Review: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe (C238) – Stylish Return To Form

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Review: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe (C238) – Stylish Return To Form

Despite its long car-making history, Mercedes-Benz model lineages aren’t as straight forward to trace as most car makers. Whilst the core C-, E-, and S-Class models function as the range lynchpins, rest of the line-up always seem to be in a state of flux with regards to their identity and positioning. In fact, it wasn’t until the 1990s, that the aforementioned trio of core models came to be known as they are today.

The subject of our interest today, the E-Class Coupe, itself had rather muddled origins. What started off as a coupe derivative of the mid-sized Mercedes saloon then branched off to become the CLK, a coupe with E-Class looks on a C-Class platform.

The E-Class Coupe name was re-instated in 2009 with the C207 coupe lining up alongside the W212 E-Class sedan, but that too was an E-Class in name with C-Class underpinnings. Things changed in 2011, however, with the introduction of a proper C-Class Coupe based on the W204 chassis; this naturally makes the practice of building an E-Class Coupe off the same set of underpinnings an untenable arrangement.

So, as the new W213 E-Class sedan rolled along, Mercedes has gone back and, for the first time in two decades, built an E-Class Coupe with proper E-Class running gear. Following its recent global unveil, we flew to Catalunya to get a first taste of Mercedes’ latest mid-sized coupe.

Specifications (As Tested):

E220d 4Matic
Engine: 2.0-litre, Inline-4 Longitudinal, Turbodiesel
Power: 194hp @ 3,800rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1,600 – 2,800rpm
Transmission: 9-speed torque converter automatic, AWD
Chassis: Direct Control passive suspension, 18-inch wheels

E300
Engine: 2.0-litre, Inline-4 Longitudinal, Turbocharged, Petrol
Power: 245hp @ 5,500rpm
Torque: 370Nm @ 1,400 – 4,000rpm
Transmission: 9-speed torque converter automatic, RWD
Chassis: Air Body Control suspension, 20-inch wheels

E400 4Matic
Engine: 3.0-litre, V6 Longitudinal, Turbocharged, Petrol
Power: 333hp @ 5,200 – 6,000rpm
Torque: 480Nm @ 1,600 – 4,000rpm
Transmission: 9-speed torque converter automatic, AWD
Chassis: Dynamic Body Control adaptive suspension, 20-inch wheels

Overview

The selection of cars available at the international media drive covered three out of four available powertrain options introduced at launch with the C238. The 184hp E200 was the notable absentee, though we nevertheless had the opportunity to sample at least one spec with a 2.0-litre petrol engine that is likely to be most relevant to our market, the E300 with 245hp.

We also tested the E220d 4Matic, the entry-level diesel model powered by Mercedes-Benz’s new generation 2.0-litre OM654 motor. Whilst this powertrain is unlikely to make it here, the E220d test cars were the only ones at the drive fitted with the Direct Control passive suspension setup which we are expecting for our market.

The E400, which comes with 4Matic all-wheel drive as standard, is unlikely to be of great relevance for our market, even if it goes officially on sale here. Nevertheless, our suspicion is that Mercedes-Benz Malaysia will be ordering its cars to most closely resemble the AMG Line Night Package-trimmed E400 test vehicles seen here.

To sum up, the E-Class Coupe’s engine range consist of a pair of 2.0-litre petrol variants in the E200 and E300, a 3.0-litre V6 petrol in the E400, and a 2.0-litre diesel in the E220d. All-wheel drive is standard in the E400 and optional in the lower models. Slated for later introduction is the 3.0-litre V6 diesel E350d and also, you’d expect, a high performance AMG variant. For Malaysia, expect only the E200 and E300 with may be limited numbers of the E400.

There are no direct rivals to the E-Class Coupe. Audi has yet to offer anything in this segment, whilst the BMW 6 Series nestles itself in the space between the E- and S-Class Coupes. From a performance standpoint, the least powerful variant of the 6 Series on offer, the 640i, is on par with the leading variant of the E-Class here, namely the E400. The likes of the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series are closer instead to the C-Class Coupe.

