. But compared to the last-gen coupe, which sat on a C-Class platform, the latest stunner is almost five inches longer.

Only out a few months now, it’s got softer curves than its edgy predecessor, while retaining a ground-hugging presence. 
The new coupe gets the sedan’s smaller, upright grill centered on a large M-B star with alloy wings, surrounded by concentric rings of dots. Larger LED headlights have elements that steer into turns, plus LED daytime running light accents.

The lower center intake is wider, with an alloy air dam and angled fins framing squared-off faux side inlets with parking sensors. The hood’s lines flow off the grill’s edges, much softer than the last generation, then flare gracefully up swept-back windshield pillars. The hood gets twin accent bumps that echo the original 1950’s 300SL Gullwing’s.

The upper front fender lines have softer, more rounded edges as they flow aft over flares, where gentle lines flow down the flanks through chrome door handles. The flanks lose the last-generation’s edgy upward design and curved rear fender shapes for a more subtle flow, the lower sill flaring between 10-spoke AMG alloy wheels wearing P245/40R front and wider P275/35R 20-inch Michelin rubber. 
The tail tapers more than in the past, slimmer LED taillights wrapping deeper into a rounded trunk with subtle spoiler flowing off the flatter rear window and roof. Faux exhaust vents accent the more organic bumper with gray lower fascia hosting shaped exhaust tips on an alloy accent. It’s a sleeker, more flowing shape aided aluminum front fenders, hood, trunk lid and large sections of the front and rear ends.

• E-Class ergonomics — Analog gauges have been banished from this flight deck as the entire interior goes with more flow, accented by lovely tan stitched leather, real metal and some serious wood designs.

The new dashboard is a very wide digital display under a padded stitched leather cowl – actually twin 12.3-inch displays under glass that flow around the driver as “designo” wood ripples around everyone. That glossy black wood has precise pinstripes all-round, six stunning multi-position vents in the middle and corners, and aluminum Burmester sound system speaker grilles at each end. There’s accent lighting along the base of the wood and alloy strip, 64 color options that glow night and day.

The dash display is totally configurable, the main layout selectable via the COMAND control knob on the center console, its info screens controlled by touch switches on the flat-bottomed, power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with thick leather-trimmed rim.
“Classic” mimics a 160-mph analog speedometer on the left, an 8,000-rpm tach or trip computer on the right, and basic odometer/trip meter or range and instant mpg in between.

“Sport” displays a sportier looking speedometer with tach, plus multi-configurable fuel and range displays. “Progressive” goes with a central tach encircling digital mph in the middle, flanked by trip computer and fuel mileage displays. You want more, the head-up display has speed and tach with cruise control speed, navigation turns, even the road’s posted mph. The steering wheel spokes also have stereo, phone and voice command controls.

The dash center’s infotainment screen shows navigation, the superb AM-FM-SiriusXM Burmester sound system, the car’s Dynamic Select engine/transmission/steering settings, and engine performance and braking displays that look cool but don’t add much. The backup and surround-view cameras are shown there. The center console hides a rubberized induction charging pad for a smartphone, and a USB port.

Then comes the COMAND controller, its swoopy palm rest offering a touchpad which recognizes handwritten commands, and a “Home screen” button. Under the pad, a 4-way rotary controller also handles the center screen’s navigation, audio, phone/Bluetooth connect, vehicle functions and settings. Voice command also handles many functions, but was sometimes clueless when I dictated addresses.

The center armrest is trimmed in more stitched leather with USB ports inside.
The high-tech cockpit displays were matched by firm and very supportive front seats. Supportively comfortable, they both had 12-way power adjustments with adjustable side bolsters and three memory presets, plus heating, cooling and massage. Massage and bolster settings are a few levels down in the COMAND system’s menu, and should be more readily accessible. That said, with all four windows down in this pillarless coupe and the huge moonroof open, it was a nice place to be, close to a convertible with some roof overhead.

With long door openings, it was fairly easy to get in back, where I found acceptable head- and legroom for two adults with a low center console, plus a power rear shade. You can drop seatbacks or center in a 40/20/40 split to expand a wide and deep trunk under a power lid that opens and closes via key fob. The cockpit has an ionizer and “fragrance atomizer,” its scent bottle in the deep glove box, its aroma wafting from strong to nothing.

• Mercedes motoring — The E400 Coupe’s twin-turbocharged 3-liter V-6 has 329-hp and 354 lb-ft of torque, hooked to a nine-speed automatic transmission operated via electronic steering wheel stalk or small alloy paddle shifters.

Dynamic Select offers “ECO,” “Comfort,” “Sport” and “Sport+” driving modes, plus an “Individual” setting to preset steering and powertrain settings. Behind it, a switch to shut the engine off at stoplights for fuel savings. 
“ECO” dumbs down throttle a bit, the V-6 offering all its power only on full demand. The engine cut-off at stop signs was fairly transparent, although start-up was a bit noticeable sometimes when my right foot beat the engine going from brake to gas.

