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Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse Coupé Forget Sex and the City 2 Once you fall for the charms of the E-Klasse Coupé, you begin to accept that this could be the most elegant car on the road.
Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse Coupé

Edging back into glamour

Mercedes-Benz’s E-Klasse coupé looked fussy and fancy when we first saw photographs of it. After seeing it in the metal and, importantly, driving it, it’s a car that moves the game on for the new decade. And it’s our Car to Be Seen in for 2010, writes Jack Yan
photographed by the author

 

MAYBE ITS MY DECIDEDLY MODERNIST OUTLOOK on design that I had a bias against the new Mercedes-Benz E-Klasse models from day one. The sculpted lines around the rear door, apeing the larger S-Klasse, seemed fussy. At the time, I said that it was fine for the Ford Focus to go all ornamental in the quest for young buyers wanting the next hip small car, but a Merc? No, buyers of such cars want understatement, and cared little for how the light might reflect in interesting ways off the wings and doors.
   These thoughts were not unprecedented. It wasn’t that long ago that Mercedes-Benz launched an S-Klasse that was far too big for the recession that hit in the early 1990s. It was automotive overkill. And with the economy not in the rosiest position today, fussy styling often elicits the same thought. When the chips are down, no one wants to stand out and look too rich and fancy.
   Also, things that might look quirky and cute on a small car don’t necessarily work on a big one. The 1999 Ford Falcon was a prime example: it might have Ford’s New Edge styling theme that was all the rage in the late 1990s, but it translated poorly on to a large car.
   But, Mercedes-Benz might argue, we’re not Ford. We have a three-pointed star up front and we set trends. Then you will hear how these chaps invented the car, were the first ones to put the engine up front, and gave us fuel injection and ABS as standard over the years. Mercedes-Benz does not follow the rules: it sets them.
   Thus, the E-Klasse might not be the most elegant car on the road, but it is in line with a newfound confidence at Mercedes-Benz. Now rid of the “American patient”—its former Chrysler unit now Fiat’s problem—the company is rediscovering its quality (we have been more impressed with the S- and the C-Klasse) and that is being reflected in the designs. While some models don’t fit that well into the Mercedes-Benz design language (B- and R-Klasse), the mainstream ones now look more unified than they have in years.
   Or is it the most elegant car on the road? At the time of launch we might all have been reeling from the tall poppy syndrome that comes from recessions, but economic downturns pass and people want fanciness again. As we see more W212-series Es on the road, they aren’t that bad—though we still think the saloon and estate aren’t that well balanced in terms of looks. We do, however, think Mercedes-Benz has got it right in going fussy in 2009, and the E-Klasse Coupé has what it takes to be our Car to Be Seen in for 2010.
   In the last couple of years, we’ve chosen very small cars for this accolade: the Fiat 500 and the Alfa Romeo MiTo. It was in line with where global economies were heading. But there is a belief that people will want style and glamour again, and Mercedes-Benz seems to have understood that.
   But it’s not just the pillarless looks of the E Coupé. Features such as the speed-sensitive cruise control—the car automatically slows down when the vehicle in front does—and a detector that sounds an alarm when it realizes you are drifting off, are not mere gadgets for gadgetry’s sake. They work well in practice and after sampling them in the E-Klasse, we were frustrated with their absence in lesser cars. Like ABS and fuel injection, you wonder how on earth you survived without them.
   Critics might say that awarding the accolade to the E-Klasse Coupé and not the saloon and T-Modell is kind of cheating. The Coupé, they say, is not even a “real” E. To be fair, they are not altogether wrong: the E, like the CLK before it, is on a C-Klasse platform. But, as Mercedes’s man in New Zealand, Coby Duggan, pointed out, everything inside is appointed as an E. It’s more sophisticated under the clean-cut, Savile Row bodyshell, too.
   He’s right. The disappointing, almost bland interior of the C Avantgarde we tested isn’t there, replaced by something more enveloping and cocooning. We had no criticisms of the gearbox: finally, Mercedes-Benz makes a wonderful, seven-speed shifter. In our case, we had the E350, which gave us an mpg rating in the low 20s while delivering 268 bhp. It’s sure-footed and rigid, and while it doesn’t handle like an out-and-out sports car, who cares? There are other cars that serve that market—including Mercedes-Benz’s arch-rival from München. The E leans toward comfort rather than performance, and it works well.
   It also happens to have the lowest drag coefficient of any production car in the world: the Cd is 0,24, which beats even the Toyota Prius. It’s about time drag coefficients came back as a marketing tool in today’s eco-conscious times: the less drag, the less fuel wasted. That, to us, is important for the 2010s, too, and we think Mercedes-Benz should make a song and dance about it. And from what we can tell, the E Coupé has a fairly small frontal area, which is also an important factor when it comes to drag and saving fuel.
   All the things that I identified as inelegant suddenly grew on us, knowing the nods to eco-consciousness in the styling. We didn’t like the small window at the rear that broke up the pillarless look initially. Nor, as we have mentioned, the fussy rear wings. Then you realize these are Mercedes-Benz’s way of moving the styling game forward—perhaps encouraged, again, by certain people in München—and they are relatively subtle when you see the car in the metal. And subtle, in this sphere of the market, is a good thing.•

 

Or is it the most elegant car on the road? At the time of launch we might all have been reeling from the tall poppy syndrome that comes from recessions, but economic downturns pass and people want fanciness again

 

 

 

 

 


Jack Yan is publisher of Lucire.

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