Menacing Merc looks a little loud

E-Class coupe a vital part of Mercedes’s strategy to revamp itself and dominate

Make: Mercedes-Benz

Model: E-Class Coupe

Year: 2013

Fuel: Diesel

Date Reviewed: August 27, 2013

Wed, Aug 28, 2013, 01:00


Mercedes is playing catch-up to its premium counterparts and they know it. BMW and Audi have raced ahead in the last decade with major expansions of their model line-ups and traction in lucrative emerging markets.

It’s time for Mercedes to kick into action. Last year chief executive Dieter Zetsche made his move, promising the brand would grow as much in the next decade as it has in the past century. The aim is to double sales to over two million cars. There will be 13 all-new models by the end of this decade, with major revamps of the current model range. It’s all part of a very ambitious target to make Mercedes the top-selling luxury car brand by 2020.

Time will tell for Mercedes if it can really keep pace with BMW or the premium marque from the Volkswagen Group behemoth. The new S-Class is vitally important, as is the new CLA entry-level coupe. So far the signs are good. Earlier this month, the July sales figures showed Mercedes sales jumped 20 per cent from a year earlier, outpacing growth at BMW and Audi.

Amid all the changes and revamped line-up, the E-Class coupe feeds into a more traditional market for Mercedes.

This is the territory where the CLK used to reside until the start of this decade. That is perhaps why the car retains a certain recognisable side profile. However the need to appeal to younger motorists is evident from the front nose, one of the most aggressive takes for a large Mercedes in a long time. This Merc has menace.

Image makeover
Mercedes desperately needs to shake off a rather staid image in the eyes of younger drivers. More models like this and the CLA can make that a reality. It needs to lose its conservative mantle if it wants to secure volume sales. That’s not an easy task, but help from the likes of its AMG division, and its small car unit, should push it over the line.

The test car hit €60,000 before the addition of beige leather trim, Parktronic parking assist, electronically adjustable heated front seats and a panoramic electric sunroof. All these added €7,913 to the forecourt price.

The styling is aggressive at the front and sleek to the side and rear, a strange mismatch that actually works quite well. There is a very distinctive coupe look, but there is a price to be paid: for a car of this length and stature on the road, the rear-seat legroom is surprisingly cramped. Given its ties to the E-Class saloon, we would have thought that it would cater for family motoring but no such luck. The rear seats are comfortable and the bucket format means they can cope with an adult but the legroom is barely sufficient for a small child.

Up front the layout is a nice mix of plush and sporty. There are some nice touches, like the analogue clock that adds a touch of old-world class to the central console.

Yet, for all the smart design and styling, this coupe is let down its noisy engine. The 2-litre 170bhp four-cylinder block packs enough power to get by and, when opened up on the motorway, it’s relatively smooth. But starting from cold, or even just pottering around in traffic, the aural note could not be more ill-fitting to the car in question. Our test car was brilliant white with a beige leather interior, so it stood out in the crowd, but there was always a tinge of disappointment as the gruff engine kicked into action.

The ride is smooth but this is a big car with a sizeable footprint and ultimately not as nimble as we would have expected. Resting on gorgeous AMG wheels, again there was a price to be paid for its striking looks as it bumped along on poorly surfaced roads.

Engineering rationale
We tested this engine before in a Mercedes and one of its engineers put forward the viable defence that the frugal nature of the engine, and the fact it still offers a competitive output of 170bhp, means it can deliver anything the opposition can, while the engine note isn’t really that significant for buyers. I understood where he was coming from but, in a model that looks this smart, we would have hoped for a little more work on the acoustics.

The price is also quite high when compared to rivals, something we would have thought Mercedes could have worked on, given the desire to catch up with its German rivals. This car has more status than the likes of the Audi A5 or the upcoming BMW 4-Series, but even the wealthy buyers of these cars are price conscious these days.

The E-Class coupe has real eyecatching appeal and it demonstrates the determination at Mercedes to add more youthful flair across its fleet. Whether this approach is enough to close the gap on its rivals remains to be seen.

The lowdown:

Engine: 2143cc four-cylinder in-line diesel engine putting out 170bhp at 3,000rpm and 400Nm of torque from 1,400rpm
0-100km/h: 8.5 secs
Top speed: 235km/h
Emissions (motor tax): 129g/km (€270)
Official L/100km (mpg): 4.8 (59)
Standard features include: adaptive brake lights; LED headlamps; ECO stop/start function; Bluetooth connection; attention assist; collision prevention assist; 11 airbags; pre-safe system; air-con system with thermatic auto climate control
Rivals: Audi A5 coupe 2.0 TDi 177bhp SE - €52,050; BMW 420d (price tba); Jaguar XF 2.2D Premium - €54,795
Price: €59,105