Exterior

Besides the obvious difference in profile, differences in styling details between the E-Class Coupe and its W213 sedan sibling have been explored in great detail separately here. In summary, despite a close frontal resemblance, the C238 shares none of the sedan’s exterior body panels – only the head lights and door handles are common between the two bodystyles.

Bodily measurements show the coupe to be a shorter, lower, but wider vehicle than the sedan. Crucially, it is worth noting that whilst overall length is reduced by 97mm compared to the sedan, the wheelbase is shortened by only 66mm. Proportionately, what this means is that in addition to a squatter more aggressive front profile, the coupe also has its wheels closer to the corners than the sedan. It all combines to give the coupe a more dynamic, more aggressive stance.

 

E-Class Coupe

(C238)

E-Class Sedan (W213)

Size

Difference

Length (mm)

4,826

4,923

-97

Width (mm)

1,860

1,852

+8

Height (mm)

1,430

1,468

-38

Wheelbase (mm)

2,873

2,939

-66

Front Track (mm)

1,605

1,619

-14

Rear Track (mm)

1,609

1,619

-10

 

The rear end carries the now distinctive Mercedes coupe look with narrow-slit tail lights and bumper-mounted license plates inspired by the AMG GT. As a nod to the sedan, crystal optics are arranged at the lighting elements to give a brilliant appearance described by Mercedes as ‘reminiscent of the glow of a jet engine’. Turning the flair even further, the engineers even programmed the LEDs to illuminate progressively outward from the vehicle when the doors are being unlocked at night, and in reverse direction upon locking. If there’s any feature you’d never get tired of showing off to your mates, this is it.

Of the three cars sampled for this drive, this writer is of the opinion that the E220d’s design hyacinth red metallic shade brings out the C238’s lines best, although we understand that MBM is likely to go for the jugular in specifying the AMG Line Night Package trim that inevitably comes with the matte-finished design cashmere white magno shade instead.

Depending on grade, the array of sample cars wore either 18-inch alloys in conjunction with the E220d’s Avantgarde trim or 20-inch alloys in the other two variants. It is worth noting, however, that the cars with 18-inch rims at the drive event all had passive suspension whilst those shod with 20-inch rollers were fitted with either adaptive or air suspension. Aesthetically, the vehicle appears under-heeled with 18-inch wheels, but if MBM is to specify 20-inch items as we are expecting, we are cautious about their detrimental effects to ride comfort if they don’t come with either of the higher suspension grades.

Interior

The same dash layout as seen in the E-Class sedan is reproduced here in the coupe, the only major differentiation seen at the air-con vents, which seem to resemble the suction of a jet engine. What this boils down to is that the same high quality material feel, fit and finish that we highly acclaim in the sedan are all accordingly reproduced here in the coupe.

As with the sedan, Mercedes offers conventional analog instruments as standard, but all test cars present at the drive event came with the optional Widescreen Cockpit virtual cluster. This feature is standard for the sedan in Malaysia, however, and that should also apply to the coupe when it comes here. In any case, we can’t imagine any customer of this vehicle in any market who would not foot the bill for this upgrade.

Fit and finish on the test cars feel excellent, although we were exposed to a greater variety of materials than is likely to be offered for our market. The dark-hued AMG Line cabin of the E400 test car with piano black finishing is perhaps best suited to the tastes of our market, but the unglossed open-pore wood trim seen in the beige interior of the E300 test car looked intriguing enough to these eyes – not so the navy blue dash top piece paired with it though.

Even with a shortened wheelbase over the sedan, the C238 E-Class Coupe has still grown significantly from its C-Class-based C207 predecessor. Notably, there is an additional 113mm to play with between the wheels. Rear passengers are the biggest benefactors of this growth, receiving an additional 74mm of leg room. As further concession to those seated astern, the aft windows can be fully lowered. This makes the E-Class Coupe a proper four-seater able to transport its rear passengers in decent comfort over long distances.

Driving Experience

If your expectations of the E-Class Coupe is of a stately cruiser with effortless gait, the E300 meets those expectations quite comfortably. The boosted four-cylinder engine offers adequate low-end shove on the move and, allied with Merc’s in-house 9-speed auto, quite capable of pulling past the speed limits with minimal effort.

