It’s as smart as it looks
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.