The Mercedes-Benz E-Class as a nameplate has been in existence for less than three decades, but its heritage stretches back much further.
Before the 1990s, Mercedes model nomenclature was far less neat and organized as the present day C-Class / E-Class / S-Class hierarchy – back then, the E suffix merely denoted that a model had fuel injection. It wasn’t until 1993 with the W124 facelift that the E-Class nomenclature was officially adopted to identify the mid-sized Mercedes executive.
W114 Stroke-8 (1968 – 1976)
The mid-sized Mercedes saloon first spawned a coupe derivative in 1968, a spin-off from the W114. This model generation was dubbed the ‘Stroke-8’ family as a nod to their launch year.
Technically, the ‘Stroke-8’ coupes took much of the sedan’s mechanical components but featured only the range-topping six-cylinder engines; the sedan model, in contrast, had the option of lower-powered four-cylinder variants.
The ‘Stroke-8’ coupe was initially offered with a choice between a 130hp carburettor and 150hp fuel-injected engine, both petrol-powered displacing 2.5 litres. In old-school Mercedes naming convention, these models were denoted as the 250C and 250CE respectively - C those days denoting 'coupe' rather than the present 'C-Class' that we know.
In 1972, the engines grew in size to 2.8 litres. The carb-fed 280C with 160hp replaced the 250CE, whilst the new 280CE with 185hp now sit on top of the range. The 250C continued, but it too was powered by a 2.8-litre engine, albeit one detuned to 130hp.
Outwardly, the Stroke-8 coupes all but resemble their sedan siblings, their front and rear fascias practically identical. They even share an identical 2,750mm wheelbase, but the coupe had a more angled windscreen and a roof 45mm lower than the sedan.
As with successive generations of the E-Class to follow, the Stroke-8 models were the basis of much innovation. The 250CE, for example, was the first Mercedes production model to be equipped with electronic fuel injection.
Additionally, the Stroke-8’s new diagonal swing axle rear suspension was said to significantly improve its handling compared to the preceding model. All round disc brakes provide stopping power superior to its peers.
A little fun fact – the Stroke-8 family was styled by Paul Bracq, who would eventually jump ship to Munich and sign off the first BMW 5 Series, a model who descendents would go on to become the E-Class’ greatest rivals.
C123 (1977 – 1985)
The Stroke Eight family was superseded by the W123 sedan in 1976, after which quickly came the C123 coupe the following year. Like its predecessor, the C123 outwardly resembled its sedan counterpart’s front and rear fascia, and also shares much of its underpinnings.
Unlike the previous model, however, the C123 coupe’s wheelbase is shortened by 85mm from the sedan. According to Mercedes, this change gave the coupe more ‘dynamic cornering characteristics’ and at the same time allowed for ‘more distinctive styling’ compared to the previous model.
The engine palette is significantly widened too. In addition to the existing 2.8-litre six-cylinder petrol, the C123 was also offered with the option of a 2.3-litre four-cylinder petrol and a 3.0-litre five-cylinder turbodiesel, all engines shared with the sedan model. As before, however, the sedan continues to offer the wider range of engines.
C124 (1987 – 1996)
A full decade after the C123’s introduction at the 1977 Geneva Motor Show, came its C124 successor at exactly the same venue. Picking up where the predecessor left off, the C124 follows the same format of utilizing underpinnings from the W124 sedan, but with its wheelbase again shortened by 85mm.
Whilst the C124 continues to mimic the saloon’s appearance at either end, Mercedes had introduced a greater degree of stylistic differences to the coupe. A key differentiator for the coupe over other body variants was the protective side strips with integrated side sill claddings.
In 1993, the 124 family was officially designated as the E-Class, with the C124 becoming the first ever E-Class Coupe. As with other members of the newly-christened E-Class family, the C124’s grille was revamped with slimmer chrome surrounds and its three-pointed star moving slightly further back from the top of the grille to sit directly on the bonnet.
W208 CLK-Class (1997 – 2002)
For the W210 E-Class launched in 1996, Mercedes opted to not develop a coupe directly off its underpinnings. Instead, the W202 C-Class was used as the technical basis for the new mid-sized Mercedes coupe, which now goes by the name CLK.
In appearance, however, the CLK continues to draw inspiration from the E-Class, notably sporting the then-controversial four-eyed look, outwardly affirming its position in the model hierarchy.
W209 CLK-Class (2002 – 2009)
Concurrent with the W211 E-Class came the similarly new W209 CLK-Class. As before, the W209 was built on the platform of its contemporary C-Class, the W203 this time.
Styling-wise, the W209 maintained a superficial similarity with W211 E-Class but with much individualistic styling cues. It carried its own distinct interpretation of the four-eyed look - forming a pair of peanut-shaped headlamp assemblies as opposed to four distinct clusters of the E-Class.
It also sports the more aggressive front grille design proudly-wearing the large centrally-positioned three-pointed star.
C207 E-Class Coupe (2009 – 2017)
Under the sheets, it continues to use the C-Class’ platform, but outwardly, the Mercedes E-Class Coupe is back, proudly wearing the E-Class badge through a full model circle for the first time and bearing a much closer visual resemblance to the sedan than before.
Together with the sedan model, the E-Class Coupe underwent a significant facelift in 2012 that brought about not only stylistic updates, but a new range of powertrains as well.
Despite sitting on the W204 C-Class platform, the E-Class Coupe nevertheless gets much of the sedan’s technology, featuring, among others, drowsiness detection, preventive occupant protection, active bonnet, adaptive high beam control, traffic sign recognition, autonomous emergency braking, and up to nine airbags.
C238 E-Class Coupe (2017 - )
It’s been a long time coming, but for the first time since 1996, Mercedes-Benz has finally given us an E-Class Coupe built on E-Class underpinnings.
Appearance-wise, the C238 draws close parallels with the W213, but as we detail separately in this article, the only common external components between the two vehicles are the headlights and door handles. Every other external body panel of the C238 is unique from the W213 sedan.
We had a go in the C238 E-Class Coupe at an international press event held at Catalunya recently. Stay tuned for our test drive report to be published later this week.