Mercedes-Benz E-Class sedans are respectable and responsible luxury cars for respectable and responsible drivers. But chop off two doors, widen its stance, lower the roofline and suddenly you’re ready to cut loose. Going back to the 1970s, E-Class coupes have been some of the most desirable cars to roll out of Germany. The redesigned 2018 E400 respects its heritage while launching onto new dance floors.
As during the 1970s-1990s, when Bruno Sacco led Mercedes-Benz design, stylists for the E400 reduced bodylines and rendered simpler, more sensual forms. They lengthened the E-Coupe physically, but also visually with a lower grille, long hood with gullwing-derived power domes, and an elongated roofline. A wide rump, taillights that echo the exhaust of a fighter jet, and 19-inch AMG wheels accentuate its profile.
Echoing the bigger S-Class coupe, the E400 embraces horizontal themes for the dashboard, which centers on twin screens — one for reconfigurable instruments and the other for infotainment. The latter is controlled by a joywheel and touchpad in the console. It works, but it’d be better if designers benchmarked Chrysler instead of BMW. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility help.
Below the center screen are wide expanses of optional black piano lacquer wood that look decadent dressed with turbine inlet-inspired air vents. Red leather drapes the seats while a perfume atomizer, 64-color adjustable ambient lighting, and rich Burmester audio set the mood. Heated and ventilated front seats with massagers, heated steering wheel and heated armrests warm the soul. A power steering column and rain-sensing wipers add convenience.
Keeping everybody safe are radar adaptive cruise, crash mitigation automatic braking, evasive steering assist, and blind spot warning. Parking sensors, around-view monitor, and head-up display further assist drivers.
Decades ago, “E400” meant a 4.0-liter V-8 engine, but now identifies an engine merely producing V-8 levels of acceleration. Beneath the power domes is a 3.0-liter biturbo V-6 engine delivering 329 horsepower, adequate to shove the car from 0-60 mph in 5.2 seconds. It’s no supercar, but power is strong and shifted smoothly through a nine-speed automatic transmission. The 4matic all-wheel drive dispenses with winter muck. Press lightly to realize 20/26 mpg city/highway.
There’s some fancy footwork accompanying the powertrain. Our car came with the air body control multichamber air suspension that can adjust from old-school comfortable to ultrastiff track star near instantly. Drivers can also change throttle response and shift points for comfort, eco, sport, sport-plus and individual. If you want a comfortable ride combined with hair-trigger throttle, no problem.
A Mercedes-Benz should be competent in corners, but also feel like three dump trucks couldn’t move it off course. And that was mostly accomplished with the E400. However, the air suspension can chatter over rough pavement and those 19-inch wheels crash hard over potholes. It’s no sports car, but it’s not supposed to be.
The E400 returns to a time when Mercedes built technologically advanced cars of understated luxury. Mercedes coupes from the late ’80s through the late ’90s are becoming some of the most collectible “young classics” because of their combination of conservative personality with a more personal cabin. Then and now, the coupe can be conservative or flamboyant; widen its stance, streamline its body, lop off two doors and the E400 is back to clearing the dance floor.