Driven back-to-back against the 3.0-litre V6 E400, however, one realizes that the E300’s aggressively-boosted 2.0-litre mill can be a little gruff in responding to aggressive stabs of the throttle. On paper, both engines are capable of touching the electronic 250 km/h limiter, but the E300 asks for an extra 1.1 seconds over the E400 to hit 100 km/h from rest in 6.4 seconds.

In isolation, the E300 is quick enough for most day-to-day use, but the E400 is just that little bit smoother-revving when pushed. Where the E300’s power delivery can feel like a quick punchy jab, the E400’s grunt is more measured and sustains its pull longer too. The E300 gets the job done, and fast, but the E400 is the motor that offers an additional dimension.

The diesel-powered E220d, on the other hand, powered by Mercedes’ brand new OM654 turbodiesel engine is a pleasingly smooth and refined performer. We’d say it’s the superior motor to the petrol-driven E300, but with diesel power hardly resonating with the brand’s target crowd in Malaysia, there is no reason to delay us any further here.

Still, drive time in the E220d was crucial for us to gauge the E-Class Coupe’s base handling competency as they were the only cars to run the standard passive suspension setup. On the evidence of our bright red test car, the chassis is composed and controlled on directional changes, but without feeling overly excitable – those of a sportier disposition may deem this as a lack of agility, but we suspect the intention is provide a more relaxed helm that is likely to be better appreciated by the E-Class’ target market.

The fitment of 4Matic all-wheel drive also exerts noticeable effects on the vehicle’s behaviour. Even in dry tarmac, the superior traction of the all-wheel driven cars were noticeable in the way they grip and pull themselves around a bend under throttle. The rear-wheel driven E300, however, makes up for its shortfall in grip by engendering a greater feel of agility, its nose feeling keener at turn-in.

Comfort & Refinement

Whereas the E-Class sedan tested last year was not as comfortable as expected, the E-Class Coupe, at least in guises tested, all exhibited commendable ride quality. It is, if we must compare, less incisive to steer than a BMW 5 Series, but more comfortable over most surfaces. Overall, we'd say it's a spot on setup commensurating the E-Class' identity. 

There is a caveat to these findings, however, and its relevance to our market depends on how Mercedes-Benz Malaysia selects its wheels and suspension. At the drive, whether it was with adaptive or air suspension, the E-Class Coupe rides unperturbed by most disturbances even with 20-inch alloy wheels.

On passive suspension with 18-inch rims, we found no reason to complain either; but we suspect that the compromise may become less satisfying if passive suspension is specified in conjunction with wheels measuring 19 inches upwards.

Conclusion

There is no indication on when the E-Class Coupe is coming to Malaysia. This not being a core model, we are not expecting it here in a great hurry, but we do not believe the wait will stretch past the year’s third quarter. Likely variants to come our way will be the E200 and E300; the E400 4Matic, if it arrives, is unlikely to sell in significant numbers to see it sustained for a lengthy period. Mercedes does not currently offer the coupe in E250 guise.

Mercedes’ decision to return to building the E-Class Coupe off the E-Class sedan is a wise one, and the result is a product that is unique like no other. It not only receives the sedan’s high quality trappings, but most crucially, its body size. This is a proper four-seater that will house rear passengers over long distances in great comfort.

Indeed, Mercedes is unique in offering a coupe model at this body size with a tax-friendly 2.0-litre engine displacement. A right-sized body with right-sized engine; svelte looks and a beautifully-finished cabin inside; the E-Class Coupe makes a convincing case of its luxury credentials on many fronts. A thoroughly alluring product that simultaneously appeals to both halves of the brain.

Gallery: Review: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E-Class Coupe (C238) International Media Drive

Gallery: Review: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E220d 4Matic Avantgarde Coupe (C238)

Gallery: Review: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E300 AMG Line Coupe (C238)

Gallery: Review: 2017 Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic AMG Line Night Package Coupe (C238)



Kon

Kon

Prefering his cars to come with four disc brakes, independent rear suspension, and manual transmission, Kon prioritizes mechanical sophistication over outward appeal. Admires cars built to exceed the sum of their parts and appreciates vehicles engineered with integrity.


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