Ours was a journey sparked by a chance to drive Mercedes-Benz’s latest E-Class Coupe, which now has more in common with its mid-size sedan than before.
Barcelona was the jump station to other parts of Catalonia, that autonomous region of Spain fronting the Mediterraneans where good serrano, fine wines and cultural distractions are to be had.
Not only was the Catalonian capital hosting an eclectic bunch of motoring and lifestyle writers, it was drawing many more to the Mobile World Congress where the next smartphones and mobile tech were being foisted on the world. It was, frankly, a media-rich moment in this nook of Spain.
Now on to the subject at hand. Although a niche model, two-door coupes will continue to be an essential part of the Mercedes line-up for years to come. Dr Dieter Zetsche said as much recently even as the world has gone mad for SUVs and crossovers. Coupes like the one here, along with cabriolets, are important brand builders for the company, said the Daimler AG chairman and Mercedes-Benz boss.
Twenty-five E-Class Coupes were deployed for the international media drive. Ten E400s, 10 E300s and five E220ds form the backbone of the event with selected cars equipped with one of three suspension systems: Direct Control, Dynamic Body Control and Air Body Control aka air suspension.
We went with the E300 as this is the version that will be selling in Malaysia later this year. It came specified with the optional AMG Line package and air suspension, and not the Direct Control suspension that is expected to be standard fitment for the Malaysian market.
Direct Control suspension is the basic setup where the suspension of standard steel springs is 15mm lower than on the sedan and is tuned for comfort. Next up would be Dynamic Body Control suspension with adjustable damping offering "Comfort", "Sport" and "Sport+" drive modes. Air Body Control tops the rest with multi-chamber air suspension, including all-round roll/pitch/heave stabilisation. With three chambers of different size in the spring struts of the rear axle and two in the spring struts of the front axle, it is possible to control the hardness of the suspension in three stages. Air Body Control also offers more drive modes than Dynamic Body Control, adding in the ECO and Individual settings to the mix.
READ MORE: 50 years of Mercedes-Benz coupes
Daimler chief designer Gorden Wagener had this to say of the new coupe: "Our E-Class Coupé shows the next stage in the further development of our design idiom … it embodies a puristic design with an emphasis on surfaces, reduced lines and sensual forms. This reduced design idiom is ‘hot’ and ‘cool’ at one and the same time."
Close up, the four-seater looks every bit the stylish, sleek and sporty car.
The coupé proportions are characterised by a distinctive front end with low-positioned sports grille and central star, a rearward-shifted, squat greenhouse and a muscular rear end. The looks are underlined by four frameless, fully retractable side windows and the absence of a visible B-pillar.
Multibeam LED headlamps are matched with slim LED rear lights that have a new welcoming light effect and crystal look. Boot space is a large 425 litres.
The interior is where the sense of indulgence is heightened. The light wood panelling harks to Scandinavian inspirations and looks trendy combined with the beige leather upholstery and yacht-blue dash-top that sweeps all the way to the rear in a deliberate allusion to a nautical theme. On top of that, the hugely impressive dual 12.3-inch displays (albeit non-touchscreen), the head-up display and the jet turbine look of the air-cond vents are as much functional as they are talking points.
Much of what is available in the E-Class sedan is also found in the coupe. Besides the familiar dual displays known as Widescreen Cockpit in Merc parlance, other shared features include touch controls on the steering wheel, smartphone integration, extended Driving Assistance package, Remote Parking Pilot and Car-to-X communication.
The coupe also gets Magic Vision Control, which are fancy wipers with integrated washer and heating elements to ensure a clean wipe and maximum visibility at all times.
The AMG Line, which replaced the Avantgarde standard equipment package in the test car, amplifies the sporty appeal with more aggressive front and rear bumpers, side skirts and larger 19-inch or 20-inch AMG Styling wheels. The dots in the diamond radiator grille are chrome-plated, while the brake discs on the front axle are perforated. The interior boasts features such as seats in high-grade Artico/Dinamica microfibre in black with grey contrasting topstitching, ambient lighting and an AMG leather sport steering wheel.
Overall, the new E-Class Coupe is bigger than the outgoing model with a bigger wheelbase which opens up more space for four people to travel in plush comfort. Commenting on the differences between the new and old, E-Class coupe testing chief Peter Kolb said the car’s flooring is made up of three sections from two models. Whereas the old coupe was mostly C-Class in structure, the new one had C-Class content only in the rear section while the front and middle parts were straight out of the current E-Class sedan.
The E300 is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine making 245hp at 5,500rpm and 370Nm at 1,400-4,000 rpm. In contrast, the E400 Matic we later took for a short spin, has a 3.0-litre biturbo V6 mill dishing out a thumping 333hp at 5,200-6,000 rpm and 480Nm at 1,600-4,000 rpm.
For the E300, performance is decent and you probably have to wait for the real AMG version to rate it as potentially amazing. The over 4.8m-long car is more grand tourer than genuine sports car, able to lap up the miles for hours without flinching. We imagine a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Penang would be quite agreeable for four, cocooned in the luxurious interior where not-so-tall passengers in the back would even say it’s comfortable.
The ride isn't the least bit floaty and comes across as composed and supple in most cases, complemented by a steering that's accurate The cabin is quiet at highway speeds, attesting to the good noise insulation even as the speedo sweeps past 110kph.
Turn-in to corners is sharp and the wider tracks, lowered body and adaptive suspension help keep body roll in check.
Changing gears in the nine-speed automatic is smooth and rapid, and the gearbox is able to keep up with your right foot tempo.
Cycling through the drive modes is quick and uneventful. The Comfort setting is pretty much the default for most driving situations but the Sport and Sport+ are the ones to call up when you want to have a bit of fun when the road narrows and get twisty.
Contributing to the low fuel consumption of 6.4l/100km is the aerodynamic body, which has a Cd of 0.25, the same as before despite the larger front surface area and larger wheels.
The all-wheel drive E400 we had a brief acquaintance with rode on the Dynamic Body Control suspension and was decked out in AMG Line together with a so-called Night Package for more personalisation, with a host of design details in high-gloss black.
As we drove the E400 to our next hotel stay, what registered in the mind was a car that had much meatier power delivery with a punchy low-end. One that barrels into corners with an adept chassis balance, marking it as the idealised mid-range Mercedes coupe.
The E400 will certainly be a heftier price to pay. The E300, however, will be available for less yet won’t stray far from the ideal in style and substance.
E220d 4MATIC (Diesel)