From the moment you set eyes on the car you know this is something special. The sleek, silky lines, the bulked up nose, striking front skirt, large Mercedes badge in the centre of the grille, and fastback style roof line show this is no ordinary prestige coupe. It is the 6th generation of the most popular member of the Mercedes-Benz family. While the styling is striking and throws off some of its conservative baggage, it strikes a good balance between athleticism and traditional Mercedes values.
For a coupe the E500 is a decent size, and while it may be a two door, it shares the same platform as the C Class. While the E-Class sedan is built off a new platform, the Coupe is built off a modified C-Class platform.
Mercedes have cleverly created two different interiors, between the sedan and coupe models, with the coupe a more intimate affair, with driver and passenger closer together. In the sedan there is a feeling of far more space. Perhaps more telling is the comfort of rear seat passengers. There are two beautifully sculptured seats in the back, but I found that my head hit the fastback roof line, and accordingly, are really only suitable for kids or small adults. But then who buys a two door coupe to carry passengers?
The exhilaration of the E500 comes after you stab the engine start/ stop button. While Mercedes have a growing range of fuel efficient engines (see Blue efficiency engine range earlier in this issue) with a focus very much on economy and diesel engines, but not at the expense of performance, it might be considered an extravagance that we are driving the new E500 Coupe powered by a whopping 5.5-litre V8 engine. Delivering an inspiring 285kW of power at 6000rpm, but more importantly 530Nm of torque that comes on tap at just 2800rpm through to 4800rpm, this is truly a driver's car to enjoy.
Performance is scintillating and the challenge is actually keeping the E500 at, or under posted speed limits.
The sensation of driving the Coupe is such that there is little cabin noise, and power comes on tap so effortlessly, that the sensation of speed is more a case of: Wow, am I really going that fast...?
Acceleration is brisk, 0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds - it feels a lot less - and on numerous occasions on long highway stretches a glance at the speedo, found the coupe dancing along at a pace that would have ensued a large contribution to State coffers had a revenue raising camera been crossed.
The 5.5-litre starts with a low rumble and the park brake is released with a handle near your right knee. (The brake is applied by stomping on a foot pedal). There is a short throw centre auto gear shifter that can be driven in manual mode by moving to sequential shift.
The seven speed transmission works well, and in most instances can be left in drive, but for more enthusiastic driving sequential shift can be selected and the driver can move through the gears via the paddles found at the back of the steering wheel.
Ease on the throttle and you're away. There is a beautiful note emitted under acceleration, otherwise engine noise is near non existent at highway speeds with wind rushing over the side mirrors the biggest intrusion on an otherwise quiet ambience.
Our test vehicle had elegant red leather seats, with a gray and black interior, accentuated with a sweeping brushed alloy bar across the width of the dash, centre transmission tunnel and doors. The interior has a luxurious look to it and soft feel surfaces add to the ambience.
The front seats of the coupe need special mention, as they are quite excellent. In standard mode there is good cushioning, side bolstering and lumbar support, but that's just half of the story. Both front seats are fully power adjustable, with 3 memory functions. Allowing you to fully customise the seat to your taste is the set of controls pictured below. By moving the small wheels forward or back, adjustment for lumbar support, side bolstering, and firmness of cushioning and height can all be accurately adjusted. After an eight hour stint in the Coupe I can report that I alighted without any back aches, thanks largely to this system.
For the driver it is easy to get a comfortable and commanding driving position, with vision generally good all round. The steering column is tilt and reach power adjustable, and instrumentation is easy to read with clear, distinct graphics.
The cruise control stalk is a little fiddly, located on the left of the steering wheel and didn't always engage which was a little frustrating.
Steering is well balanced and while acceleration isn't explosive, is very effective when the need is there to overtake or just to cover some ground quickly. What I particularly liked about the E500, was not only the brisk launch feel, but the fact that even when approaching very high speeds, the car was totally sure footed, responsive and stable. It makes for an engaging drive and time behind the wheel is an enjoyable experience.
At launch Mercedes-Benz staff advised that development work on the E-Class involved 1,400 development prototype and pre-production vehicles - an enormous number of test vehicles - and only after a further 34 million kilometres in testing over four years, did engineers give the E-Class the thumbs up. As the beneficiary of their efforts I can say that all their work is certainly appreciated.
The coupe is the sporty member of the E-Class family and comes fitted with 'agility control' suspension, which is Mercedes talk for a system that adjusts to road surface and driving behaviour. A dynamic handling package is standard on the E-500 coupe and is an electronically controlled dampening system which provides the driver with a choice of 'comfort' or 'sport' driving mode. 'Comfort' mode is the default setting and generally I found it to be too soft, delivering a wallowing style ride when the road surface was undulating. Handling was also slightly less responsive, so 'Sport' was my mode of choice. Selected at the press of a dashboard mounted button, it engages shorter transmission shift times and continuous adaption of accelerator, transmission and damper response to road conditions and a more direct steering ratio. In short the ride was marginally firmer, handling sharper and the driving experience improved. The coupe also comes fitted with electronic stability program and a standard AMG Sports package.
