A choice en­counter

The new Mercedes-Benz’s E-Class Coupe awaited us in Spain in one of our lat­est trips. We con­nected af­ter a Lon­don stopover

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Impressions - By GE­ORGE WONG g.wong@thes­tar.com.my

SAGRADA Fa­milia, Gothic Quar­ter and Palau de la Música Cata­lana. All must­see places when you are in Barcelona if you have time to spare on a work­ing trip.

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 mid­size 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 lineup for years to come. Di­eter Zestsche 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 and Mercedes-Benz chief in af­firm­ing their con­tin­ued ex­is­tence.

Twenty-five E-Class Coupes were de­ployed for the in­ter­na­tional me­dia drive. Ten E 400s, 10 E 300s and five E 220ds 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 E 300 as this is the ver­sion that will be made avail­able in Malaysia from next week. 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 lo­cal 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.

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 the part of a stylish, sleek and sporty car to the hilt.

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 dual dis­plays known as Widescreen Cock­pit in Merc par­lance, other shared fea­tures in­clude touch con­trols on the steer­ing wheel, smart­phone in­teg

gra­tion, 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 top-stitch­ing, am­bi­ent light­ing and an AMG leather sport steer­ing wheel.

Over­all, the new E-Class Coupe is big­ger than the out­go­ing model with a longer 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 un­der­body 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 E 300 Coupe 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 E 400 4Matic we later took for a short spin, has a 3.0-litre biturbo V6 mill crank­ing out a thump­ing 333hp at 5,200-6,000 rpm and 480Nm at 1,600-4,000 rpm.

For the E 300, 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 gran tourer than gen­uine sports car, able to gob­ble 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 steer­ing is ac­cu­rate and there’s nary a float­ing feel­ing as the ride is com­posed and sup­ple in most cases. 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.

The nine-speed au­to­matic gear­box is smooth and gear changes are rapid 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 upon when you want to have a bit of fun when the road nar­rows down 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 E 400 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 ad­di­tional per­son­al­i­sa­tion, with a host of de­sign de­tails in high-gloss black.

As we drove the E 400 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 midrange Mercedes coupe.

The E 400 will cer­tainly be a heftier price to pay. The E 300, how­ever, will be avail­able for less yet doesn’t stray far from the ideal in style and sub­stance.

> More pic­tures and video at car­sifu.my

De­cent head­room and legroom if you are not tallish.

Nav­i­gat­ing into Barcelona on the way to the out­skirts of the city.

A scenic view of the Cat­alo­nian coast­line dur­ing a break in the jour­ney.

The seat­belt is au­to­mat­i­cally served when you sit in.

There’s even an app to help you move or park the car re­motely.

The 2.0-litre mill of the E 300 Coupe.

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