It’s as smart as it looks

The Courier-Mail - Motoring - - Prestige - JOSHUA DOWL­ING NA­TIONAL MO­TOR­ING EDI­TOR

IF you’re look­ing to buy the new Mercedes E-Class Coupe, you’re prob­a­bly more in­ter­ested in how you and the car look than how it drives.

You’ll be pleased to know, then, that if you get dis­tracted by the car’s re­flec­tion in a shop win­dow, there’s a heap of tech­nol­ogy work­ing be­hind the scenes to make sure you don’t dent your E-Class.

Rang­ing in price from $97,000 to $146,000, this twodoor four-seater is up to $6000 dearer (and rather less prac­ti­cal) than the four-door five-seater sedan on which it’s based.

To jus­tify this ar­guably ir­ra­tional pur­chase, the E-Class Coupe is loaded with gad­gets and tech­nol­ogy other cars lack.

There are ex­ceed­ingly prac­ti­cal touches, start­ing with the wind­screen wipers. Each wiper blade has 60 tiny holes that squirt water on the screen like a gar­den sprin­kler — then the same strip of rub­ber squeegees the glass af­ter­wards.

They’re also heated, which is a world first, though more of an ad­van­tage in en­vi­ron­ments where snow and ice can be a hassle in early morn­ing starts. Just don’t ex­pect to buy a set of cheap non-gen­uine blades at the lo­cal auto parts ware­house.

In Europe only for now, the E-Class Coupe comes with speed-sign recog­ni­tion — when cruise con­trol is ac­ti­vated, the car will ad­just its speed as zones change.

Mercedes is still as­sess­ing this set-up in Aus­tralian driv­ing con­di­tions and mak­ing sure its cam­eras can de­tect lo­cal signs.

When E-Class Coupes go on sale here in June, they will have semi-au­ton­o­mous tech that can read the lane mark­ings — touch the in­di­ca­tor stalk and it will have the smarts to steer it­self and change lanes.

This comes with a rather large caveat.

Hav­ing tested this car and other with sim­i­lar tech­nol­ogy, we haven’t found any that are good enough to war­rant tak­ing your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road.

Driv­ers are ex­per­i­ment­ing with this tech­nol­ogy and, po­ten­tially, their lives.

I had a near-miss in the E-Class sedan a year ago. I al­most repli­cated it in the Coupe. The auto steer­ing and lane keep­ing tech­nol­ogy was “ac­tive” and it still nearly veered off the road. Twice.

What does work well and can be re­lied on is the au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing which, in the case of this par­tic­u­lar Mercedes, can also de­tect dan­ger from cross traf­fic at a T-in­ter­sec­tion. Ge­nius. ON THE ROAD Aus­tralia ini­tially gets three mod­els: E220 turbo diesel four, ($97,000), E300 turbo four ($110,900) and E400 3.0-litre V6 twin turbo with all-wheel drive ($145,900).

We fo­cused on the most pop­u­lar ver­sion: the su­perla­tive E300. We had to dig deep to pick some flaws.

Good news first: the steer­ing is eerily pre­cise yet doesn’t make the car over-re­act or ner­vous.

The Coupe is also serenely quiet, other than on coarse road sur­faces, and the nine-speed auto is a smooth oper­a­tor.

The lush in­te­rior has su­perb ex­tra-wide dig­i­tal screens and a back­lit dis­play cre­at­ing a “float­ing” im­pres­sion.

The rear seat is de­cep­tively roomy and the seat-back split­folds to ex­tend the boot into a gi­ant cargo space.

Dis­likes? The E300’s 2.0-litre turbo sounds like an elec­tric tooth­brush when you floor the throt­tle. The air vents, though exquisitely de­signed, feel about as strong as a plas­tic fork — odd, given Mercedes nor­mally ob­sesses about the de­tails. VER­DICT It re­ally doesn’t mat­ter what we think: just look at it and drool.

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