We liked it best in “Sport,” which tightened up steering feel and gave lots of boost off the line as well as a subtly snarling exhaust. Boot it in “Sport+”and our 3,000-mile-old coupe hit 60 mph in a quick 5.4 seconds and 100 mph in 13.7, the all-wheel-drive digging in all four Michelins as the 9-speed automatic gave precise shifts. Downshifts got a subtle throttle blip, with gentle exhaust pop on overrun.

For comparison, the E300 sedan we tested a few months ago with a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with 241 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque hit 60 mph in 6.8 seconds in “Sport.” 
That said, “Sport+” was a bit abrupt in throttle tip-in, but downshifts were razor-sharp and right where I needed them. The V-6 averaged 20 mpg on premium.

Independent multi-link suspension with coil springs front and rear gave us a comfortably athletic and well-controlled ride, with controlled yet buffered rebound with no float over bumps. The all-wheel-drive hung in superbly as we neutrally went around highway exit ramps, with some body roll. It can be stitched from curve to curve with assurance, a bit softer in feel than some sports coupe competition, but quite assured in its control.

All-wheel-drive apportioned power well, with some understeer when pushed on our skidpad. We also found the E400 Coupe secure during heavy rain, handling puddled corners with no drama. “Sport+” gave us stiffer steering and backed off stability control a bit. The electro-mechanical rack-and-pinion steering was very direct, with good feel. There are impressive 13.5-inch cross-drilled front brake rotors, with 11.8-inch rears, offering a very progressive and precise feel and stopping power with little fade after a repeated stops from 60 mph.

S-Class tech has trickled down to the E-Class as far as driving aids, and this car pretty much drives itself. The E400 Coupe’s smart cruise maintains speed and distance down to a stop, then resumes with a gas pedal tap. It self-corrects steering, even self-steering for up to a minute until the left-side dash display warns you to put hands back on the wheel.

The lane alert will nudge the car back if it drifts, even tapping brakes for safety — it is a bit intrusive. It changes lanes for you — click the turn signal on and it steers into an empty adjacent lane by itself, a bit wild. A windshield-mounted camera reads speed limit signs, even school zone signs, and shows that in the gauge and head-up displays, both flashing if you go faster than the signs say. Under cruise control, though, the system sometimes automatically slowed us down to whatever sign it read. That was unsettling, especially in traffic if everyone else was doing that higher speed. And the E400 parks itself. Most of this can be shut off so you can just drive.

• Benz bucks — The E400 Coupe starts at $58,900 with the 329-hp turbocharged V-6 and rear-wheel drive; our E400 4MATIC’s all-wheel-drive starts at $61,400. But our car’s options ramped that up. There’s the $3,000 AMG Line – 20-inch AMG 5-spoke wheels, AMG interior accents including sport steering wheel, brushed aluminum pedals and black headliner; $1,300 designo wood; $1,050 Warmth and Comfort Package with quick-warm front seats, front armrests and steering wheel; $10,300 premium packages with active parking/blind spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert, keyless-go, power trunk closer and much more. There’s also $450 ventilated front seats, $950 massage seats and $5,400 for the higher-end Burmester sound system, bringing us up to $85,465 with destination.

There is a lot of sports coupe competition — $43,000 Audi A5 2.0T Premium, $45,000 BMW 430i xDrive and Lexus RC 350, $46,000 Infiniti Q60 3.0T Premium, and the $87,000 Jaguar F-Type S. The BMW and Audi have turbocharged 2-liter inline fours with 248- and 252-hp respectively; the rest have V-6s ranging from 3-liters in the Jaguar’s 380-hp and Infiniti’s 300-hp, and Lexus’ 3.5-liter engine with 306-hp. These are all quick all-wheel-drive coupes, ranging from a 5-second time to 60-mph for the Jag to a touch over 6 for the Infiniti. And they all handle very well, very confidence-inspiring in the curves. And they all look fantastic, with flowing shapes, the BMW and Audi a bit more restrained vs. the sheer muscularity of the others – your choice here.

• Bottom line — A softer and more sensuous shape, a willing engine and drivetrain, and a secure and high-tech place to enjoy it from. But options take it from pricey to pricier.

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe specifications
Vehicle type – all-wheel-drive midsize 4-door sports sedan
Base price – $52,150 ($72,905 as tested)
Engine type – Twin-turbo DOHC, 16-valve aluminum inline 4
Displacement – 2-liter
Horsepower (net) – 241 @ 5,500 rpm
Torque (lb.ft.) – 273 @ 1,300-4,000 rpm
Transmission – 9-speed automatic w/paddle shift
Wheelbase – 113.1 inches
Overall length – 190 inches
Overall width – 80.9 inches w/mirrors
Overall height – 56.3 inches
Front headroom – 40.9 inches
Front legroom – 41.8 inches
Rear headroom – 36.4 inches
Rear legroom – TBA
Cargo capacity – TBD
Fuel capacity – 17.4 gallons
Weight – 4,057 lbs.
Mileage rating – 20-mpg indicated


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