SPORTSCAR FOR THE SU­PER-PO­LITE

Sub­tle, sleek, and hes­i­tant to make bold moves on the road, it’s the per­fect car for those who want to turn heads—just a lit­tle

Financial Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - HAN­NAH EL­LIOTT

The 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is a very de­mure sports car. With a long, fluted body, it will earn you nods of ap­pre­ci­a­tion from side­walk.

THE 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe is a very de­mure sports car. With a long, fluted body and clean, un­in­ter­rupted lines, it doesn’t shred the road like the Mercedes-Benz AMG GT, but it will still earn you nods of ap­pre­ci­a­tion from side­walk.

Its 329-horse­power V6 biturbo en­gine is docile, though es­pe­cially good around cor­ners. The nine­speed au­to­matic shifts quickly and smoothly, with im­me­di­ate and firm stop­ping on the adap­tive, an­tilock brakes.

And with ac­tive brake as­sist, con­ges­tion emer­gency brak­ing, adap­tive high beam as­sist, rear cross-traf­fic alert, and ac­tive steer­ing as­sist, to name a few, it prac­ti­cally feels like a self-driv­ing ve­hi­cle in how ea­ger it is to take over ev­ery ma­neu­ver you might need—or not need.

What it will not do is let you rudely change lanes with­out no­tice, or prac­tice any star­tling driv­ing tac­tics at speed. “It won’t al­low an ag­gres­sive New York lane change,” a pub­lic re­la­tions rep­re­sen­ta­tive told me dur­ing the press drive on Sun­day in Con­necti­cut.

In this car, you’ll be crash-avoidant. The E400 is also slower than what will likely be its biggest com­peti­tors, the BMW 3-Series Sedan and 4-Series Coupe and the Audi S5 Coupe. It’s slower even when en­gag­ing the “Sport+” ver­sion of its five to­tal drive modes, which al­ters throt­tle re­sponse, shift­ing, and the avail­able air body con­trol sus­pen­sion.

You’ll still have plenty of power to work with: Zero to 60 miles per hour takes 5.2 sec­onds on au­to­matic. For most driv­ers, that’s plenty. Any­way, the car is fun to drive. Around cor­ners and in a straight line, the E400 is ac­cu­rate and con­trolled. It jus­ti­fies the mid­dle-range $58,900 start­ing price for a per­for­mance coupe, and it looks like it costs more. A Shin­ing Star.

The main sell­ing point here, though, is how the car looks, in­side and out. It’s re­ally beau­ti­ful.

Why? The pil­lar-less sides (lack­ing the bars in the mid­dle that help bol­ster a car’s roof) al­low for a proper view to­ward and from the car. The fluid body line is off­set by a slop­ing roof line. And the in­cred­i­ble three-di­men­sional grill, to name just a few things. In­side, the round vents fin­ished in metal and the real, matte wood all around the dash and win­dowsills makes it feel like the in­side of a yacht cabin. The four (rel­a­tively) mas­sive seats are cov­ered in sup­ple leather and ex­pert stitch­ing. This isn’t even a Rolls-Royce.

In­side are 64 color vari­a­tions for the am­bi­ent light­ing, along with that fa­mous “air bal­ance” cabin fra­grance-sys­tem vial of liq­uid that plugs into the cli­mate con­trol and lightly scents the air. Ba­si­cally, you can ad­just the in­te­rior to feel about as therapeutic as the lights and smells of an in­frared sauna.

For the con­trols—and un­doubt­edly in re­sponse to crit­i­cism that Mercedes cars can be over-stuffed with con­fus­ing, un­nec­es­sary tech­nolo­gies—the Daim­ler AG brand has up­dated its com­mand sys­tem with an eas­ier-tounder­stand icon for­mat that shows side­bar menus on a 12.3-inch LCD screen.

It still feels weird that the drive/ park/ re­verse/ neu­tral shifter is lo­cated on the steer­ing col­umn, next to where you’d flip the wind­shield wipers on. The shoul­der belts, too, can feel placed a lit­tle too low if you have a long torso.

Where Bay­erische Mo­toren Werke AG ex­cels on mak­ing driv­ing ma­chines but can feel min­i­mal in­side, Mercedes ex­cels at mak­ing its cabin in­te­ri­ors.

This is anec­do­tal. A mo­ment af­ter a friend told me, “I don’t like Mercedes,” the same per­son saw this thing emerge from the garage, and said: “I want that.” It’s funny but true. The car is on sale now, so you may soon find your­self in the same place.

The E Class 400 is on sale now, start­ing at $58,900

The in­te­rior of the E400 is cased in am­bi­ent light­ing, brushed wood, and new, nat­u­ral leathers

New this year: the vents and de­sign of the dash­board, as well as the but­tons on the steer­ing wheel

The new Mercedes E400 Coupe has a 329horse­power, tur­bocharged V6 en­gine

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