Sport mode cannot be set as the default, and needs to be selected on each drive.
Steering feel is amongst the best I have experienced, being both positive and balanced. It encompasses a newly developed speed sensitive sport steering system with a more direct ratio and variable centering - all standard with the dynamic handling package.
While ride is extraordinarily stable and handling first class, Mercedes have endowed the E Class with numerous safety measures. First up there are nine standard fit airbags, belt tensioners and belt force limiters on all seats, as well as crash responsive head restraints for the driver and front passenger. The range of airbags, which can deploy in thousandths of a second in an accident, comprise front and side airbags for the driver and front passenger, a kneebag for the driver, rear side airbags and window bags.
The front crumple zone has four independent impact planes which allow the forces to be distributed over a wide area while bypassing the passenger cell.
While the E-Class gains an impressive array of safety equipment, the Coupe does miss out on two important new features that we will comment on further when we road test the new E350 petrol sedan in coming weeks.
The Coupe does not incorporate the blind spot warning and lane departure tactile alert systems found in the sedan - not even as options. The former isn't really a problem as vision in the Coupe is very good. Other equipment that is found in the Coupe includes adaptive high beam assist, attention assist driver fatigue detection system, distronic plus radar guided cruise control and a pre safe brake, which employs an autonomous emergency braking system if there is an acute risk of accident. Mercedes say that the E-Class underwent 150 in-house crash tests and 17,000 crash simulations before entering series production to ensure optimum, safety.
I've already mentioned the interior, but there are aspects that bear further comment. The Coupe is a clever combination of sports car and sedan - if that's possible. In most sports cars, the driver sits very low to the ground, and interior accommodation and carrying capability are secondary considerations. So while the Coupe has all the characteristics and horses of a sportscar, it is a little more refined, not requiring the driver to get quite so low, which makes entry and exit that little bit easier - and while the back seat is really suitable for children, it provides a decent storage area. Similarly the boot easily accommodated two large suitcases and other sundry items. Accordingly the Coupe is suited to a dual role and one that I think many buyers will appreciate.
Here you have a car with definite sports lines, striking body lines, yet a sporty and stylish interior and all of the luxuries that make Mercedes such a great brand. Interior workmanship can't be faulted, and once you find your way around the placement of such things as seat control on the door, everything falls into place.
Our test vehicle was finished in Avantgarde trim, with Flamenco red leather, standard AMG Sport Package, and anti theft package, panoramic roof, keyless go and dynamic handling package.
The vehicle as tested was valued at $174,500.
The cabin is a good place to be, not too cramped, and certainly with all the comforts of home. The contour seating package is fantastic and there is generous front leg and ceiling room, with large footwells.
The centre information system is very good, but the command controller - the dial located on the centre console behind the gear shifter, is a little tricky to use, and really needs to be operated only by a passenger when moving.
The controller puts all the functions of the infotainment system - radio, CD/DVD player, telephone and navigation system at the fingertips of the driver and front passenger. There is also a media interface that allows for connecting external MP3 players and a hard disc that can store 1000 music tracks. Options include the 500 watt Harman/Kardon Logic7 surround sound system and a tuner for digital radio reception.
The clarity of the resolution screen is good as is the information available.
In summary, the E500 Coupe is first rate. Santa can park one in my garage with no arguments!
Performance, ambience and fitment are all top notch.
It is recommended that the E500 run on higher octane petrol, but can run comfortably on standard unleaded. Our overall fuel consumption figure was 9.9 litres/100km in mixed city and highway driving, including some spirited testing sessions. Official fuel consumption figures are rated at 11.01/100km so anything less is certainly achievable by any driver.
In short this is a supreme vehicle.
Mercedes-Benz E500 Coupe
Engine: V8, 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 98 x 90.5mm
Max. Power: 285kW @ 6000rpm
Max. Torque: 530Nm @ 2800-4800rpm Compression ratio: 10.7:1
Transmission Type: Seven speed automatic
Ratios: Final drive 2.47
Rev 1 3.42
Rev 2 2.23
Chassis & Suspension
Front: Three-link suspension, anti-dive, Airmatic full support air suspension with electronically controlled damping system, stabiliser.
Rear: Multi-link independent suspension, anti-squat and anti-dive systems, Airmatic full support air suspension with electronically controlled damping system, stabiliser.
Braking System: Internally ventilated disc brakes all round, drum type parking brake at rear, ABS, Brake Assist, ESP.
Steering: Rack and pinion power steering, speed sensitive, steering damper
Wheels: Front - 8.5J x 18 H2, Rear - 9.0J x 18 H2
Tyres: Front - 2245/40 R18, Rear - 265/35 R18
Dimensions & Weights
Track F/R: 1580/1599mm
Turning circle: 11.25 metre
Boot capacity: 540-litres
Kerb weight: 1830kg
Gross weight: 2375kg
Fuel tank capacity: 89 litres
Acceleration: 0-100km/h - 5.2 seconds
Top speed: 210 km/h electronically limited
Fuel consumption - combined11.0 combined cycle
CO2 emissions: 258 g/km
MLP as tested: $174,500